World Leaders Adopt Sweeping Political Declaration Reaffirming Commitment to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals, as Summit Commences
Text Must Become 'More Than a Piece of Paper', Urge Speakers, amidst Calls for Action, International Finance Reform
Kicking off the second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders at the SDG Summit 2023 today adopted a sweeping Political Declaration to reaffirm their shared commitment to end poverty and hunger everywhere, combat inequalities within and among countries and build peaceful societies that leave no one behind.
The adoption of the 10-page document, by the Heads of State and Government and high representatives gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, came at a critical juncture as global crises — including armed conflict, adverse climate impacts and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — threaten the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“The SDGs need a global rescue plan,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks to the SDG Summit, known formally as the high-level political forum on sustainable development, under the auspices of the General Assembly. “At the halfway point to the SDG deadline, the eyes of the world are on you once again,” he added.
Welcoming the endorsement by the Political Declaration of the need to reform today’s outdated, dysfunctional and unfair international financial architecture, he stressed that “this can be a game-changer in accelerating SDG progress”.
Following the Political Declaration’s adoption, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, and co-facilitator of negotiations on the Declaration alongside Ireland, emphasized that the commitment to the peaceful settlement of differences and respectful dialogue are best for safeguarding development gains worldwide. “Together we can turn out commitments to action,” he asserted.
Supporting that call, Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, also stressed that the text must become “more than a piece of paper”. For its part, his country will provide almost €300 million in 2023 to address “the scandalous food security and nutrition crisis globally”. While Ireland is a small country, it has “always dared to think big”, he stated.
Also addressing the opening segment, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, underscored that the most vulnerable communities — including women and girls, young people, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and Indigenous Peoples — are “at the foremost receiving end” of complex and intersecting crises. However, “with concerted, ambitious action, it is still possible that, by 2030, we could lift 124 million additional people out of poverty and ensure that some 113 million fewer people are malnourished,” he said.
Paula Narvaez (Chile), President of the Economic and Social Council, underlined that this week — also featuring the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development and the Climate Ambition Summit — should serve as “a turning point” to rescue the Goals. “We must not let this moment slip away,” she said, stressing that the Council stands ready to support countries’ efforts to turn commitments into action.
Setting the stage for the ensuing discussions, Mayada Adil of Sudan and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, declared: “We are ready to take actions rather than promises.” However, the General Assembly Hall is filled with Heads of States, decision-makers and power holders but not youth. “What have you done to include young people in decision-making space?” she asked, stressing the need to involve youth, who make up half of the world’s population, in all decision-making spaces.
Throughout the day, representatives from Member States, UN entities and civil society engaged in plenary and leaders’ dialogue sessions, taking stock of progress and gaps in implementing the Goals while charting the way forward. With only seven years left to the 2030 deadline, the need for scaling up SDG finance emerged as a central theme.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of Cuba, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that developing countries face multiple challenges and an unfair economic order that perpetuates poverty and inequality, calling for an urgent overhaul of the international financial architecture. Currently, 25 countries of the Global South dedicate more than 20 per cent of their national income to servicing their debts, preventing them from being able to invest in sustainable development, he reported.
Adding to that, Seve Paeniu, Minister for Finance of Tuvalu, said that his country’s habitable land is already succumbing to sea level rise and, according to the lowest projections, most of Tuvalu will become untenable for human habitation by 2100. In response, his country has developed a “survival” adaptation plan designed to provide safe, elevated land territory that can accommodate the national population. However, small island developing States like his require finance provided through an outright grant system as opposed to credit financing, he said.
In that vein, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Prime Minister of Nepal and Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, spotlighted the 30 per cent decline in foreign direct investment flows to least developed countries in 2022, resulting in a significant blow to development efforts. Calling on developed nations to provide 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of their gross national product as official development assistance (ODA)to the least developed countries, he emphasized that “finance is the fuel that drives SDG progress”. More so, he stressed, the achievement of the Goals in least developed countries “defines its success or failure”.
The SDG Summit will reconvene at 3 p.m., Tuesday, 19 September to continue leaders’ dialogue sessions and conclude its work.
HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development serves as a beacon of hope to create a more equitable and just world. Now, at the midway point, it is essential to take stock of all progress and assess the remaining challenges in order to chart a course of success, ensuring that the United Nations keep faith and that “no one is left behind”. He urged that partnerships be forged and innovative ideas put forward that drive meaningful change. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine, among others, have presented complex and intersecting crises. While they have dramatically altered the trajectory of the entire world, those in precarious circumstances suffer the most, including small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries. The most vulnerable communities — including women and girls, young people, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and Indigenous Peoples — are at the foremost receiving end of these crises.
Despite the Agenda’s commitments to eradicate poverty and reduce hunger, 1.2 billion people were still living in multidimensional poverty as of 2022, he cautioned. Approximately 8 per cent of the global population — 680 million people — will still be facing hunger in 2030, he said, adding: “Can we accept these numbers? Or, because they make us uncomfortable, should we pretend they do not exist and carry on with business as usual?” Doing nothing would “fan the flames of discord and conflict, with well-known terrible consequences”, he emphasized. “With concerted, ambitions action, it is still possible that by 2030, we could lift 124 additional million people out of poverty and ensure that 130 million fewer people are malnourished,” he underlined, adding: “The world is watching (…) that we will keep our promises and that we are alive to the reality that we have only 7 years left.”
