South Asia’s pace of progress towards the SDGs to date has been less than adequate. The COVID-19 outbreak, which has escalated into a global humanitarian crisis responsible for erasing developmental achievements attained over many years, places more hurdles along the subregion’s sustainable development pathways. The pandemic has exposed critical development gaps and vulnerabilities particular to South Asia, exerting pervasive adverse impacts manifested across almost all the SDG indicators.
Achieving the SDGs in South Asia calls for adopting an integrated approach to SDG implementation and post-pandemic recovery, given the commonalities between development policy priorities and considering the need to maximize the utility of limited resources to address the twin challenges.
The urgency to accelerate SDG progress necessitates that South Asia follows an implementation pathway that takes advantage of existing synergies between Goals and targets. Building on the sustainable development policy priorities identified for South Asia, the report proposes a five-point SDG action agenda. The framework includes: structural diversification of the economy oriented towards industrialization; investments in the core social sectors of education and health; expansion of social protection and basic infrastructure networks; ensuring food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development; and building capacities for clean energy and environmental sustainability. The cumulative impacts of different components of the proposed framework, with spillover effects on numerous development targets, can potentially double South Asia’s GDP by 2030 in an inclusive way, thereby providing the subregion with greater likelihood of success on the SDGs.