United Nations, July 19 (Canadian-Media): Unless progress is accelerated, Asia and the Pacific are on course to miss all of the 17 Goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Executive Secretary of the UN regional commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), told UN News at the Organization's Headquarters on Wednesday.
A woman boat-driver in Mekong Delta, Vietnam. (23 July 2014). Credit: ESCAP/Taufan Wijaya
Under-Secretary-General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana was in New York to take part in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the main UN platform for monitoring the progress that countries are making towards the Agenda, which is the UN’s blueprint for ending poverty and preserving the planet.
ESCAP’s latest Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report shows that, when it comes to some of the Goals, the region is actually going backwards. These are the goals related to access to clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and responsible consumption and production (Goal 11).
There are, said Ms. Alisjahbana, several reasons for this: “There is water scarcity, because of the pressure of urbanization, and the management of natural resources and the environment are making the situation worse. As for moving towards sustainable consumption, that has to do with behaviour and lifestyle. With increasing wealth you consume more, but what you consume is something that is actually not sustainable.
Governments, said the head of ESCAP, must ultimately be responsible for investments in sustainable development. Investing in basic infrastructure costs money, but there is a considerable multiplier effect, that has a positive effect on the economy. Countries with smaller financial resources should look at raising money through fiscal reforms rather than looking for aid, and risking becoming dependent, she added.
The Progress Report complains about a lack of data, an important point because, says Ms. Alisjahbana, without the correct data you can’t track progress, or evaluate the best actions to take going forward. Improved data must go hand in hand with improved capacity for analysing data, which means national statistical offices, and SDG monitoring.
Despite the many challenges facing the region’s efforts to achieve the Goals, Ms. Alisjahbana remains optimistic. The situation, she believes, can be turned around, through better cooperation, as well as the abundant talent and expertise found in the region.
United Nations, July 18 (Canadian-Media): We can realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 “if we all stay together and step up our actions”, Inga Rhonda King, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC), said on Thursday.
Women farmers in a community hard hit by drought gather in Kenya. To deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, new ways of collective action are needed. Credit: World Bank/Flore de Preneuf
“Even though the global picture is mixed”, she stated during the closing of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), “we have made encouraging progress, sometimes despite political and other headwinds”.
According to Ms. King, during the past two weeks, the chief global forum for reviewing successes, challenges and lessons learned on the road towards reaching the 17 SDGs, has mobilized and inspired action towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and yet “we are currently not yet on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030”.
“To deliver, we need to move out of our comfort zones in pursuing new ways of collective action”, she stressed, “and we need to adapt and transform at a much swifter pace”.
The HLPF has heard how countries are pursuing the goals, including detailed plans from 47 seven nations who presented voluntary national reviews.
“At a time of intense domestic pressures and significant challenges to multilateralism, their determination is an indication of the robust engagement and meaningful country ownership of the 2030 Agenda”, the ECOSOC president underscored.
Looking ahead, she pointed out that “we can expect that the SDGs will be more systematically incorporated in designing plans and policies, with a focus on interventions that have potential multiplier effects across the SDGs”.
She also acknowledged the need to include SDG planning in national budgets as well as integrated financing strategies and to “enshrine them into our institutions and societies”.
Empowerment, equality and inclusion
The Forum also reviewed, analyzed progress and looked at the influence of, six individual SDGs in supporting empowerment, equality and inclusion.
“You have heard from countries in special situations and delved into issues related to multidimensional poverty, inequality, education, prosperity, the planet, peaceful societies and international cooperation”, she said, adding that she will capture key messages and recommendations in her President’s summary.
SDG goals under the spotlight:
“The actions we projected will contribute to accelerating implementation”, Ms. King affirmed.
“They will help to enhance coherence and integration in our efforts at home and the world over”.
‘Ambitious decade of action’Ms. King said it is “essential that we launch an ambitious decade of action that puts the world on a new trajectory for SDG achievement” to “kick-start a new phase of SDG implementation, with concerted, transformative action to end human suffering and protect our planet”.
In September, she flagged that Member States and others can take the HLPF’s messages to the SDG Summit, Climate Action Summit and the high-level meetings on universal health coverage, financing for development and the SAMOA Pathway, an action strategy for Small Island Developing States.
“Let us commit to take transformative actions between now and the 2020 summit on the UN anniversary”, she urged.
