Source: China State Council Information Office
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday convened a high-level event to galvanize global action toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his opening speech to SDG Moment, the second of its kind, Guterres called for more efforts to bring the SDGs back on track.
“Our world is challenged like never before. From climate change, to conflicts, to COVID-19, which is putting the Sustainable Development Goals further out of reach,” he said.
“It would be easy to lose hope. But we are not hopeless — or helpless. We have a path to recovery — if we choose to take it. That’s what this SDG Moment is all about: coming together — coming together to save our planet and each other,” he said.
The UN chief called for urgent action in five areas, including recovery from the pandemic, climate action and gender equality.
“First, we need to end this pandemic. Our response has been too slow and too unequal. I call on the world to mobilize behind a global vaccination plan that doubles vaccine production, to reach 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of next year,” he said.
Guterres called for efforts to enable a sustainable and equitable recovery so that the world stays on track to end poverty by 2030.
“This means making bold investments in systems that support human development — from education and universal social protection, to health care and jobs. It means putting people above profits, including through progressive taxation, and ending tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit financial flows,” he said.
“And it means reforming the global financial system, tackling debt distress and ensuring that developing countries benefit from the recent allocation of Special Drawing Rights,” he said.
The SDGs cannot be achieved without gender equality. There is a need for bold investments to make sure every girl has a seat in the classroom and the skills she needs to chart her own future, he stressed.
There is a need to dismantle the power structures that allow discrimination, violence and economic hardship to keep half of humanity down. And there is a need to make sure that girls and women have a seat at every table, from the halls of power to the boardrooms of business, he said.
“We need to end the war on our planet,” said Guterres, calling for efforts to strive for net-zero emissions by 2050, to adopt ambitious climate and biodiversity plans, to have no new coal plants, to mobilize 100 billion U.S. dollars for climate action, and to support developing countries in their transition to a green economy.
Finally, he called for the participation of everyone.
“All of you are critical to global recovery. I urge you to work with your governments to put people first in their budgets and recovery plans,” he said, calling for “move forward with hope and conviction.”
POLITICAL WILL HIGHLIGHTED
In his speech, Abdulla Shahid, the president of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, called on countries to narrow the gaps in political will and resource commitment in order to achieve the SDGs.
“Going forward, the gaps in political will and resource commitment remain a common fault line in our resolve to progress the SDGs. This must change,” he said.
“The pandemic has severely impacted the SDGs,” said Shahid. “But the irony is that the SDGs themselves provide us the most comprehensive and universal toolkit in our efforts to recover sustainably.”
Shahid highlighted a need to ensure that countries, in particular the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small-island developing states have access to adequate resources and capacity support in their efforts to recover from the pandemic and achieve the SDGs.
SDG Moment and other platforms, such as the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum, offer an opportunity to reflect on “where we are, where we could be, what is holding us back, and the way forward,” he said.
“I encourage all to share successes, best practices, lessons learned, challenges, and failures to achieving the SDGs,” said Shahid. “Only together, through effective collaboration and meaningful cooperation, will we learn to find the best ways to move forward.”
“Let the setback that the world has seen strengthen our resolve and reinforce our determination to recover from the pandemic, to rebuild sustainably and achieve the SDGs. Together, it is possible,” he said.
In her presentation, Claire Casey, the global head of policy and insights at Economist Impact, a think tank, said progress has been made in the SDGs. But the achievements are “hard-won, unequal and fragile.”
For SDG 1, the elimination of poverty, COVID-19 has erased five years of progress, pushing more than 97 million people back to extreme poverty, she said.
Unless something is done, 600 million people will remain in extreme poverty in 2030, she warned.
On gender equality, another SDG, progress is too slow, she noted.
“Maternal mortality continues to fall. But we need to move more than four times faster if we are to achieve our target of 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030,” she said.
Women only take up 26 percent of the seats in national parliaments. At the current rate, it will take 40 years to achieve gender equality in politics, she said.
Female-dominated industries are unproportionally affected by COVID-19 in an already male-dominated workforce. Some 54 million female jobs were lost in 2020, she said.
Greenhouse gas emissions are back on the rise after a pause in 2020 as a result of COVID lockdowns. Policies are grossly insufficient to meet the current climate challenges, she said.
The high-level event, held right before the General Assembly high-level week, was attended by about 30 heads of state and government, many leaders of UN agencies, as well as representatives of civil society.