Sustainable Development Law

Dispatch from the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law: Lauren MacDonald’s third blog from the virtual field

By Lauren MacDonald

The blogs I have written to date mostly focused on the practical realities of my internship experience. Now that my work with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law is finished, I wanted to share some of the insights we gained from our research on the impacts of pandemic recovery plans on the SDGs.

We mostly relied on primary legal sources included in databases of COVID-19 response laws and policies from the WHO, FAO, and IMF for our research, because secondary sources were hard to come by for such novel research. It was also hard to determine the long-term effects that these recovery laws will have on the SDGs in the long-term, because many of the measures that have been put in place are only temporary and we have yet to see true recovery plans being legislated in most countries.

However, we did uncover a few interesting trends by examining these pandemic response laws from around the world. The first insight was that pandemic responses advanced laws on SDG 6- Clean Water and Sanitation. However, we found that only a small percentage of those laws are actually being implemented or realizing a high level of community participation in water and sanitation decision making.

The second substantive research finding was that COVID-19 response laws have had significant impacts on women. We often hear references to vague domestic violence repercussions, as a result of response laws restricting movement and mandating social isolation, but we also gained insight into the systemic repercussions of COVID for SDG 4- Gender Equality, overall. Response laws dealing with the reallocation of health resources, school closures, and business scale-backs or closures disproportionately affect women. The gender wage gap, which is the phenomenon of women and girls generally earning less, saving less, and being more likely to hold insecure jobs, means that the compound effects of COVID-19 response laws had a negative effect on SDG 4. Additionally, with school closures and overwhelmed health services, the need for unpaid care work increased. Since women are still responsible for the majority of unpaid care work worldwide, existing inequalities were exacerbated.

Unfortunately, what our research predicts is an overall negative effect of COVID-19 response laws on the SDG Agenda in the near future. What is needed in order to contradict the damage that has been done is more policies to provide basic collective protections for small businesses, families, and individuals. With dedicated SDG interventions, we can recover faster from the pandemic and get back on track to achieve the global goals for sustainable development.

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