She thanked all who contributed the Forum, especially the participants “for their unwavering commitment to ensure we deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda”.
“I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow at the High-level Segment of ECOSOC, where we will have the opportunity to look out into the future and discuss visions and projections for the SDGs and as well as other related long-term trends and scenarios”, concluded Ms. King.
Inclusion, empowerment and equality, must be ‘at the heart of our efforts’ to ensure sustainable development, says UN chief
#inclusion; #empowerment; #equality
United Nations, July 17 (Canadian-Media/UN): The world’s people are demanding “transformative change that is fair and sustainable,” Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, calling on government leaders to use the upcoming slate of key United Nations meetings in September to “kickstart a decade of delivery and action for people and planet.”
His call for concrete action was the cornerstone of his address to ministers attending the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) – the main UN platform monitoring follow-up on States’ actions towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mr. Guterres observed that the HLPF was “zeroing-in” on the power of SDG action “to support empowerment, equality and inclusion”, and urged the participants to “ratchet up the ambition and highlight the imperative of inclusion”.
“The evidence is clear: Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive – and rising inequality hinders long-term growth,” he said.
Alongside the impacts of globalization and rapid technological change, “inequality raises economic anxiety, erodes public trust, and undermines social cohesion, human rights, peace and prosperity”, according to the UN chief.
Meanwhile, “mounting evidence” illustrates the “transformative results of equality and inclusion”, particularly of women, in higher gross domestic product, greater stability, and enhanced private sector performance and institutional effectiveness, he pointed out.
“For all these reasons, the 2030 Agenda places the goals of inclusion, empowerment and equality, leaving no one behind at the heart of our efforts”, Mr. Guterres stated.
Yet, four years after its adoption, “we are not yet on track and must step it up”, he said, citing extreme poverty, inequality, global unemployment, gender inequality and climate change, among others.
Agenda 2030 and the ‘Inclusion Imperative’
And in all these areas, he acknowledged, “the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries will suffer the most”.
The UN chief drew attention to “four key conclusions” to advance the “Inclusion Imperative”, beginning with "dramatically" scaling up SDG investments as "our best tool of prevention".
Five high-level critical meetings in September:
Secondly, he emphasized that “global climate action must be advanced in a manner that reduces inequality”, including by shifting to a greener economy that could create 24 million jobs globally by 2030 while safeguarding the 1.2 billion jobs that depend on a stable and healthy environment.
Next, he said that “We must step up implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”, as people whose contribution to sustainable development, in countries of origin and destination, “is absolutely critical”.
And fourth, leaving no one behind and achieving the SDGs “is inherently linked to human rights, diplomacy and prevention”, according to the UN chief, who reinforced the need for “a strengthened global commitment to end conflicts and displacement and tackle root causes”.
He stressed that the conclusions emerging from the Forum “are rooted in the pressing need to address the Inclusion Imperative and provide us with important insights as we look ahead to September”.
'We can do better'
In her opening remarks, Inga Rhonda King, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) summarized the first five days of the Forum, saying that countries had been mobilized around the 17 SDGs, voluntary national reviews had been shared by 142 countries, SDG progress had been tracked and children had spoken about the future they want.
While acknowledging the hard work of many countries, she contended that “we need to do more, to do it faster and to be more transformative”.
She urged the participants to “understand how we can do better, advise each other and forge new partnerships”, noting that “our conclusions will reverberate in the September SDG Summit.”
Ms. King assured the group that their ideas would be included “on how to make this Forum even more vibrant and action-oriented” during the upcoming General Assembly.
“I hope that our discussions will encourage our Heads of State and Government to come back in September ready to announce ambitious acceleration actions”, she said in closing.
'Make it count'
“We have eleven years to deliver” on the 2030 Agenda, General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa, opening the Ministerial Segment.
“Let’s use the coming days to lay the groundwork not only for the SDG Summit, but indeed for the whole of high-level week”, she said, referring to the Assembly’s annual general debate, and adding that we have “five days to make it count”.
Ms. Espinosa underscored the import of addressing urgent challenges “as they pave the way for longer-term risks and opportunities”, including the need to be “fully inclusive” and to empower girls and women.
She detailed that she has been working with Member States to ensure their contributions to the 2030 Agenda, including the preparations for this HLPF and September’s SDG Summit.
