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Don’t let SDGs turn into ‘mirage of what might have been’: UN chief

A mobile money kiosk in Zambia
© WFP/Andy Higgins
A mobile money kiosk in Zambia

Don’t let SDGs turn into ‘mirage of what might have been’: UN chief

Economic Development

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Monday that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is turning into a “mirage of what might have been,” at the opening of the Financing for Development Forum (FfD), taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Secretary-General pointed to reports showing that, since the pandemic, the richest one percent of people around the world have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world combined. 

Inequalities within some countries, he said, are regressing towards early 20th Century levels, a time when women did not have the right to vote; and before widespread acceptance of the concept of social protection.

The UN’s SDG Stimulus Plan, explained the UN chief, aims to boost investments that will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), relieve the debt burden of developing countries, and improving access to funding.

Mr. Guterres called for Multilateral Development Banks, such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, to use their funds to attract more private finance to developing countries, and for Member States to meet their government aid commitments.

In the longer term, said the UN chief, the global financial architecture, which “has failed countries at their moment of greatest need,” needs to be comprehensively overhauled, in favour of a system that is “coherent and coordinated, and reflects today’s global economic reality.”

A woman buys at a kiosk in the coastal village of Talaba Dos on September 16, 2021 in Bacoor, Cavite province, Philippines.
© World Bank/Ezra Acayan
A woman buys at a kiosk in the coastal village of Talaba Dos on September 16, 2021 in Bacoor, Cavite province, Philippines.

Decades of progress reversed: ECOSOC President

In her opening statement, Lachezara Stoeva, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), declared that the events of the past year have reversed three decades of progress in poverty reduction.

Ms. Stoeva called for immediate measures on debt relief, investment, climate finance, and international tax cooperation, and described the Forum as an opportunity to find bold solutions that meet the scale of financing challenges.

We cannot afford to come up short,” said the ECOSOC president. “Too much is at stake. Without securing the means of implementation, the 2030 Agenda will fall out of reach, with stark consequences for people and planet.”

‘Critical step’ towards transformation: Kőrösi

Csaba Kőrösi, the President of the UN General Assembly, remarked that the decline in global economic growth, rising inflation, and looming debt crisis can be attributed to a lack of a coordinated international response.

“It is imperative that we come together as a global community, across all sectors, to tackle these challenges,” said Mr. Kőrösi, calling for coordinated efforts, from the public and private sectors, to find solutions to the long-standing structural problems of debt.

Mr. Kőrösi echoed the UN Secretary-General’s calls for a transformation of international financing, in favour of a new model for sustainable development that ensures developing countries have access to affordable financing.

“Development can only be sustainable,” he argued. “Otherwise, at the end of the day, there will be no development.”

The Financing for Development Forum

  • The 2023 Financing for Development (FfD) Forum is taking place between 17 and 20 April.

  • The aim of the event is to push forward policies to address global developmental issues, from crippling debt, to under-development, and food insecurity.

  • The Forum’s agenda is based largely on the findings of the 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, released on 5 April, which calls for stronger tax systems, more private and public investment for sustainable development, and reforms of the international financial system to allow more resources to be raised.

  • Find out more about the Forum here.