UN urges action on sustainable development to create pathways for global 'transformation'

21 April 2016

The President of the United Nations General Assembly today called on the international community to take action on the new UN sustainable development agenda in order to begin a transformation for the benefit of all people and the planet, or risk failure that will be felt for generations to come.

“The choice is yours,” said General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft as he opened the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at UN Headquarters in New York, which takes place as world leaders are also gathering ahead of tomorrow's signing of the Paris climate accord.

“You, the global political, business and civil society leaders can kick-start [Sustainable Development Goals] SDG implementation. You can catalyse ambitious and immediate actions at all levels. You know how to make this transformation happen,” he added.

Mr. Lykketoft reminded participants that a little more than six months ago, many of them had gathered in the same hall to embrace the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It was a moment of genuine hope in a world beset by crises – hope that was built on in Paris through an incredible breakthrough on climate change,” he said.

The General Assembly President said that together, the two agreements deliver a clear message to the world: that a transformation has begun which will ensure both shared prosperity and the vitality of our planet.

Since making those commitments, world events have underlined even further the need for urgent action, Mr. Lykketoft emphasized.

Violent extremists have destroyed the lives of thousands around the world, while violent conflicts are threatening the lives of millions. In addition, an inadequate response to a global humanitarian and refugee crisis is undermining human rights, global solidarity and the concept of leaving no one behind, he said.

For their part, the agreements, taken together, provide world leaders with a “solid framework” to address the root causes of such crises, the General Assembly President said.

“But this will only happen if they are implemented with urgency; if we build on the foundations laid by the MDGs and if we manage the opportunities before us for the benefit of all,” he stressed.

Over the course of the day, he said that participants would examine five key areas: how countries are responding to the SDGs; how to move money and markets to support the SDGs; how to transition from partnerships for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to partnerships for the SDGs; and how climate action can help deliver on the entire SDGs, and vice-versa.

“Action now can create pathways out of our current crises and begin the transformation that our world desperately needs – a transformation that is good for people and planet; one that creates opportunities for citizens and business; one that advances peace and prosperity,” Mr. Lykketoft said. “But if we fail, the consequences will be felt for generations – centuries.”

Along those lines, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, underscored that the fact that today's event was being held on the eve of the signing of the Paris Agreement was an important signal.

“The development and climate agendas are inseparable and mutually reinforcing. One cannot be achieved without the other,” he stressed.

Member States should have a sense of “pride and achievement” for their adoption of the 2030 Agenda this past September, as it is a global blueprint for ending poverty and building a safer and more equitable world.

“It is a universal agenda, one which all countries are to integrate with their national plans and aspirations,” Mr. Eliasson noted. “It enshrines a responsibility to focus on the world's most vulnerable and those affected by protracted conflicts or caught in the nightmares of humanitarian disasters.”

The breadth and depth of the Agenda call for adopting new approaches and “breaking down silos,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that no one in today's world can solve problems in isolation. “We need to take an integrated approach to development efforts, connecting them both to humanitarian action and human rights as well as to peaceful societies and well-functioning institutions. The goals must be meaningful on the ground, which means making goals and targets relevant and adapted to national and local situations,” he said.

For that, financing for development will be “critical,” as set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Mr. Eliasson said. “Governments are in the drivers' seat. Domestic public finance will be important keys to ownership and sustainability,” he said. “But we must also harness the full power of official development assistance, the Bretton Woods institutions and private-sector financing.”

The UN system had already begun to support countries, both strategically and operationally, to implement the 2030 Agenda. Some 95 UN Country Teams are working with their national counterparts to mainstream the SDGs into national plans, accelerate implementation and provide policy support.

“Just as Governments will need to take a holistic approach, the United Nations is to take a whole-of-system approach, working horizontally and building on the strengths of each institution. Tailored UN responses will be developed to support capacity building, inspire partnerships and improve policy coherence at all levels,” Mr. Eliasson noted.


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