“That has been the overarching vision and the driving force” behind the “priorities set out for this session”, she explained.
Ms. Espinosa also encouraged participants to use the September high-level week, at which time five summit-level meetings will be convened, “to be more ambitious and to announce accelerated measures and specific steps that respond to the urgency of the challenges we face”.
Those meetings “represent a key opportunity to demonstrate that multilateralism works – that it can deliver tangible benefits to people’s lives”, Ms. Espinosa spelled out.
The goals under review at the Forum focus on education, economic growth, inequality, climate change and peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
Diplomatic achievements of the century
Together with the Paris Agreement on climate change, the 2030 Agenda is one of the “most important diplomatic achievements of this century”, Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson told the Forum.
Pointing out that both concluded in 2015, she called them “tangible proof of the benefits of multilateralism and a rebuke to the narrow agendas of nationalism, isolationism and self-interest”.
If implemented in full, the Chair of the Elders – a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela who work for human rights and a sustainable future – maintained they are “a pathway to a world where poverty, inequality and conflict will not blight the life chances for millions of people currently denied the opportunity to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms”.
Noting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, she reminded the meeting that staying at or below 1.5°C warming above pre-industrial standards was “the only safe level for the whole world” because warming to 2°C would “cause considerable risk to the planet”.
“We can no longer afford to regard the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement as voluntary”, flagged Ms. Robinson, citing a UN report in May detailing the loss of biodiversity and potential extinction of one million species.
She stressed that the full implementation of both reports has become imperative “to secure a liveable world for our children and grandchildren”.
“We have a global crisis and we must treat it as such”, she stated, saying that the HLPF “provides an opportunity to take an honest look at what all States have achieved and what more we need to do on the SDGs, so that when world leaders convene in New York in September for the SDG Summit, they can come with more than just words”.
A former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms. Robinson underscored the importance of working together, saying: “We will not overcome the key existential challenges facing our world today, from nuclear weapons to climate change, if we spurn cooperation”.
“This High-Level Political Forum is a moment to be bold and to demand real ambition from leaders”, she asserted, adding that “playing safe or doing business as usual will not deliver the results the world needs”.
Limit global warming
Delivering the final keynote speech, IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee stated that “climate action and sustainable development are inseparable” and presented three points of linkages between the two.
First, he flagged that “the current warming is already producing negative impacts on natural and human systems, seriously impeding progress toward some SDGs”.
Second, he noted the “ambitious” climate goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius “creates a trade-off for some SDGs and balancing the goals will be a challenge”.
And finally, he detailed that while climate actions produce “new opportunities for the economy, environment and society”, they are contingent upon “international cooperation, with social justice and equity being core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways”.
Mr. Lee informed the HLPF that currently, the global average temperature is one degree Celsius higher than the preindustrial level, noting, however, that “the warming is not uniform”.
“Most land regions are experiencing warming greater than this one-degree average”, he said, spotlighting that “the Arctic temperature is two to three times higher”.
Moreover, he conveyed that “up to 40 per cent of the world’s population lives in areas where the warming already exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level for at least one season”, which has caused notable disruptions in human livelihoods.
In summary, Mr. Lee advocated for collective efforts “at all levels”, to limit global warming to 1.5C, which should take into account equity and effectiveness, “to strengthen the global response to climate change and achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication”.
“The result will be a cleaner, sustainable, more productive, and stronger global economy”, he concluded.
According to IPCC, by limiting warming to 1.5 degrees rather than 2 degrees C, we will have:
The number of possible partners on the Global Goals journey are “legion”, according to the SDG Advocate, including bankers and investments bankers, insurance companies and pension providers “who are starting to see that sustainable investment can be profitable and will be the key to financing the future of the Goals”.
Singling out rising global hunger, greenhouse gas emissions and lack of essential health services, his next key word “urgency” pressed for a harder focus on all SDG targets, “to exploit their deadlines”.
“They make urgency real and tactile and measurable”, Mr. Curtis stressed. “That’s what they’re for”.
His third word was “opportunity”.
“This is what the Goals give us”, he said, “a unique opportunity”.
The SDG roadmap can guide us, “negotiated with the passion and determination and imagination” to end inequality and injustice, he argued.