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 was “a promise to people” crushed under the grinding wheels of poverty and starving in a world of plenty, as well as to children denied a seat in a classroom. The Goals are not just a list — they carry the hopes, dreams, aspirations and expectations of people everywhere. However, only 15 per cent of the targets are on track, and the Goals need a global rescue plan. In this regard, he said that he was encouraged by the Political Declaration to be adopted today — especially its commitment to improve developing countries’ access to finance, its support for an annual $500 billion stimulus for the Goals and its endorsement of the need to reform today’s outdated, dysfunctional and unfair international financial architecture. “This can be a game-changer” in accelerating progress on the Goals, he observed.
Outlining areas where urgent transformation is needed, he encouraged action on hunger and spotlighted efforts under way to help countries transform food systems. Further, establishing new energy agreements can help accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the proposed Global Digital Compact aims to close the digital divide. It is also vital to build true “learning societies”, he said, which are anchored in quality education and achieve decent work and social protection for all. Citing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, he underscored that “the war on nature must stop”. Ensuring full gender equality is fundamental to all these transitions. “At the halfway point to the SDG deadline, the eyes of the world are on you once again,” he said, declaring that the international community can prevail if it acts now, together, and keeps its “promise to the billions of people whose hopes, dreams and futures you hold in your hands”.
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), President of the Economic and Social Council, noted the many pressing challenges faced by the international community. She said that the Political Declaration is a testament to world leaders’ unwavering commitment to effectively implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The high-level dialogue concerning financing for development, she pointed out, will focus on the need for an international financial architecture that can respond to both global needs and challenges on the horizon. Meanwhile, the Climate Ambition Summit presents an opportunity to make decisive progress on climate action and to raise the bar for more timely and targeted efforts in this area. “This week should serve as a turning point” to rescue the Goals, she said, urging: “We must not let this moment slip away.”
She went on to underscore her commitment, as Council President, to use the body’s 2024 session to leverage the outcomes of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, as well as those of the other high-level meetings occurring in September. The Council stands ready to support countries’ efforts to turn commitments into action and to realize the 2030 Agenda, and will also aim to provide transformative policy guidance while strengthening its role as a platform for accountability to facilitate a better and more agile UN development system. She called on all present to fully commit, engage in constructive dialogue, raise their ambitions and ensure the participation and vision of civil society and other stakeholders. This is the only way to ensure that the necessary transformations happen, she stressed.
Following opening remarks, the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the General Assembly adopted, without a vote, a Political Declaration contained in draft resolution A/HLPF/2023/L.1. By the terms of the Declaration, the Heads of State and Government and high representatives renewed their shared commitment to “remain resolved, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.” Recognizing that “the achievement of the SDGs is in peril” at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the text puts forward a call to action in many areas, including for the developing countries’ access to finance needed to implement the Goals.
SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, welcomed the adoption of the Summit’s Political Declaration and highlighted his country’s Permanent Representative Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani’s efforts facilitating Government negotiations to that end. The commitment to the peaceful settlement of differences and respectful dialogue are best for safeguarding development gains worldwide, he emphasized, urging those present to remove the differences hindering the right to self-determination for those living under foreign occupation, including the Palestinian people. It is also crucial to avoid any steps that would undermine the ability of developing countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including the imposition of unilateral coercive measures in a manner contrary to the Charter of the United Nations.
In this regard, he underscored the importance of investing in young people’s future and empowering women and girls in decision-making to achieve more inclusive and sustainable communities. The vital role of Qatar in developing educational endeavours worldwide enhances its vision of human development importance, he emphasized, reiterating the State’s commitment towards the Doha Programme of Action for least development countries. To this end, the Government will align its national development plans with the Goals, he noted, pointing out that it has made climate change a top priority and has taken measures to develop relevant techniques. “The pathway to build a new world, that is safer, more equitable and freer, is through achieving international human solidarity. Together we can turn out commitments to action,” he asserted.
LEO VARADKAR, Prime Minister of Ireland, noted that, “halfway to our deadline of 2030, there is no hiding the fact we are not where we would wish to be”, as only about 15 per cent of targets have been met. While emphasizing that “we should also accept that progress had stalled before the pandemic hit”, he nevertheless spotlighted certain progress. More than 800 million people have been connected to electricity since 2015, 146 countries have already met — or are on track to meeting — the mortality target for children under five years of age, and effective HIV treatment has halved global AIDS-related deaths since 2010. Quoting the Secretary-General, he noted that “back-sliding is not inevitable” and that “poverty, pollution and gender inequality are not pre-ordained”. Rather, “they are trends that can be reversed”, he said. But this can only be achieved through urgent action, and the Political Declaration must become more than a piece of paper.
He noted that Ireland co-facilitated the drafting of the Declaration with Qatar and that — while “negotiations were not easy, because the stakes are so high” — his country is committed to action. Since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015, its official development assistance (ODA) has tripled, when including assistance provided to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Further, Ireland is on track to provide at least €225 million annually in climate finance for developing countries within two years. In 2023, it will provide €149 million. He also noted that — to address “the scandalous food security and nutrition crisis globally” — Ireland will provide almost €300 million towards food, agriculture and nutrition in 2023. “We do so recalling our own great famine of the nineteenth century,” he said. While Ireland is a small country, it has “always dared to think big”, he stated, adding that the challenge of achieving the Goals “is undoubtedly big”.
Setting the Stage: “SDG implementation at the Halftime”
MAYADA ADIL, of Sudan and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, declared: “We are ready to take actions rather than promises.” The fact that, at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, only 15 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals have been met is a sigh of failure. The world is facing a dire reality, with climate crisis, hunger, growing inequality and multiple conflicts around the world, she pointed out, stressing the need to recommit to the Goals and reignite action. “I see a Hall filled with heads of States, decision makers and power holders but I do not see my tribe, the youth tribe,” she observed, adding that every year, a different young person is invited to the General Assembly stage to remind the international community of its commitment to humanity.
