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Building on Efforts to Tackle Humanitarian, Climate Crises Key for Rescuing Sustainable Development Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Member States in Geneva

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the briefing to Member States, in Geneva today:

It is a pleasure to be back in Geneva and to have this opportunity to exchange thoughts on our common efforts to deliver on the United Nations Charter.

2022 was a year that tested us like no other.  The COVID-19 pandemic continued to destroy lives and livelihoods.  Despite ceasefires in some contexts, conflicts across the world continued to kill thousands and displace millions.  And new conflicts emerged elsewhere, most notably the war in Ukraine.

Geopolitical tensions have risen considerably, undermining the work of the Security Council, international law, people’s faith in democratic institutions and all forms of international cooperation.  Within countries, we witnessed eroding trust, widening inequalities and fraying social cohesion.  Meanwhile, the climate crisis continues to worsen.  Emissions keep going up.  Climate impacts keep getting worse.  As the Secretary-General noted in Sharm el-Sheikh:  We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return.

All of this contributed to untold human suffering.  The cost of food, gas and other essentials grew considerably.  1.6 billion people — many in Africa — face crushing debt burdens, spiralling inflation and a lack of access to finance.  Displacement reached unprecedented levels — more than 100 million by mid-year, well over double the figure 10 years ago.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on life support as human development fell back to 2016 levels.

The challenges we confront are unprecedented in their size, scale, severity, and complexity.  But, it would be a mistake to lose hope or to believe that progress is not happening.

Amidst strong headwinds, there are winds of hope.  The Black Sea Grain Initiative showed multilateralism at its best — facilitating concrete progress on issues that have a direct impact on peoples’ lives.  Resident Coordinators and United Nations country teams provided real-time feedback on food security.

Momentum around the need to overhaul the international financial system grew stronger than ever — the breakthrough at the twenty-seventh the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) on the issue of loss and damage is one important example, with further negotiations undergoing to protect our biodiversity, including through innovative financial instruments, such as debt for nature.

The United Nations system and thousands of United Nations staff across the world continued to deliver.

Our humanitarian system helped mobilize $20.3 billion to assist 174 million people across 60 countries and territories.  Our human rights system provided rehabilitation support to over 46,000 victims of torture and facilitated assistance for 13,000 victims of contemporary forms of slavery.  Our peace and security pillar supported 71 countries to make political and peace processes more inclusive, through mediation, electoral support and partnerships.

And our United Nations country teams — led by empowered and strengthened Resident Coordinators — supported 162 developing countries to push ahead with critical SDG transitions across energy, food, digitalization and social protection.  Last but not least, the vision of a more effective multilateralism outlined in Our Common Agenda is beginning to bear fruit.

Earlier this year, the President of the General Assembly outlined the agreed way forward.  Since then, negotiations have begun on a Global Digital Compact, a Declaration on Future Generations and the scope of the 2024 Summit of the Future.  In August, the General Assembly also agreed a historic resolution on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  In September, the Transforming Education Summit convened by the Secretary-General saw over 135 countries commit to reboot their education systems — a critical step towards better preparing our societies for uncertain futures.

And at the end of the seventy-sixth session, the General Assembly agreed to establish a dedicated United Nations Youth Office — a capacity that can turbocharge the ability of the United Nations system to both engage with and support young people across the world.

Building on these winds of hope, 2023 is our opportunity to rescue the SDGs.  At the mid-way point of the implementation of the SDGs, September’s SDG Summit must signal both a firm recommitment to the Goals and a turning point in our efforts.  The SDG Summit will also coincide with important convenings on climate change, financing and health.

Together, these convenings provide a unique opportunity to generate fresh momentum, new commitment, important breakthroughs, and strong partnerships that can ignite a wave of progress between now and 2030.

2023 is also an important year for preparations for the 2024 Pact for the Future.  The President of the General Assembly has already kickstarted intergovernmental processes that address specific aspects of Our Common Agenda.  And a preparatory ministerial meeting on the Summit of the Future next September will mark an important milestone towards a far-reaching Pact for the Future in 2024.

We hope that the Pact will reinvigorate the multilateral system and make it fit for the challenges of today and tomorrow.  It must reaffirm our fundamental belief in the Charter of the United Nations.  And it should re-focus our efforts on meeting our existing commitments in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement; addressing threats to international peace and security; and realizing our ambitions on human rights, international justice, and gender equality.

For information media. Not an official record.