In closing he said “now” was the moment “to go for broke with deep urgency, with radical partnerships and with a sense of this unique human opportunity.”
“And you are the generation of people with power in the United Nations and power in every country in the world, who could and must make it happen”, concluded the SDG envoy.
Three little words
Screenwriter for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary, among others, SDG Advocate and renowned filmmaker Richard Curtis delivered a keynote speech underscoring that the UN “carries their hopes and dreams for a better world”.
He selected “three key words” surrounding the SDGs, beginning with partnership.
“There are so many possible partners for the Goals”, Mr. Curtis said. “No-one denies we’re all in a boat on a wild sea” with everyone’s skills available: “Some to build the boat, some to guide it, some to row the boat, some when the boat sinks, like [Syrian swimmer] Yusra Mardini, to grab the ropes and swim the boat to safety”.
Inga Rhonda King, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and María Fernanda Espinosa, General Assembly President, at the podium of the opening of the High-level Segment of the ECOSOC and the Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
A quarter of Pacific islanders live below ‘basic needs poverty lines’, top UN development forum hears
#SDGs; #PacificIslanders; #ClimateCrisis
United Nations, July 11 (Canadian-Media): While progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been made over the past four years, some vulnerable island States are losing momentum in the race to 2030, according to discussions at the United Nations’ annual High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on Wednesday.
n 2015, the UN set out a vision for “people, planet, peace and prosperity” through partnership and solidarity, when it adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To date however, many small island developing States (SIDS) still face persistent challenges linked to poverty, inequality and climate impacts.
Speaking on behalf of the members of the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, painted a picture of dying corals and increasing numbers of cyclones, flooding and droughts.
“One catastrophic event is undoing decades of progress, claiming lives, destroying vital infrastructure, homes, biodiversity and adversely affecting food security and the delivery of services and livelihoods”, she spelled out. “Furthermore, our waste generation is outpacing our capacity to manage and are impacting our environment, ocean and marine life”.
Climate crisis snapshot
As SIDS grapple with the externally induced impact of the climate crisis – the chief cause of land-loss due to rising sea levels - amplifying their challenges and vulnerabilities, the reality of poor development outcomes and insecurities in many of countries prevail.
“Despite sustained economic growth…our people are struggling to make ends meet with one in every four Pacific Islander, living below national basic needs poverty lines”, Ms. Mata’afa lamented.
“Unemployment, particularly of women and young people is high, with youth unemployment at double the global rate” and “Pacific men outnumber Pacific women in paid employment by two to one,” she added.
Moreover, some of the highest global rates of violence against women are in the Pacific. At 7.7 per cent, women’s representation in Pacific parliaments is the lowest globally.
“Of the four countries globally that are without women parliamentarians, three are in the Pacific,” she asserted.
Turning to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), she pointed out that regarding diabetes, seven Pacific countries are in the top 10 globally. And in 10 SIDS, five out of 10 Pacific islanders are overweight.
“Moving forward, Pacific leaders are committed to more targeted support to enhance opportunities for women, youth, and persons with disabilities; addressing gender gaps in employment and decision making; enhancing sustainable tourism and fisheries while conserving the Pacific’s rich biodiversity; tackling NCDs and the dual threats of climate change and disasters more effectively”, she informed the meeting.
She expressed the Pacific’s gratitude for $1.57 billion from the Green Climate Fund and said, “our challenge now is implementation ensuring we better utilise existing funding; strengthen capacities, institutions and partnerships; and increase investment in statistical systems”.
‘A holistic approach’ needed
Turning to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the HLPF evaluated progress and challenges in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries where populations are at high risk of being left behind, many in conflict or post-conflict situations.
Many people in LDCs and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) are disempowered by poverty and the lack of access to basic services. They not only do not benefit from economic growth but high annual population growth rates present challenges for enrolment in higher education, and in training a skilled workforce.
Moreover, climate change and its associated risks have put additional pressures on households and government resources in LDCs and LLDCs.
To achieve sustainable results, development must be “a holistic process”, Saad Al Farargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development told the meeting. One that requires the input and involvement of diverse groups, including States, international organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector.
“Development programmes and policies can only succeed if they are addressing the right priorities”, he maintained. “To do that, participatory consultative processes, open for all segments of the society, have to be envisaged, budgeted for an implemented at every step of the way”.