“What have you done to include young people in decision-making space?” she asked, highlighting that while half of the world’s population is under 30, young people are excluded from all decision-making spaces. For transformational change to occur, it is necessary to stop making excuses and, instead, curate the roadblocks for the young people to lead, and, through generational partnership and solidarity, make the international system more inclusive and responsive. She also criticized the fact that the Global South, facing hunger, droughts, climate crisis and increased conflicts, including her country, Sudan, is left out of sight.
Moderating the panel discussion “Setting the Stage “SDG implementation at the halftime — What will it take to keep the SDG promise?” was Gillian Tett, from the Financial Times. The panellists included: Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates group; Ajay Banga, President, World Bank Group; and Carolina Cosse, Mayor of Montevideo, Uruguay.
As the discussion unfolded, Ms. MOTTLEY underscored that the calls for international reform of the financial system are not only about governance but “about longer money, cheaper money”. The already dire situation has been compounded by the pandemic, and policies regarding access to finance need to put a framework in place that allows the Multilateral Development Banks to value the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite an abundance of food, people are starving, she said, noting that this is due to the choice not to act differently. Accordingly, she called for change of behaviour and attitude.
To that end, Mr. BANGA elaborated on expanding the vision of the World Bank to not only focus on poverty and prosperity but to recognize the intertwined nature of the challenges the world is facing, including climate, pandemics, war and food insecurity. The vision of the Bank is to end poverty and to preserve a liveable planet through mitigation and adaptation strategies. In this regard, progress must be measured in terms of empowerment of women, jobs for young people and carbon emissions. “We must focus on tangible outputs in these areas,” he said, adding that “the world is awash in debt”, with a few countries having been able to find their way through a restructuring process. Although the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are working with creditors, a push is needed. Money is available, he stressed. The question is how it can be moved to the right causes.
Adding to the discussion, Ms. COSSE said that if the international community wants to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, things need to be turned around. “We need to work locally” and with local governments where efforts are being made on a daily basis, she emphasized, underscoring that cultural changes are needed to combat climate change. Noting that the best tools of politics have been “opening up to citizens”, she added: “We cannot call upon a mother [to make] a new home for cultural change while her biggest concern is saving her son from a panic attack.” Thus, in light of the need to support mothers who are taking care of their children, cultural change is “absolutely necessary”.
MIGUEL DÍAZ-CANEL BERMÚDEZ, President of Cuba, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that developing countries face multiple challenges and an unfair economic order that perpetuates poverty and inequality. As such, his bloc has contributed to the Political Declaration to accelerate the implementation of transformative measures to guarantee achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Group has also led a global appeal for an urgent overhaul of the international financial architecture to correct historical injustices and provide better opportunities for vulnerable peoples and countries. This includes an overhaul of sovereign debt, he added, noting that the high costs of loans prevent developing countries from being able to invest in sustainable development. Currently, 25 countries of the Global South dedicate more than 20 per cent of their national income to servicing their debts, he pointed out.
Multilateral development banks must also radically improve loan conditions and satisfy the financial needs of the Global South, he continued, calling on the international community to support the Secretary-General’s proposal to provide stimulus for developing countries’ achievement of the Global Goals. He further called on developed countries to honour their ODA commitments. Stressing the need to fully respect the climate change agenda and uphold the principle of common-but-differentiated responsibilities, he urged developed countries to fulfil their promises in this regard. Further, he underlined the need for reform of the international trade system, emphasizing that economic growth must be focused on developing countries’ exports. Unilateralism — including coercive trade measures — must be corrected urgently, he added, calling on the international community and the United Nations system to continue rejecting the imposition of such measures and working towards their unconditional elimination.
AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of Comoros and speaking as Chairperson of the African Union, said that the SDG Summit needs to bring new life to Member States’ actions to achieve their 2030 objectives. Noting that only 15 per cent of the set-out targets have been achieved, he called for brave policies, targeted investment and concerted action to transform aspirations into tangible results. The trajectory of achieving the Goals has been hampered by external shocks, including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis, he observed, recalling that before the pandemic, Africa had positive growth rates. “But it was insufficient to achieve the SDGs,” he added, encouraging States to undertake national and global commitments to promote the acceleration, transformation and implementation of the Global Goals.
Urging Member States to mobilize the necessary funding for development and underlining the importance of strengthening South-South cooperation, he emphasized: “The success of the SDGs will depend on resources that we can mobilize to do so.” In this regard, he spotlighted the need for the African Continental Free Trade Area to ensure African economic integration and to achieve the SDGs by 2030. While proposing a “positive Africa label” for the continent that recognizes African and other stakeholders’ impact in line with the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, he said that the continent needs to consider social and environmental factors for its growth.
CHARLES ANGELO SAVARIN, President of Dominica, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled that the Community celebrates 50 years of its establishment. “We firmly believe that greater commitment, solidarity and transformative action are needed to achieve the said targets within a realistic timeframe,” he emphasized, reiterating CARICOM’s endorsement of the Political Declaration. Noting that the existential threat of the pandemic, exacerbated by climate change and the war in Ukraine, calls for greater leadership at the multilateral level, he urged Governments and other stakeholders to renew their commitment towards the Global Goals. He underscored the need for providing support for developing countries through long-term lending at lower interest rates, debt relief and the creation of a robust and effective sovereign debt resolution mechanism. To that end, he also called for reforming the international financial architecture.
