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Pandemic Must Be Wake-Up Call to Rescue 2030 Agenda, Drive Progress towards Sustainable Development, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Global Goals Week Kick-Off

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the Al Wasl Dome show for the Global Goals Week Kick Off, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, today:

Al-sallam alykum, good evening, everyone.  It is an honour to be with you tonight under the magnificent Al Wasl Dome to kick off the Expo 2020 Global Goals Week and recognize your important work showcasing solutions and innovations to secure a future of peace, dignity, equality and sustainability for all.  And it is especially gratifying to be here because of the women leadership of Expo, including Minister Reem, Ambassador Lana and their teams.

This is the promise that world leaders made in 2015 when they adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In 2015, world leaders gathered at the United Nations to adopt a paradigm shift in development and a promise to deliver the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

And while progress in the intervening years has been painfully slow, the 2030 Agenda remains our indispensable blueprint to avert a future of widening inequality, escalating climate catastrophe and perpetual conflict.

The Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Instead of ushering in a surge in ambition, action and mobilization to meet the goals, we have seen major setbacks:  For the first time in a generation, extreme poverty and hunger are rising again; the gap between rich and poor is widening; gender inequality is worsening; the economic and financial situation in many developing countries is deteriorating.  Meanwhile, the world continues to careen towards climate catastrophe barely keeping our 1.5°C target alive.

At the United Nations, we know that we have the right policies, but we need political will and bold leadership to transform our world by 2030.  Indeed, the pandemic must be the wake-up call to jolt us into action to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Over the past two years, we have all seen just how vulnerable and unjust our socioeconomic systems are.

But, we have also seen that, when the political will is there, Governments and societies are capable of profound change in an incredibly short period — whether in terms of instituting lockdowns, taking our work and education online or uniting forces to develop critical vaccines and treatments in record time.  The pandemic has powerfully demonstrated just how interconnected our lives, economies and futures are — and how much we depend on international solidarity and effective inclusive multilateralism.

From this greater awareness, I believe that we can build a new global movement to drive progress at speed and at scale between now and 2030.  The 10 million visits that Expo 2020 has received so far are a clear sign that people, Governments, businesses and organizations from across the world are eager for change, yearning for hope and ready to come together.  It is up to each and every one of us to turn this engagement into partnerships and investments that tangibly improve people’s lives everywhere.

With the global Goals woven into the fabric of Expo 2020, I cannot think of a more appropriate place for us to renew our shared commitment to keep the promises we made in 2015.  As we do so, it is imperative that we work together to break down barriers that developing countries in particular are facing as they work to leverage recovery efforts to advance green, digital and social transitions to realize the SDGs.

This means first and foremost ensuring that every country has the means to invest in a better future especially young people.  No country should be forced to choose between servicing its debts or serving its people.  This means re-doubling efforts to provide adequate debt relief, and ramping up concessional finance.  We must urgently reform the global financial system and debt architecture to protect developing countries and enable them to make a strong recovery.  We need a fairer global tax system, in which some of the trillions amassed by the world’s billionaires are shared more broadly.

We must also learn from the failures of this pandemic, by strengthening global health systems and empowering the World Health Organization (WHO).  And we must correct the massive intergenerational injustice we have committed against children and young people in failing to deal with the climate crisis.

More than 150,000 actions have already been taken for the #ACTNOW campaign at Expo 2020 to tackle climate change.  Tonight you can take immediate action by using the QR code to download the app and add your voice.

We know that when we work together, we succeed.  And as Nelson Mandela famously said:  “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”  So, let us join hands together, end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet.  Let us deliver on the SDGs, our global Goals for humanity.

For information media. Not an official record.