Industrial Policies to achieve Global Sustainability amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

In the context of international development, the year 2015 marked the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the relatively broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the much more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals adopted by governments across the world to realise a holistic development paradigm in the near future. One of the imperative goals during the pandemic is SDG 9 ,i.e., “Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure”. These are crucial drivers of economic growth and development. Promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and innovation, are all important ways to facilitate sustainable development.

The COVID-19 pandemic, what began as a health emergency is now rapidly threatening to turn into a global economic crisis. Containment measures have shaken the foundations of the three main pillars of the global economy: demand, supply, and finance. Timely and coordinated action is crucial to contain the spread of the virus, to minimize the short-term impacts on the economy and to create conditions to redress global economic activity. Despite the enormous challenges to economic development due to the pandemic, it may also unveil new opportunities to ‘build back better’. Renewed industrial policies can play a significant role in shaping the road to overcome the crisis and set countries back on the path of economic development.

While almost no industry has been left unaffected, two of the most impacted sectors are Manufacturing and Travel & Transportation. Both sectors are set to be severely impacted by coronavirus pandemic. According to analysts, the effect on Manufacturing industries will be at least as severe as it was during the 2008 financial crisis (when the industry took three years to return to pre-crisis level), if not even worse. And this will vary strongly by sub-sector. Simultaneously, the farmers and the marginalized segment people who remain the driving force behind the Agriculture sector remain vulnerable to the virus. Sustainable Development includes generating decent waged jobs for the skilled, which will later lead to growth in the nation's economy. However, it is the experienced & unskilled that are left behind in the process. What are industries doing to help these employees?z Companies sometimes spend money to help their employees develop required skills, which will later allow the company to perform better. Although there is little proof indicating that spending money to train employees results in more profit, this does not discourage companies from offering their employees a fair advantage by providing access to skill development. The rules established vary from one government to another. Belgium, for instance, uses training vouchers to help small enterprises raise the skills of their workers. In addition, Microsoft announced the launch of an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide to acquire the skills needed in a COVID-19 economy.

Many other countries have made a bold and swift response to COVID-19, reducing its negative impacts. Industrial parks have proved resilient in the face of the global crisis, by repurposing their production lines to produce PPE (personal protective equipment) and COVID-19 diagnostickits. In some countries,like Ethiopia, the heavily affected transportation industry has also adapted to the new reality and has proved their resilience by diversifying and shifting to cargo. Having neither laid off staff nor cut their benefits, and has survived without losses, some without even enjoying a government rescue package. Amidst the pandemic, many non-profit organizations have been working towards upskilling youth by enabling hands-on application courses. Each department in such a non-profit organization works towards a particular goal like helping women become financially independent, helping the untried youth to gain the required skills, helping entrepreneurs become self-sufficient, or catching people without degrees up to speed about the industries. There are few NGOs that specifically work towards helping those adversely affected by COVID-19. Further policies should be made by the governments to encourage investment and support for zero-carbon technologies, and progress in "Cleantech" by ensuring innovation and capacity building on grassroot level. This will not only help in achieving SDG 7, 11, and 13 (i.e. Affordable & Clean Energy; Sustainable Cities & Communities; Climate Action) but also SDG 8 (i.e. Decent Work and Economic Growth). In our post-COVID-19 economies and societies, both in developed and developing countries, a turning point on the connection between industrial policy, sustainability and development would have been reached. As of now, there's the need to place SDGs at the centre of industrial strategy by transforming them into missions to orientate governments’ actions, which was lacking in most nations till now. The UN committees, member nations, and international partners have the opportunity to do "Partnerships for the Goals" (the final SDG 17), and jointly work for the achievement of Agenda 2030

Aditya Verma, Ananya Sarva

BITSMUN Research Team