Expressing support for outlining national budgets with the SDG’s pathways, he stressed: “The multidimensional vulnerability index and the Bridgetown Initiative — two structures that have found consensus among CARICOM — must be vigorously pursued.” In this context, he spotlighted the importance of prioritizing gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, domestic poverty reduction, access to clean water and sanitation, food and energy security, while urging those present to harness the use of technology as a transformative tool. “The 2030 Agenda is achievable. There will always be challenges. However, the capacity to overcome the most severe challenges is not an anomaly for humankind,” he asserted, adding that Member States have access to a wreath of knowledge and resources to meet the demands of the times.
MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, noted that this is a critical moment for such States given the daunting challenges on the road to the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries in Kigali. Overlapping crises threaten to derail hard-earned progress towards attaining the Vienna Programme of Action and the SDGs. While disadvantaged due to their geographical and structural vulnerabilities to external shocks, such States have made some progress; however, it is mixed and uneven across various regions. Enhancements in modern transportation and information and communications technology infrastructure are highly promising, he noted, including his Government’s collaboration with Zambia in constructing the Kazungula Bridge — a road and rail line that has significantly reduced the turnaround time for the transportation of goods.
Yet, he noted that international trade — “the engine for inclusive economic growth” — remains marginal and undiversified in landlocked developing countries, citing the sharp increase in the debt crisis and the categorization of half of such States as least developed countries. He looked forward to assembling the widest possible coalition of strengthened global partnership to bring about transformational change in the lives of the more than 564 million people living in the world’s 32 landlocked countries. He further called on stakeholders — including development partners, the United Nations, international financial organizations and the private sector — to join hands in finding sustainable, lasting solutions for the special needs of these countries. The Group reaffirms its full commitment to achieving the Goals by 2030, he added, appealing to all stakeholders to actively engage in the Conference in June 2024.
SURANGEL S. WHIPPS JR., President of Palau, speaking as Chair of the Pacific Small Island Developing States and associating with the statement to be delivered by the Association of Small Island Developing States, noted the escalating costs associated with natural disasters and the human and physical costs of climate change. Significant limitations in accessing finance hinders small island States’ ability to effectively implement their development priorities, including the SAMOA Pathway, he said, voicing support for the reform of international financial institutions. Moreover, small island developing States also face a unique set of vulnerabilities, including structural factors, such as their size, remoteness, and exposure to global economic, social, political and environmental shocks, which impact socioeconomic outcomes and their ability to achieve the Goals, he added.
He called once again on the international community to support a multidimensional vulnerability index that allows for the inclusion of more than just income-based criteria to assess eligibility for concessional finance. In addition, he called for effective and durable partnerships and scaled-up climate finance that adequately recognize the context of small island developing States and respect regional and national policy coordination mechanisms and systems. Also needed are improved partnerships around data and statistics for monitoring and evaluation, digital infrastructure and transformation, sustainable and predictable financing, and capacity-building, he said. Recalling the commitments made towards its full implementation, he voiced support for the development of a robust monitoring framework for the SAMOA Pathway aligned with the 2030 Agenda and other intergovernmental agreements, including the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement on climage change.
JULIUS MAADA BIO, President of Sierra Leone, speaking for the Group of Seven Plus Member States (G7+), recalled that these countries — affected or recovering from conflict — were among the principal Sustainable Development Goals advocates. “We have collectively learned through our experiences that sustainable peace, effective State institutions and access to justice are key pillars to stability, development and resilience”, he noted, observing that fragile and conflict-affected States are the furthest in meeting the Goals. He also called for promoting and supporting peace efforts that address the root causes of conflicts and tackle social inequalities and exclusion in countries with high levels of threat and fragility. “Resilience should be one of the guiding principles”, he stressed, urging Member States to deliberately embrace it to ensure progress.
Ending poverty and thriving in complex and adverse environments requires capacity-building, as well as mechanisms and institutions to promote sustainability, he pointed out, reiterating the Group’s commitment for debt financing, debt relief and technology transfer to the least developed and conflict-affected countries. Noting that this will unleash resources for the 2030 Agenda, he urged developing partners to support Government-led country programmes and enhance cooperation in conflict-affected and fragile countries. “Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in this decade of action could be challenging,” he stressed, emphasizing that through multilateral support, global leadership, resource mobilization, capacity-building and mutual accountability specific progress can be envisaged and achieved.
PETR PAVEL, President of the Czech Republic, speaking for Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies and recalling the General Assembly’s 2015 commitment to a transformative agenda for people, planet and prosperity through 17 Sustainable Development Goals, noted that, eight years later the international community has much to live up to. “There is still no better blueprint for a more peaceful and prosperous world than the 2030 Agenda, and no greater catalyst for the change needed than SDG 16,” he pointed out. Halfway through the 2030 Agenda, it is critical to mitigate the impact of cascading crises and insecurities and to deliver the required policy solutions, he stressed, underlining the need for rebuilding the social contract between people and national and international institutions.
Pointing out that 80 per cent of violent deaths occur outside of conflict zones, he spotlighted progress achieved by Governments and civil society in reducing such violence. In this regard, the Pathfinders’ Halving Global Violence Task Force will launch its flagship report in 2024. Noting that equal access to justice for all is a critical enabler for sustainable development, he announced the creation of the Justice Action Coalition — a high-ambition, multi-stakeholder coalition that promotes people-centred justice. He, thus, called on justice actors and youth leaders to close the global justice gap, while pointing to evidence-based solutions in social protection, housing, taxation and inclusive green transitions, provided by Pathfinders. The SDG Summit represents a critical moment to change the Goals’ trajectory, he emphasized, stating: “We cannot fail in this effort. Trust in our domestic institutions, and in multilateralism, depends on it.”
