Commonwealth Parliaments Can Galvanize Action by Governments to Seize Opportunities of Sustainable Development Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum
Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s keynote address, as prepared for delivery via video conference, to the Commonwealth Parliamentarians’ Forum, in London today:
I am honoured to be with you at this annual gathering of Commonwealth Parliamentarians, parliamentary staff and decision makers. I extend my gratitude to the host organizations — the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of the United Kingdom.
We have now entered our third year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — a global agreement of both high ambition and genuine necessity. Globally, we have witnessed positive signs since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by Heads of State and Government in 2015.
We have seen an increasing focus by Governments on SDG action. We have seen the emergence of dynamic multi-stakeholder initiatives on specific goals and targets. We have seen companies, large and small, embrace the central objectives of the SDGs. And we have seen the scientific and research communities increasingly align their work with the SDGs. All of this is indeed encouraging, but it is only the beginning and the clock is ticking.
To ensure greater peace, justice and prosperity across the globe and to radically reduce carbon emissions and stand a chance of passing a healthy planet on to future generations, we need to see a much deeper transformation.
We need to see the SDGs take root where it matters most — in the conscience and behaviour of the global public and in the priorities, policies, budgets and institutional arrangements of Governments, companies, financial actors and communities. That is why I am speaking to you today.
National Parliaments and parliamentary organizations will play a critical role in making the 2030 Agenda a reality. Through legislation, Parliaments can ensure an integrated approach to the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Through budgets, you can ensure implementation remains focused on reaching those furthest behind first. And through regular debate and committee reviews, you can hold Governments accountable to the people for the commitments they made to support domestic and global implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
More broadly, Parliaments, through their representative roles, are key actors in the promotion of the rule of law, democratic practices, effective governance and strong institutions, all key ingredients of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. They can galvanize action by Governments and other actors to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of the Goals.
Some of your Parliaments have already taken the initiative to debate the SDGs or assess their own readiness for the SDGs. Some of you are already working with United Nations agencies to boost your capacities to drive SDG implementation. I commend you for taking these steps and encourage you to move forward with conviction during this critical phase.
Central to achieving the SDGs is, of course, financing and effective means of implementation. The 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development provide a robust framework in this regard.
Multilateral development banks have estimated we need to move from billions to trillions. They call for innovative and transformative solutions to mobilize public and private, domestic and international financing, and align financing with economic, social and environmental priorities.
Indeed, financing for development is as much about policies as it is about flows. Economic and financial policies have direct impacts on social and environmental development outcomes. But, rarely are these impacts fully considered in the relevant decision-making processes. As parliamentarians, you have a critical role to ensure that national laws that regulate, guide and incentivize our actions are aligned with sustainable development.
As Members of Parliaments, your role in approving your Government’s budget cannot be overemphasized. We all realize that the SDGs will remain mere aspirations if they are not supported by adequate resources, and this has to start with public resources. Through your action, you can help ensure that tax systems provide incentives at the micro- and macroeconomic levels that are compatible with sustainable development — a key challenge that all countries have struggled to address.
Effective mobilization of domestic public finance also depends on enhanced international cooperation to close loopholes, and to limit tax avoidance and illicit financial flows that drain vital resources from developing countries. The international community is working towards solutions, and the United Nations is stepping up its engagement in this area.
The transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals forces us to think big. It provides all of us with an opportunity to re‑examine the ways in which traditional, non-traditional and innovative financing instruments can contribute.
We know the Goals will need private sector investment, in ways that support sustainable development paths and minimize negative impacts — economic, social or environmental. One example is the need for Governments to work with philanthropic foundations and large companies that are committed to social responsibilities, embracing them as catalytic development partners rather than solely financiers, while upholding the public interest.
By providing a space where the Goals can be discussed and where the correct incentives can be identified, Parliaments can expand the opportunity for public debate and engagement, another key dimension of the new Agenda.
We at the United Nations are also looking at how we can better support Governments. The Secretary-General has set out a series of proposals that will enable the United Nations system to be more responsive and accountable. I sincerely hope that Parliaments will consider the Secretary-General’s proposals positively, and I encourage you to ensure your executives get behind his vision.
The theme of this Forum focuses squarely on “our future” — a more sustainable future, a fairer future, a more secure future, a more prosperous future.
I am confident that you will advance our thinking on how national Parliaments can help to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, which is a core underpinning of the robust vision of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
As the IPU seeks to enhance governance through strengthened Parliaments, with a particular focus on gender equality, human rights, youth, peace and security, it stands at the cross-roads of the ambitious and integrated 2030 Agenda. Greater partnership with national parliaments, particularly in the South, will be crucial to help translate the IPU’s vision to action in communities around the world. I encourage you to help foster these linkages.
You represent people. You can ensure that the SDGs continue to top the national agendas, despite political change. Your role is critical for transforming the world by 2030.