Never before has such a large share of humanity enjoyed so good a life, “yet never before have we been at greater risk of fundamentally disrupting the basic living conditions on our small globe,” the President of the General Assembly warned today, challenging the United Nations to generate the political will to end conflict and poverty and invest the trillions of dollars that will be needed to build a sustainable global infrastructure over the next 15 years.
“This 70th anniversary of the United Nations must be a defining year to confirm and invigorate the universal values that we – the peoples – agreed upon in the Charter. No one shall be left behind,” Mogens Lykketoft urged Heads of State and Government and other high representatives gathered for opening session of the Assembly’s annual General Debate in New York.
With this in mind, he recalled that just four days ago, the United Nations adopted adopt the new framework, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate over the next 15 years.
“Now, we face the even more daunting task of transforming our vision into action,” said Mr. Lykketoft, underscoring that the ambition of UN Member States will only be realized in a world of peace and security and respect for human rights – “not in a world where investment in armament and wars more and more absorbs and destroys a huge share of the resources we have committed to invest in sustainable development.”
Moreover, those ambitions could be dashed in a world, where war, poverty, hunger, deep inequalities and poor governance are drivers of ever growing waves of refugees and uncontrolled human migration – and count heavily among causes of conflicts, which in turn affect and uproot many more people.
“Governments will also only succeed in implementing this great agenda with the continued and expanding participation of all stakeholders – parliamentarians, leaders of regions, cities and local communities, civil society, youth, religious communities and trade unions, business and academia worldwide,” the Assembly President declared, adding that progress on the Global Goals demands that Member States acknowledge that the world today is more interconnected than ever before.
While noting that the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had seen the number of people worldwide living in poverty reduced by half, he said that with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “we acknowledge that eradicating poverty in all its forms is only possible with a much more complex transformation of the entire global economy, the environment and social structures.”
“We realize that we cannot rely only on the traditional growth model of the past fifteen – or the past seventy – years. Incredible and unsustainable inequality in income, wealth access to resources and to quality education and health services must be overcome," Mr. Lykketoft said, also vigorously underlining that equal rights and opportunities for girls and women are crucial preconditions for a sustainable future everywhere.
Calling for an end to unsustainable production and consumption, for rich countries to live up to their development commitments and for national governments to do more to fight corruption, he said: “It is due time for far reaching decisions to bring an end to devastating conflicts and to start investing big in sustainable development. Action is needed now.”
“If we fail, we run the overwhelming risk of unmanageable and inescapable damage to the political, social, ecological and climate balance on our planet. If we fail, the SDGs will never be reached because the resources needed will be swallowed up in addressing crises and conflicts,” said Mr. Lykketoft, also warning that failure to stop climate change could lead to “catastrophe.”
“I am sure that Member States – building on our great 2030 Agenda – will increase efforts to make human rights a reality for all people without discrimination – from fundamental rights such as safe access to food, clean water, quality health and education services and decent work,” he added, urging action on civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and association; and from the rights of migrants and indigenous peoples to those of women, children and persons with disabilities.