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has had a direct impact on implementing the Global Goals. “Czechia is fully aware of its global responsibility. We will continue to enhance the strategic planning to make it even more effective,” he stressed, pledging to contribute $4 million to the Green Climate Fund for the period of 2024-2027. To promote good governance, he also pledged to establish an open data national platform for monitoring and reporting on SDG indicators, adding that implementing SDG 16 remains one of the priorities of his country’s foreign policy.
JOÃO MANUEL GONÇALVES LOURENÇO, President of Angola, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), emphasized the urgency of making “this Summit of ours a real turning point” in strengthening political commitment and mobilizing the will for progress. The Southern African Development Community has made remarkable progress in implementing the regional cooperation and integration priorities outlined in the organization’s Vision 2050 and its Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030. However, he recognized that constraints stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other factors have negatively impacted countries’ ability to carry out strategic development plans. Such States’ difficulty in affordably accessing financial resources represents perhaps the biggest problem, he said, which hinders essential projects in crucial areas such as urgently addressing poverty.
Nothing in the plans, objectives and programmes outlined over the years can be achieved effectively, he stressed, without eliminating “the conflicts, instability, insecurity and unpredictability that discourage investment and deprive our markets of the credibility they need for our international partners to invest more in our economies”. His country, as Chair of the Community, will continue to develop actions for the realization of Vision 2050, which envisages a region with political and social stability, peace and economic development and justice and freedom for its citizens. These objectives will be achievable through joint effort, but will face far fewer constraints and obstacles if the relationship between the region and the international community develops without unilateral coercive measures against the Community’s member States. The Southern African region, he added, has been subjected to the consequences of climate change, which requires that developed countries make financial resources available.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, President of the European Commission of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, noted that her generation “was raised with the idea that our children and grandchildren would be better off than us”. However, a cascade of crises has set back progress towards the SDGs, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian Federation’s war of aggression and the knock-on effects of a boiling planet. Against that backdrop, developing countries will need more resources to pull people out of poverty and transition towards clean, equal economies. In 2022, Europe elevated its development aid to €93 billion — an increase of 30 per cent over 2021 — which accounts for over 40 per cent of global assistance. However, she stated that “public funding is not enough”, noting that Europe is unlocking private capital through the Global Gateway investment plan, which will provide €300 billion for developing economies over the next five years.
“We are doing so by using a portion of our public budget to de-risk private investments,” she affirmed, noting the Europe is also supporting developing and emerging economies in creating their own green bond markets to attract fresh capital towards the Sustainable Development Goals. She further spotlighted carbon pricing — one of the most efficient and effective climate policies — the revenues from which can support the clean transition in developing countries. In 2022 alone, Europe’s carbon pricing system raised €38 billion, and she stated that “we are re-investing 100 per cent of it in climate action”. However, noting that only 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are covered by carbon pricing, she called on Member States to imagine the global impact — both in terms of new revenues and decreased emissions — if more countries adopted this strategy.
PUSHPA KAMAL DAHAL ‘PRACHANDA’, Prime Minister of Nepal and Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, stressed: “The SDGs are in dire need of a rescue plan.” However, foreign direct investment flows to least developed countries declined about 30 per cent in 2022, as compared to 2021. Investments in infrastructure, renewable energy, water and sanitation, food security, health and education suffered a significant blow, while the average external debt of those States rose from 41 per cent in 2011 to 54 per cent in 2022. However, “we have not lost our faith, nor have we derailed our commitments,” he affirmed.
He called for a massive scaling up of affordable financing to least developed countries that addresses their debt distress by 2025 and providing appropriate debt solutions. He further urged developed countries to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national product as ODA to developing countries and 0.15 to 0.20 per cent to the least developed countries. This is critical, “as finance is the fuel that drives SDG progress”, he stated, adding that the achievement of the Goals in least developed countries “defines its success or failure”.
Speaking in his national capacity, he stated that materializing the Goals is Nepal’s top development priority, having integrated them into its national policies and plans. The country is committed to eradicating poverty and reducing inequality in line with the 2030 Agenda and the principle of leaving no one behind. “We remain committed to ensuring a smooth, sustainable, and irreversible graduation from the LDC category by 2026,” he added, including by remaining steadfast to the Paris Agreement and the goal to reach a net zero scenario by 2045. He called for adequate support from development partners to complement those national efforts.
FIAME NAOMI MATAAFA, Prime Minister of Samoa, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that recently concluded preparatory meetings for the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States affirm the bloc’s unwavering commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She urged all to “leave nationalism behind and urgently put action to the rhetoric that we have been propagating for the past eight years”. Underscoring the need for urgent climate action, she called for more climate financing and drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the twenty-eighth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must produce results, she stressed, adding that loss and damage funds must be fully operational and financed, and that nationally determined contributions must be enhanced.
Calling for urgent reform of the international financial architecture, she stated that it must respond more appropriately to the varied dynamics that countries face today, which go beyond gross domestic product (GDP). Further, various vulnerabilities must be considered, along with other factors that will facilitate a more holistic and comprehensive insight into a country’s circumstances. Reform must also allow for more inclusive participation and decision-making. Urging concerted effort to address the high indebtedness of small island developing States — which can no longer be ignored — she spotlighted a “revolving door of debt” due to economic, environmental and social shocks caused by external factors. AOSIS is ready to be bold and focused on achieving the Goals, she said, declaring: “Let’s all join forces to make 2030 a year that we can all be proud of.”
