Skip links

The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the 2030 Agenda in Latin America

Alexis Meyer

Managing Partner


At a United Nations summit in September 2015, the Latin American states had committed themselves to implementing the 2030 Agenda with its 17 goals for sustainable development. Latin America is indeed a continent characterized by highly dynamic transformation processes that are necessary to guarantee its future role and prosperity and meet its numerous challenges. However, in areas as diverse as politics, economics, technology, culture, social affairs, ecology, and the environment, the new reality brought by the COVID-19 Pandemic has imposed new strains and imperatives that cast uncertainty on the region’s future.

The goals in the Agenda relate to very different areas, with the objective being that any project or strategy is to be designed and developed with consideration for sustainability, social justice, ecological limits, and all other sustainable development goals (SDGs) in mind. Yet 2020 and 2021 saw most indicators of development point in the wrong direction.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has warned that the integrality of the 2030 Agenda is at risk due to the uneven progress of the SDGs, particularly in the face of the pandemic. Economic disruption and multiple crises have made it harder to focus on long-term essential goals, with immediate threats and priorities shaping the new normal. Certain estimates predict that by the end of the pandemic, the region will have 15 million more unemployed and 25 million people living in poverty.

More than ever, the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development in the post-coronavirus pandemic world “demands more cooperation and regional integration, more multilateralism, new strategic sectors and greater productive integration, in addition to a universal social protection regime with a basic income”, states Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the ECLAC. She also stressed it is urgent to move towards a new development model that is oriented towards generalized well-being, environmental sustainability, and an inclusive and sustainable international governance based on said Agenda.

Wider inclusion seems to be another key factor to meeting those goals. Transformation processes observed in Latin America are often related to increased inclusion and reassessment of local or indigenous knowledge, concepts, and practices. Given indigenous peoples of Latin America have found various ways to draw attention to their needs, their rights and to participate in public discourse, with the contributions of their knowledge, philosophy, and their way of life, attaining sustainable cultural, social, ecological, and economic development and socio-ecological transformation in line with the 2030 Agenda can be achieved with a multicultural approach.

More than ever, the states and companies in the region are open to initiatives serving the SDGs regardless of whether they come from the private or public sector or of foreign or domestic origin. Ambitious and long-term oriented goals are vital for the geopolitical standing and economic well-being of the region, with strong public policy interventions, the integration of vulnerable population groups, and the implementation of industrial policies that allow the region to strengthen productive capacities being crucial to their success and the successful reversal of the economic and social downturn caused by COVID-19.