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Sustainable development the ‘overriding challenge’ of 21st century – UN top official

General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic.
UN Photo/JC McIlwaine (file photo)
General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic.

Sustainable development the ‘overriding challenge’ of 21st century – UN top official

A United Nations top official today underlined that focusing on achieving sustainable development will be crucial for Member States if they want to succeed in reducing some of the world’s most pressing issues such as poverty, economic instability and social inequality.

“Achieving sustainable development is the overriding challenge of the 21st century,” said the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, at the launch of a paper presented by his High-Level Advisory Panel, led by renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The paper, entitled ‘The United Nations in the Age of Sustainable Development’ considers how countries can tackle global issues and overcome interconnected crises through cooperation. It was presented today during an informal meeting of the Assembly that also featured the members of the High-level Panel

Mr. Jeremic stated that no nation or group of nations can hope to face the challenges of sustainable development alone, stressing that “perhaps for the first time in history, we can truly say ‘we are in this together.”

In the paper, the Panel says that despite the multiple crises faced by the world “this is no time for despair, but for resolve,” adding that the UN “must be the vital centre of the sustainable effort, one that draws on every stakeholder: private businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities and research centres, international financial institutions, and the UN organs themselves.”

The paper contains a number of specific proposals including establishing new standing committees under the auspices of the General Assembly and the High-Level Political Forum to oversee progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to make recommendations on how they may be more effectively implemented.

Stressing that achieving sustainability was a Member State driven process – “it will be democratic; it will have to go through the general Assembly” – he suggested adopting a Universal Declaration of Sustainable Development to raise awareness and to affirm the central importance of the SDGs. Such a Declaration would send the right political message that he hoped all nations would embrace after a smooth transition from the MDG-era.

The High-Level Advisory Panel was established by Mr. Jeremic at the beginning of the 67th session of the General Assembly last year to address the most important issues facing the international community.