ALEXEI OVERCHUK, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, speaking for the Eurasian Economic Union, said that the Union assists its members in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, it has formed common markets in its spheres of cooperation — without exceptions or restrictions — which enabled positive trends in areas within the Union’s scope. While the bloc ensures the free movement of goods and workers, it also validates documents issued in member States, he reported, adding that 50 per cent of services provided within the Union operate under unified laws. Further, to ensure the free movement of capital, the gradual harmonization of national legislation concerning the regulation of financial markets has been discussed.
He went on to say that the Union’s member States — recognizing the importance of sustainable, modern energy sources — formed a bank of climate technologies and digital initiatives, including in areas such as carbon-print accounting and green-project criteria. “We are interested in studying the best global practices on reforming the areas of economies that focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed, urging those present to mobilize existing resources towards this common endeavour.
Speaking in his national capacity, he pointed out that the reason for the Goals’ “disappointing assessment” is miscalculated macroeconomic policy by the European Union and the United States during the pandemic, along with such entities’ lack of desire to implement their obligations towards developing States. The negative effects of this have been exacerbated by illegitimate unilateral sanctions. Despite pressure, Moscow continues to be a “responsible provider” of food, fertilizer and energy resources, he said, adding that further progress will depend on strengthening international partnerships, de-monopolizing markets and creating alternative payment systems. Noting that the 2030 Agenda is incorporated into domestic law, he spotlighted his country’s positive momentum on each Goal.
RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that — despite a challenging, uncertain global environment — the region continues to work towards narrowing development gaps and enhancing the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals. Further, it is empowering youth, women, elderly persons, small- and medium-sized enterprises and migrant workers. ASEAN is also committed to achieving a resilient community, increasing investment in human resources development, improving regional health architecture and better preparing for future pandemics. Additionally, the bloc is working to build resilient regional economic architecture, supported by digital transformation and sustainable energy security.
Speaking in her national capacity, she stressed that the current global order “is simply unfit to provide equal opportunity for the Global South”. As a result, the region is tremendously off-track to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and, therefore, there is no option “other than to create a conducive environment where developing countries can grow and make developmental leaps”. Against that backdrop, she called for putting an end to trade discrimination, as the Global South must have the opportunity to develop downstream industries. As Chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has set the foundation for South-East Asia to become a regional hub for the manufacture of electric vehicles and batteries, to play a bigger role in global supply chains and to be an epicentre of growth.
ALICIA BÁRCENA IBARRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, also speaking for Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Türkiye and Australia, recalled that 10 years ago these countries have established a platform to foster cross-regional dialogue and enhance cooperation. Emphasizing the importance of a strong, coordinated response to current challenges, she said that these five countries have presented their voluntary national reviews to support achieving the Goals. She also pointed to the importance of multi-stakeholders’ contributions and the need for promoting people-to-people needs, adding that the group will continue engaging with civil society, academia, parliaments, local governments and the private sector.
She also reported that, through its cross-regional membership and potential in economic and sustainable development, the group is well-placed to act as a bridge-builder to create synergies that propel the value of circular and creative economies. Further, the group can channel contributions in vulnerable situations and incorporate informal activities into the formal economy. “The achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls remains our core priority,” she emphasized, underscoring the need for adequate and accessible financing, including private sector financing, blended finance and SDG-linked bonds.
Speaking in her national capacity, she reported that Mexico has a 69.7 per cent level of compliance in achieving the Goals. Today 7 out of 10 households receive assistance through social programmes, including universal pension, grants and support to increase production in the countryside. To this end, the “Sembrando Vida” programme provided $5 billion to enable vocational training to more than 2 million young people, while the Government has increased the minimum wage by 90 per cent. This has lifted more than 5 million people out of poverty, she reported, adding that ending poverty is the most pressing commitment of Mexico’s President. She also said that in October, the Government will hold a national convention on the sustainable development agenda and will launch an appeal to increase international financial support to address debt and special drawing rights of the Global South, middle income countries and small island developing States.
Leaders’ Dialogue 1: Scaling up Actions to Accelerate SDG Progress
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 requires transformative changes, including in education, climate change adaptation, digitization and finance, top political leaders from around the world said today as they gathered for Leaders’ Dialogue 1: “Scaling up actions on key transitions to accelerate SDG progress.” (For the full programme, please visit the SDG Summit 2023 website.)
Moderated by KATALIN NOVÁK, President of Hungary, and KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, President of Kazakhstan, the discussion highlighted national actions that have brought about transitions for sustainable development, while taking stock of progress and gaps in implementing the Goals. Many speakers underscored the need for more accessible financing, especially for developing countries, and the reform of the global financial system, as key to achieving the SDGs.
On that, MATAMELA CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, President of South Africa, stressing that every country has the right to pursue its own development path, called for the reform of both the international financial architecture and the multilateral trade system to make them fairer to developing countries, which lack equitable access to financial resources and world markets. However, SDG implementation fundamentally depends on good social, economic and political relations among countries, he pointed out.
As well, MOHAMED IRFAAN ALI, President of Guyana, said that achieving four critical SDGs for Latin America and the Caribbean, including access to water and sanitation, energy, building infrastructure, and making their cities sustainable, would require $2.2 trillion. However, the international financial architecture is out of sync with the needs of developing countries. “We will not have a world where everyone everywhere enjoys their full human rights, peace and security, and is free from poverty and hunger, unless the right to development is realized and respected,” he said.
