Providing Crucial Momentum to Upcoming Summit, Economic and Social Council Remains ‘the Mothership’ for Sustainable Development, Deputy Secretary-General Says

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the closing of the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council, in New York today:

The topics and issues on the agenda of the Economic and Social Council are clearly more pertinent and pressing than ever.  From financing to technology, from youth to women, and from developing in transition settings to the role of the United Nations development system, the Economic and Social Council remains the United Nations mothership for sustainable development.

Today, we heard all about the many challenges that countries continue to face in advancing the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).  The data is sobering.  The Special Edition of the SDG progress report paints a stark picture that progress on the SDGs has stalled on many fronts and even regressed on some targets.

Inequality is persistent, and even rising in many parts of the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic painfully exposed the gaps in international cooperation and solidarity — gaps that linger to this day.  Meanwhile, tomorrow’s problems are becoming apparent today.

Behind the headlines, people are suffering from hunger, deep poverty, lack of opportunity and insecurity in a world of great uncertainty. Climate change is morphing from a distant threat to a drumbeat of disaster.  Uncertainty and climate chaos confront small island developing States and African countries wracked by intense weather events.

With the smoke from distant Canadian wildfires choking New York City, with heat waves in Greece, Italy and Spain leading to temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the reality of a deeply interlinked world cannot be ignored.

But against the odds, we also see some progress being made, giving us hope for the future and underscoring the importance of focusing on these areas of greatest impact.  Individuals, communities, Governments and societies are moving towards a more just, sustainable and prosperous future.

We are seeing the commitment to leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first being turned into concrete policy prescriptions and action on the ground.  The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have embedded themselves into the mainstream, finding their place in the curricula of schools, in boardroom discussions, and in Cabinet meetings.  Local and regional governments, always closest to the people they serve, have wholeheartedly embraced the SDGs.

Young people, too, are in a hurry to make a difference.  They will inherit the progress — or lack of progress — we achieve here today.  Their engagement in the implementation of the SDGs is not merely a choice; it is an imperative.

The Economic and Social Council Youth Forum brought into intergovernmental discussions the energy, passion and insights of youth from around the world.  However, more needs to be done to integrate their voices and the challenges and opportunities of the new youth office into the work of the United Nations.

The Economic and Social Council and its various functional commissions can help lead the way, and the Secretary-General is committed to supporting this essential effort.  At the same time, the operational activities segment of this gathering highlighted the work on the ground of the new generation of resident coordinators.  We must continue our efforts to build and adequately resource an agile and responsive resident coordinator system.  Only then can it be equipped to help programme countries deal with the multidimensional crises that they each face.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the long and protracted recovery, the United Nations development system continues to work with countries for the long haul.  But we must also recognize that today’s global challenges demand a holistic and integrated approach across all that we do, both inside the United Nations and with our partners around the world.

Our success also depends on looking to the long-term impacts of our work.  Short-termism and “quick wins” are not sufficient.  A truly sustainable future means cultivating a culture that values long-term vision, planning and a commitment to true, lasting transformation. In particular, this requires investing in comprehensive research, robust data analysis that we need, and strategic foresight.

The investments in data collection for the SDGs are beginning to pay dividends.  But more can be done, especially by deploying new technologies and strengthening national data ecosystems to overcome barriers and deficits, even in low-resource environments.  By embracing evidence-based policymaking and robust planning frameworks, we can navigate the challenges of today while we try to safeguard the needs and interests of future generations.

The SDG Summit is fast approaching.  The Economic and Social Council and its functional commissions have provided crucial momentum in the preparation for the Summit.  Equally, there will be a critical role to play in the follow-up process after the Summit to accelerate momentum on SDG implementation as we head towards 2030.

An ambitious draft of the political declaration is nearing the finish line.  Member States are moving the needle on critical topics, especially financing for the SDGs.  This is progress but it is not enough.

The SDG Summit and related development meetings of the high-level week must also be a rallying point for action and a pivot towards the transformation that we need.  The Secretary-General has called on Member States to come to the Summit with commitments for national SDG transformation.  

The Summit must help build durable bridges between the work we do here and the thinkers, innovators, and doers — and the public — beyond these walls.  The United Nations system has prepared a set of 12 high impact initiatives that showcase transitions across six areas and five means of implementation that are critical to achieving the SDGs.  We are inviting Member States and other interested actors to join and help move the needle in these areas, which are not new to any of us.

As this high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council draws to a close, let us draw on the lessons and ideas exchanged, with renewed focus on implementation.  It was deeply encouraging these past two weeks to see 39 countries join the ranks of those presenting reviews of their efforts to advance the SDGs and to see the European Union present its own voluntary reviews — a hallmark of its abiding commitment to the 2030 Agenda.

It was equally encouraging to see the business sector and other communities coming together and to see civil society and youth in these halls once again — full of the commitment, energy and determination upon which SDG success depends.

I hope that we can move forward from here with conviction — to secure the breakthroughs needed during this critical year to deliver a better, more sustainable future that every person, everywhere, needs and deserves. And let’s give our leaders the clear and unambiguous expectations that we have of them and solutions they will need to deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.