Used Responsibly, Digital Technologies Can Be Catalysts of Economic, Social, Societal Transformation, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Headquarters Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the opening of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Digital Day, in New York today:

The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development is in peril. For the first time in decades, development progress is reversing under the combined impact of interconnected crises:  climate disasters, conflict, economic downturn, debt distress and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with developing countries most hardly hit.

If trends persist, by 2030, a staggering 575 million people will remain trapped in extreme poverty and 84 million children will be out of school.  At the midpoint of winning or losing humanity’s most important race, the SDG Summit is a vital opportunity to move from rhetoric to action.  I am convinced we can still turn things around.

Today, we start the second moment of the SDG Action Weekend.

Today we focus on acceleration, our compass for the next seven years, if we want to rescue the promise of the 2030 Agenda.  Strong political will, resources, solidarity and knowledge can enable a breakthrough into a better future.

Digital technologies can be at the heart of this acceleration.  They are a key driver to put the SDGs back on track.

We know that Internet connectivity, especially in rural and developing areas, can rapidly accelerate economic growth.

We know that artificial intelligence can be used to track, manage and even predict public health crises.

We know that the cost of renewable energy is dropping rapidly and that digital technologies can provide benefits for climate and power system resilience, especially in developing countries.

And we know that women and girls are underrepresented in scientific fields, there is massive untapped capacity here that can be leveraged to make the next digital breakthrough in health, science and technology.

Digital technologies, when used safely and responsibly, can be catalysts of economic, social and societal transformation by creating efficiencies at scale and expanding the reach of existing solutions to support more people.

From universal Internet connectivity and infrastructure, building digital innovation, abilities and skills, to unlocking the promise of digital public services like health, education, training and social protection, but also with impact on key other sectors such as climate, energy and food systems.

That’s what this session is all about.

I like to commend [International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General] Doreen Bogdan-Martin and [United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator] Achim Steiner for setting an example of leadership and partnership.

Initiatives from both organizations and other United Nations entities are bringing a wide range of partners around accelerating Internet connectivity, leveraging data, and building digital literacy in developing countries around the world.  Their work is helping us get the SDGs back on track.

I am also pleased to announce the launch of the Joint SDG Fund’s new Window on Digital Transformation.  The SDG Fund is the United Nations flagship financing mechanism for catalysing SDG acceleration at country level.

Leveraging the convening and integrating power of UN resident coordinators, and the United Nations development system can be a critical ally for supporting governments towards a digital transition, and act as a facilitator in building critical partnerships and strengthening digital ecosystems with private sector and civil society.

Thanks to the support and leadership of the European Union as its first funder, this Digital Window will provide catalytic funds needed to trigger countries on their digital transformation journeys.  However, full capitalization of the Joint SDG Fund is critical to raise the ambition and scale up action.

In this upcoming year, leading to the Summit for the Future, it is essential that we develop a joint vision of digital transformation.  The Global Digital Compact put forward by Our Common Agenda sets out principles, objectives, and actions to advance an open, free, secure and human-centred digital future, as public goods anchored in universal human rights and the SDGs.

All of you are part of this journey of transformation, too — whether you’re joining us physically or online.  Together, let’s explore new ways to unlock the power of the digital world to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.  Let’s continue fighting for the better world that all people need and deserve.

For information media. Not an official record.