Adding to that, SEVE PAENIU, Minister for Finance of Tuvalu, said that unhindered access to climate and development finance is key to successfully implementing the Goals. His country’s habitable land is already succumbing to sea level rise and, according to the lowest projections, most of Tuvalu will become untenable for human habitation by 2100. In response, his country has developed a “survival” adaptation plan designed to provide safe, elevated land territory that can accommodate the national population. However, small island developing States like his requires finance provided through an outright grant system, as opposed to credit financing, he said.
Injecting a unique perspective, ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, President of Austria, said that SDG progress is not just about finance. To achieve urgently needed transformations, rule of law is essential, he said, noting that about 5 per cent of global gross domestic products (GDP) are lost to corruption annually. This 5 per cent could significantly contribute to bridging the SDG financing gap.
SADYR ZHAPAROV, President of Kyrgyzstan, was among those who stressed the need to invest in transforming education. Such reform would help people become better equipped with skills to gain decent employment in the future, thus contributing to the well-being of its population. Echoing that point, KATALIN NOVÁK, President of Hungary, called for the establishment of societies where children and grandchildren can live better lives than those of the previous and current generations.
As well, DINA ERCILIA BOLUARTE ZEGARRA, President of Peru, said that her country is promoting inclusive education, providing educational material in 16 Indigenous languages and library titles in 43 Indigenous languages. Her country promotes the learning of English beginning in elementary school because “we want students not only for Peru but also for the world”.
Rounding out the discussion, ANDREW MORLEY, President of World Vision, said that the only way to get the SDGs back on track is to put children at the very heart of global efforts. This week, his non-governmental organization is launching a new global campaign called “ENOUGH”: ENOUGH nutritious food, ENOUGH funding, ENOUGH political will. “No child will suffer from hunger if we all act now,” he declared.
Leaders’ Dialogue 2: Building Resilience and Leaving No One Behind
Reforming global financial architecture, strengthening partnerships, investing in quality education and empowering women are critical for overcoming today’s multifaceted challenges and preparing for future ones, said world leaders and other high-level officials during Leaders’ Dialogue 2: “Building resilience and leaving no one behind.”
Moderated by ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, and PHILIP JOSEPH PIERRE, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the discussion spotlighted national experiences and explored recommendations on how to build resilience amidst impediments to global progress such as climate change, conflict and COVID-19. Many speakers pointed to partnerships and other ways to address the soaring debt and climate crises, while also spotlighting the pressing needs of vulnerable groups.
LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA, President of Malawi, highlighted that stark reality, noting that — since 2015 — his country has faced four cyclones, droughts, COVID-19, the worst cholera outbreak in its history and the adverse economic effects of the war in Eastern Europe. Those shocks have plunged many of its citizens deeper into poverty. Moreover, under the weight of crippling inflation and interest rates, Malawi is forced deeper into debt to avert economic collapse, he said.
On that, GUSTAVO PETRO URREGO, President of Colombia, underscored the need to restructure the international financial system. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) can issue special drawing rights to overcome certain global debt. Further, with fiscal and other spaces freed up, the international community can implement a great “Marshall Plan” to substantially reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
OLAF SCHOLZ, Chancellor of Germany, noting that his country is the second-largest donor of ODA in the world, voiced support for innovative financing instruments and said that — for the first time — Germany will provide €300 million in hybrid capital that will serve to leverage the World Bank’s investment for up to an eight-fold return.
Offering another example of concrete action, MUAWIEH KHALID RADAIDEH, Minister for Environment of Jordan, highlighted his country’s commitment to leaving no one behind by hosting around 3.85 million refugees. Despite a challenging economic outlook, Jordan continues to provide food, shelter and essential services, along with increased access to the labour market and livelihood opportunities, he said.
Several speakers also underscored the importance of partnerships, including MAIA SANDU, President of the Republic of Moldova, who noted that her country — with the support of such relationships — was able to diversify its energy supply, mitigate rising energy prices and increase energy efficiency. Despite the impact of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova now ranks twenty-fifth in the Sustainable Development Goals Index — up from its 2021 ranking of forty-eighth.
Spotlighting another model of resilience — education — PARK JIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, recalled that his country was able to rebuild following the Korean War because it invested in its youth, offering free primary and secondary education despite being a poor country at the time. Going forward, Seoul will help children enjoy unlimited access to quality education and work to narrow the digital divide through collaboration.
FRANZ TATTENBACH CAPRA, Minister for Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, meanwhile, spotlighted his country’s efforts to empower women. On that, he pointed to a strengthened national care system, which trains women in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “Empowering women is imperative to reach all SDGS,” he stressed.
Reminding delegations of the work still to be done, VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education, said: “Indigenous Peoples’ territories are still being devastated and we are being displaced in the name of conservation and mega-infrastructure projects.” She therefore called on States to stop extrajudicial killings of Indigenous leaders and other defenders of the environment.
Leader’s Dialogue 3: Game-Changers: Science and Technology
The world is equipped with levels of knowledge, technologies and resources unprecedented in history. Yet the potential for science, innovation and data to be applied to the Sustainable Development Goals is vastly under-utilized, political leaders argued today during Leadership Dialogue 3: “Game-changers: Applying science, technology, innovation and data for transformative action”.
Moderated by WILLIAM SAMOEI RUTO, President of Kenya, and NATAŠA PIRC MUSAR, President of Slovenia, speakers highlighted their national best practices in using science, technology and innovation — including artificial intelligence — towards achieving the Global Goals, while also outlining existing challenges for utilizing those domains for transformative action.
