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An own goal

18 September, 2020

When crisis hits, it’s natural to look for silver linings. And there have been plenty – from businesses determining to build back better, to dolphins swimming in Venetian canals, to some truly stellar lockdown lingo.

This week, however, reminded us that these glimmers of hope are set against a growing mass of storm clouds. The annual Goalkeepers’ Report, published by our friends at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has historically celebrated humanity’s progress towards achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. But this year, that progress has not only halted, but – in the vast majority of cases – reversed.

Global healthcare is in collapse. Vaccine coverage has dropped to its lowest level since the 1990s: reversing around 25 years’ progress in 25 weeks. Extreme poverty has risen by 7% in just a few months. And across the world, existing inequalities have been sharply exacerbated.

The report makes for shocking, and essential, reading. It’s a damning reminder of how economic, health and environmental catastrophes collide and exacerbate each other – just as each of our individual actions can now have life or death consequences for other members of our society.

There’s a flicker of light on the horizon. The Goalkeepeers’ hope, and ours, is that this intimate connectivity of systems and people could prove the solution to this pandemic, as well as its cause. But, as the report so clearly demonstrates, “progress is possible, but not inevitable”. What we all choose to do in the next few months could be the difference between bright skies and a very dark future.

By Sarah Howden

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