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World leaders demand ‘surge in action’ for sustainable development

The Sustainable Development Goals projected onto UN Headquarters, New York, in 2015
UN Photo/Cia Pak
The Sustainable Development Goals projected onto UN Headquarters, New York, in 2015

World leaders demand ‘surge in action’ for sustainable development



UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened Heads of State and Government in New York on Wednesday to advance efforts to get countries back on course to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline. 

The inaugural  meeting of his 10-member SDG Stimulus Leaders Group took place as many developing countries are still reeling from repeated economic shocks and debt burdens that far outstrip their ability to pay.

The group advocates at the highest level for equipping developing countries with the financial resources to invest in the 17 SDGs, which provide the blueprint for a more just and equitable future for all people and the planet by 2030.

Mr. Guterres underlined the need for “a surge in action now” for the SDGs.

Fuelling sustainable development 

“Developing countries and billions of people are facing the worst economic outlook in more than a generation,” he said.  “Financing is the fuel of development, and we must ensure that countries are not forced to run on empty.”

Leaders attending the meeting discussed the Secretary-General’s call for an SDG Stimulus.

The wide-ranging proposal calls for near-term actions to provide developing countries with the financial resources to alleviate their immediate constraints and put countries back on an accelerated development path.

The SDG Stimulus identifies three areas of action: tackling the high cost of debt and rising risks of debt distress; massively scaling up affordable long-term financing, especially through multilateral development banks (MDBs), by at least $500 billion per year; and expanding contingency financing to countries facing liquidity constraints.

Better life for all 

Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Andrew Holness of Jamaica are co-chairs of the SDG Stimulus Leaders Group.

The other members include Heads of State and Government of Barbados, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Kenya, South Africa and Spain.

“The Sustainable Development Goals are crucial to growing our communities, building a better future and keeping the air clean,” said Mr. Trudeau. “Let’s keep working together to make life fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous for everyone.”

Financing is critical 

Mr. Holness warned that the SDGs will be unattainable unless developing States have access to financing.

“The international financial system must urgently respond through innovative mechanisms to create the fiscal space needed for developing States to build a sustainable and resilient future for present and future generations,” he said.

Group member Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, who is also among 17 SDG Advocates appointed by the Secretary-General, warmly welcomed this opportunity to “turbocharge” the implementation of the goals.

Only way forward 

The SDG Stimulus alongside the Bridgetown Initiative, the Paris Pact for People and Planet and other international initiatives “are converging to scale up the scope of financing and speed up its disbursement”, she said.

“This is the only way that the entire global community, especially the most vulnerable among us, can meet the climate crisis and overcome the obstacles to the true sustainable development that all of our peoples deserve.” 

The Secretary-General first proposed elements of the SDG Stimulus some 18 months ago. Since then, it has gained traction at many global gatherings and most recently was welcomed by world leaders at the SDG Summit in New York last September and in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration that same month.

Advancing the plan 

G20 countries have rechannelled $100 billion of special drawing rights (SDRs), enabling the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assist developing countries with liquidity financing.

MDBs also have embarked on a series of reforms that will enable them to collectively expand lending by some $300 to 400 billion dollars over the next decade. 

Despite these initial steps, conditions in many developing countries are worsening, underscoring the need for bolder and faster action, the UN said.

In this regard, the Leaders Group will proactively seek to advance the SDG Stimulus over the next year.