PRINCE HANS-ADAM II of Liechtenstein, calling for ways to use artificial intelligence to counter disinformation and misinformation, outlined science and data as the best tools to that end. However, unequal access to technology undermines human rights and widens the digital gender divide, he said, while spotlighting the threat of cyberwarfare, triggered by the misuse of new technologies. To this end, his country, as a hub for digital technology, has passed the first ever legislation for blockchain — the Liechtenstein Blockchain Act.
Adding to that, RUMEN RADEV, President of Bulgaria, said his country has entered the top three innovation economies within the upper middle-income group, while also establishing the Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology.
Also presenting national endeavours, ROBINAH NABBANJA, Prime Minister of Uganda, said that, to achieve the Global Goals, her country not only launched the Digital Transformation Roadmap, but developed e-mobility solutions, including the production of vehicles and charging systems, air quality monitoring and acceleration technologies for rural households.
“Almost nine years ago, the energy supply stopped being a sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. We started building our energy independence — and never looked back,” stated GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, announcing that his country took “one of the most liberating steps in recent decades” by launching its own liquefied natural gas terminal.
However, pointing to the difficulties his country faces in obtaining technology and applying science to achieve the SDGs, RICARDO SALGADO, Minister for Planning of Honduras, reported that Honduras is the second poorest nation in Latin America with the highest inequalities across the continent. “Where there is inequality, the gaps are getting larger,” he stressed, advocating for equal opportunities. There should not be first class and second-class citizens, he stated, adding: “Some of the poorest people never have an opportunity.”
Similarly, OSMAN SALEH MOHAMMED, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, noting that infrastructure that drives innovation in developed countries is absent in his country, highlighted the challenge of developing local innovation systems that can transform potential game-changers into “vehicles for development”.
In another vein, SIAOSI 'OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Prime Minister of Tonga, while spotlighting his country’s vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, said Tonga is leveraging satellite data to monitor and manage marine resources, address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and develop early-warning systems. Calling for the responsible and ethical use of science, technology and innovation for development and enforcing global norms and standards, he underscored: “Only together we will be able to achieve the SDGs and build a better future for all.”
Rounding out the discussion, BARBARA DEL CASTELLO, Global Focal Point of Science Policy Interface for the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, said: “Youth comprise half of global population, yet we lack current data on how many young people are in the science and technology workforce.” Encouraging youth and children to engage in social and technological innovation, she underscored the need for providing them with necessary tools through education.
Leaders’ Dialogue 4: Strengthening Integrated Policies and Public Institutions for Achieving the SDGs
Amidst a convergence of compounding global crises that jeopardize global progress, individual countries — and the international community as a whole — must advance coherent policies to deliver on development, world leaders and ministers declared today during Leaders’ Dialogue 4: “Strengthening integrated policies and public institutions for achieving the SDGs.”
Moderated by METTE FREDERIKSEN, Prime Minister of Denmark, and MARK STEPHEN BROWN, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the dialogue took stock of today’s stark warning that only 12 per cent of sustainable development targets are on track. Nevertheless, many speakers detailed national development efforts, often occurring in the face of pervasive poverty and inequality.
Calling the SDGs “the Magna Carta of our times”, A. K. ABDUL MOMEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, recalled that his country reduced extreme poverty to 5.6 per cent in 2022 — down from 25.1 per cent in 2006. “We have made famines a matter of the past,” he stated, also noting that the Government has provided electricity to 100 per cent of households. However, he still cited “huge gaps in global partnership”, calling for commitments under the Doha Programme of Action to be kept.
ZUZANA ČAPUTOVÁ, President of Slovakia, acknowledging that progress has been slowed by crises “beyond our control”, nevertheless said that this cannot be an excuse. While Slovakia had to completely transform its public sector post-communism, she reported that, in 2023, “we will stop using coal as a source of electricity”. Further, coal-mining regions will host a cluster of next-generation, fossil-fuel-free jobs.
NOOR BINT ALI AL KHULAIF, Minister for Sustainable Development of Bahrain, similarly outlined efforts to modernize the national energy sector — including plans to build the country’s largest solar plant, which aims to meet 28 per cent of renewable energy targets by 2035.
JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, President of Timor-Leste, recalled that, upon its independence in 2002, his country had 21 doctors, one PhD and no electricity. Today, it boasts 16 universities, 96 per cent electricity coverage, and is ranked as the number-one democracy in South-East Asia. “The negatives are external,” he stressed, citing the financial crisis and “the obliteration of ODA” in 2007, which has never recovered.
JOYELLE CLARKE, Minister for Sustainable Development of Saint Kitts and Nevis, noted that her country aims to transform into the first sustainable island State in the Caribbean. It is at the vanguard of regional progress, prioritizing renewable energy and water and food security. Echoing calls for innovative financial instruments, predictable climate finance and debt relief, she stated: “Saint Kitts and Nevis is a success story in spite of — and due to — our small size.”
SYLVIA MASEBO, Minister for Health of Zambia, meanwhile, echoed warnings that “global progress towards the SDGs has derailed”, with millions being pushed into poverty. Spotlighting the negative impact of tax evasion and corruption on achieving the SDGs, she called on development partners to support institutional reforms that can address illicit financial flows, profit-shifting and corruption.
Sounding a note of optimism, however, GILBERT F. HOUNGBO, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that the global community and the UN have met a toxic combination of crises with transformative responses. On that, he cited the 2021 launch of a UN global jobs accelerator — which aims to help create 400 million decent jobs — and added that the ILO has been working with the IMF to create additional fiscal space for social spending in Iraq, Mozambique, Togo and Uzbekistan.