The President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Dennis Francis, has called on the global community to unite and rescue the 17 action points that constitute the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In an address to the 2023 SDG High-Level Political Forum at the 78th Session of UNGA, he stated: “The fact that we have been lagging in our promise cannot be the death knell of our blueprint.”
Mr Francis, Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the UN, reminded delegates that the SDGs had been unanimously adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, to eradicate poverty, to protect and preserve the planet and create universal prosperity.
With the clock ticking down on the 2030 deadline, he said the SDGs were a “beacon of hope and a roadmap for common action, to create a more equitable, a more just and a most sustainable world.” But, if the SDGs were to be achieved, it was important to take stock of progress and to assess the remaining challenges that needed to be overcome. “No one should be left behind,” he affirmed.
Speaking up for Small Island Developing States (SIDs), Mr Francis said events such as the Covid pandemic, climate change impact and the Ukraine war had “dramatically altered” the world’s trajectory. But the planet’s most vulnerable people, including SIDs, had been the worst affected.
Bold and transformative actions
He said that last year around 8% of the world population faced hunger and a further 280 million would be added to that percentage by 2030 – unless accelerated action was taken. “To carry on with business as usual would be reckless,” warned Mr Francis.
Bold and transformative actions should be given priority, to nurture the UN’s global constituents, especially those lagging furthest behind, he urged.
Referring specifically to the SDGs, he said now was the time to improve social protection, strengthen governance, promote a green economy, address digital disruption and provide better access to a good education.
Telling the forum that adequate investment in the SDGs was a win-win for all, he declared: “With concerted, ambitious action, it is still possible that by 2030, we could lift 124 million people out of poverty and ensure that some 113 million fewer people are malnourished.”
Only 15% of SDG targets are on track
When UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres took to the platform, he said the 2030 Agenda was a promise to the people who had been “crushed under the grinding wheels of poverty.”
A global rescue plan was urgently needed, including clear support for an SDG stimulus stretching to at least $500 billion per annum, he told delegates.
“Only 15% of the targets are on track and many are going in reverse,” said the Secretary General. “Instead of leaving no one behind, we are running the risk of leaving the SDGs behind.”
Reiterating the need for reform of the “outdated and dysfunctional” international financial architecture, Mr. Guterres called for a plan that would address recapitalisation, as well as an overhaul of the business model of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), which would make private finance more affordable for developing countries.
Private sector cash stimulus
Separately, in a speech in New York alongside the main UN General Assembly, US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, announced a series of voluntary “principles.” These would help stimulate more private sector cash for climate and clean energy projects and help combat greenwashing. Such measures would be needed in response to what she described as the “significant economic costs” from global warming.
Net zero greenhouse gas emission commitments made by financial institutions should promote “consistency and credibility”, Yellen stressed.
She said that climate change presented an investment opportunity for US companies, citing research that estimated in excess of $3 trillion was needed each year between now and 2050, if emissions were to be successfully cut – including in the United States.
Yellen discussed the measures with a number of leading finance executives during the New York climate week event. These included BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink and HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn.