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SDGs 2030: At the UN Lots of Talks, but the Clock Keeps Ticking

The conclusion of the Ministerial Segment shows that more acceleration is needed

Secretary-General António Guterres makes remarks during the opening of the Ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (UN Photo/Manuel Elias).

As the High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals concludes, UN Secretary General Guterres warns Member States that "implementation has begun, but the clock is ticking. This report shows that the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030.” With the new pessimistic athmosphere created by US President Trump, are the targets more difficult or even impossible to reach?

After the highly anticipated opening of the High Level Political Forum at the United Nations Headquarters, the Ministerial Segment of the Forum launched this week, providing a platform for Ministers in several countries to inform the UN of their individual progress on implementing various SDGs.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres, opened the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and emphasized that “it is important to recognize that there is a paradox because problems are more and more global, challenges are more and more global, there is no way any country can solve them by itself, and so we need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms, and we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030; because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalization, it’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again in not only political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.”

SG Guterres stressed that looking at “global megatrends [such as] population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world – it is also true that all these megatrends are interacting with each other, are stressing each other. And  we have to recognise that climate change became the main accelerator of all other factors. This is also the moment to clearly say that the link to the Agenda 2030 of sustainable development, there must be a very strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the Paris Agreement and to its implementation with an enhanced ambition because the Paris Agreement by itself is not enough for the objectives that the world needs in relation to global warming. And this is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet, but because it is also the right and smart thing to do. We are seeing that the green economy is becoming more and more the economy of the future, that green business is good business and those that will not bet on green economy, on green technologies, will inevitably lose or not gain economic leadership in the years to come.”

The SG even addresses the issue of funding saying, “I think it is important to reaffirm today very clearly that developed countries need to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, but that at the same time that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilize more their own resources and that has to do, on one hand, with tax reforms within states but also on mobilizing the international community to fight together tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit flows of capital that are today making that more money is coming out of developing countries that the money that goes in through official development assistance. And at the same time we need to make sure that the international financial institutions are able to leverage resources and to multiply their capacity to fund the implementation of the SDGs and also that we help countries to be able to access global markets, financial markets, and to be able to attract private investment without which it would be absolutely impossible to achieve these goals. And let’s also not only think about the problems of today, but also the problems of tomorrow.”

Using the most recent data available, the annual SDG Report conducted by the office of the Secretary General finds that while progress has been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress has been insufficient and advancements have been uneven to fully meet the implementation of the SDGs. UN Secretary General Guterres said, “implementation has begun, but the clock is ticking. This report shows that the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030.” Despite major advances, an alarmingly a high number of children under age 5 are still affected by malnutrition. Between 2000 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 37% and the mortality rate for children under-5 fell by 44%. Additionally, 303,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth and 5.9 million children under age 5 died worldwide, which is in accordance with Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said to journalists before the conference took off.  He said, “the maternal mortality ratio must more than double the current progress by 2030; women’s political participation must climb some 75 per cent to reach equality with me, and more efforts must be put into preventing and treating non-communicable diseases so people do not die prematurely.” 

In a separate High-Level Political Forum event on “Getting Governments Organized to Deliver on the SDGs,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed that “an important condition for implementing the 2030 Agenda is to ensure that all parts of Government adopt the SDGs as an overarching objective — in other words, to adopt a “whole-of-Government” approach. To this end, some countries have requested sectoral and other ministries to identify their responsibilities regarding specific targets, for example, China, Finland, Mexico, Norway and Sweden.  In some countries, they are expected to adjust their plans and strategies to implement the SDGs.” 

It seems like quite the lofty task to expect certain countries like Least Developed Countries (LDC) to adjust their policies to implement the SDGs when they barely have the infrastructure and resources to sustain themselves. In the Secretary General’s report, he states that progress is uneven due to “economic losses from natural hazards reaching an average of 250 billion to 300 billion U.S. dollars a year, with a disproportionate impact on small and vulnerable countries.”  

According to the latest report of the State of the Least Developed Nations, the world’s 47 LDCs are facing significant challenges in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) and SDGs. Due to large investment gaps in areas for sustainable energy and in the information, communication, technology (ICT) sectors, the report notes that access to all modes of financing needs to increase for LCDs. Measures need to enhance resilience of LCDs to external shocks and enhanced investment promotion are needed to support LCDs in their quest to reach the SDGs.

UN officials are acknowledging the extensive progress that has been conducted over the two year span since the adoption of the SDGs, but they are emphasizing that much more work needs to be done in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Partnerships between governments and NGO’s need to commence on a larger scale and LCDs have to work with First World/Developed Countries in order to graduate from LCD status.

While this Agenda is being pushed forward under time pressure, SG Guterres is also Re-positioning the UN Development System to Deliver the 2030 Agenda. This strategic shift went underway while President Trump told the State Department to reduce US funding to UN programs by more than 50% as well as slashing State and US AID budgets by 37%.

Before the Ministerial Segment commenced, Italian Minister of the Environment, Gian Luca Galletti stopped to speak with a few Italian journalists outside the UN Headquarters. La Voce took this coveted opportunity to ask Minister Galletti about the United States current role in the UN and how the SDGs could still be achieved despite Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement and threatening to reduce US funding to the UN. He said, “I am going to be straightforward, this is a problem, but I also believe that civil society and American industry are beyond their government.  At the Environment G7 Summit in Bologna, I signed agreements with American multinationals like Unilever and Ibm, who are committed to achieving these goals in Agenda 2030. A California representative came to Bologna to tell us that 13 states will continue to pursue the same policies prior to Trump’s arrival. The conditions to move forward are clear, but American politics can still have a very negative effect on the SDGs 2030. I also want to say that after G7 environment, I went to China and I saw how the Chinese are determined to reach those targets. Americans are risking to give up an important leadership on a process that brings a new economy with innovations and development in the 21st century. Whoever stays out of this process will pay a high price for their companies.”

During the Ministerial Segment at the UN, Minister Galletti said that Italy has a broad commitment to enter along the path of achieving the SDGs.

[Minister Gian Luca Galletti: 24:03-29:25]


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