Global Crises and their Impact on the UN SDGs

Mar 6, 2023
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There are a number of global crises that have had a massive impact on the UN SDGs.

Introduction – On-going Global Crises hit Economic Growth

The world is currently facing multiple global crises that have a significant impact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of our healthcare systems, economies, and societies, while the ongoing Ukraine conflict has disrupted supply chains, global trade, and financial markets, leading to increased food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. Additionally, climate change acts as a "crisis multiplier," exacerbating existing problems and affecting billions of people worldwide through increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods. This situation threatens to undermine development aid to the world's poor and cut global economic growth by 0.9 percentage points in 2022.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons for hope. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted inspiring community resilience and facilitated the rapid expansion of social protection. A recommitment by governments, cities, businesses, and industries to ensure a recovery that reduces carbon emissions, conserves natural resources, creates better jobs, advances gender equality, and tackles growing poverty can help address these issues. Improved data collection is also critical to understanding where investments can have the greatest impact. However, this will not happen without increased data financing, both international and domestic. We will explore the impact of global crises on the UN SDGs and discuss the challenges we face and understand the interconnectivity of these crises.

COVID-19 – Impact on UN SDGs

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The pandemic has disrupted economic activities, leading to the loss of jobs, reduced incomes, and increased poverty, hunger, and instability. The pandemic has also disrupted supply chains, leading to food and medical shortages, and caused distress in financial markets, disrupting global trade. These challenges have undermined efforts toward achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

Moreover, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for more resilient and equitable healthcare systems and strengthened efforts toward achieving SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being). It has also led to increased digitization and the use of technology to address various social and economic challenges, leading to progress toward achieving SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure).

However, the pandemic's impact on the UN SDGs has not been entirely negative. It has also led to a renewed focus on global cooperation and the need for more coordinated efforts toward achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of addressing systemic issues such as inequality and environmental degradation, which are fundamental to achieving the SDGs.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a complex and nuanced impact on the UN SDGs. While it has undermined progress toward some of the goals, it has also highlighted the need for more resilient, equitable, and sustainable approaches to achieving them.

Russia-Ukraine war – Impact on UN SDGs

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is causing severe economic and social consequences that are affecting the UN SDGs. As a major producer and exporter of food commodities, fertilizer, minerals, and energy, the conflict is causing a significant reduction in exports of grain, sunflower seeds, and fertilizers. This disruption is leading to rising food costs and supply chain disruptions in countries that are dependent on imports from these two nations, particularly in African and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). According to current estimates, the war could cut global economic growth by 0.9 percentage points in 2022 and undermine development aid to the world's poor. The conflict is also threatening food security, which is a fundamental aspect of the UN SDGs.

Ukraine and Russia supply 30% and 20% of global wheat and maize exports, respectively, as well as 80% of global exports of sunflower seed products. At least 50 countries import 30% or more of their wheat from these two countries. To prevent food shortages for the world's poorest people and reduce the impact of the conflict on global food insecurity, coordinated activities, and policy solutions are urgently needed. The war's impact on global supply chains, financial markets, and economic growth is severe and may require a significant effort to address. As such, there is a need for a renewed focus on the UN SDGs to ensure the continuation of progress toward eradicating poverty, promoting economic growth, and addressing climate change.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused high inflation rates in Europe. The war has disrupted the supply chain of key commodities such as oil, gas, and grains, which are essential for the European market. For example, Ukraine and Russia are major producers and exporters of wheat and maize, with many European countries relying heavily on imports from these countries. The conflict has caused a significant reduction in exports of these commodities, leading to a shortage in supply and an increase in prices. Additionally, the disruption of gas supplies from Russia to Europe has resulted in higher energy prices, affecting households and industries across the continent. As a result, European governments are struggling to contain inflation, which poses a threat to their economies.

Impacts on South Asia

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have had a significant impact on South Asian countries, particularly on the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South Asian countries have faced a range of challenges, including disruptions to supply chains, declining trade, and rising food and fuel prices. As a result, these countries have struggled to achieve SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

For example, in India, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the informal sector, which accounts for over 80% of the country's workforce. The pandemic-induced lockdowns and subsequent economic downturn have led to a significant loss of income and jobs for millions of people, particularly for those in the informal sector. The country has also faced supply chain disruptions and rising food and fuel prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

In Bangladesh, a country heavily dependent on imports of essential goods like fertilizers, the war has led to a steep increase in the prices of food, fuel, and fertilizers, leading to a rise in inflation and a decline in living standards.

It should be noted, however, that India has emerged as a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy global outlook due to its significant push towards green energy and sustainable development. In addition to these efforts, India has also implemented significant economic reforms that have positioned it to boost global growth in the years to come. The country has set an ambitious goal of achieving 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and has already made significant progress toward this target. India has also implemented policies to encourage electric vehicle adoption and improve energy efficiency in buildings. These measures are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. India's focus on sustainability and renewable energy has the potential to make a significant impact not just within the country, but also globally.


At Report Yak, we believe that businesses have a crucial role to play in promoting sustainable development, and we take this responsibility seriously. As a design agency that specializes in creating and writing Corporate reports (including ESG and sustainability reports) for some of the largest companies, we understand the importance of the UN SDGs in driving positive change. We have witnessed firsthand the impact of businesses aligning their practices with these goals, not just on the environment and society, but also on their long-term success.

As a team, we are passionate about promoting a sustainable future and believe that everyone has a part to play in achieving it. If you would like to discuss what we can do for your next corporate report, feel free to reach out or check out some of our previous work here.