As SDG Summit Concludes, Secretary-General Urges World Leaders to Lift Political Declaration ‘Off the Page’, Invest in Development Like Never Before
People Want Decisive Action, Meaningful Progress, Not Excuses, General Assembly President Stresses
The Political Declaration adopted yesterday leaves world leaders with “a to-do list” to turn words into action to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations chief said today at the close of the SDG Summit, proposing key measures, including reform of the global financial system and increased availability of liquidity to countries in debt distress. (For background, see Press Release GA/12529.)
“We must make the most of this Summit’s momentum to spur progress in the months ahead,” Secretary‑General António Guterres appealed to participants as he closed the Summit — known formally as the high-level political forum on sustainable development. Calling for the formation of a leaders group to deliver clear steps that enable the $500 billion per year needed for sustainable development to start flowing before the end of 2024, he also urged developed countries to finally meet their official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.
In addition, Mr. Guterres stressed, among other things, the need for recapitalization and urgent additional rechannelling of $100 billion in unused special drawing rights, as well as reform of the global financial architecture. The twenty-eighth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change next month will be the moment to operationalize the new loss and damage fund. “This development to-do list is not just homework. This is hope work,” he emphasized, adding: “We have a rescue plan before us in the Political Declaration. Now is the time to lift the Declaration’s words off the page and invest in development at scale like never before.”
Giving keynote remarks, Justin Pierre James Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates group, stressed that “stability benefits us all”. With nearly 50 per cent of SDG targets moderately or severely off track, the world needs an immediate course correction. However, “it’s just halftime — we can do this,” he stated, adding: “The SDGs are not a luxury, not some wish list generated by academics of global nice-to-haves.” Rather, they are the building blocks of success in every community. It will only become harder and more expensive the longer the international community drags its heels. “The future is expecting us all to meet this moment,” he emphasized.
Taking stock of the Summit, Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that world leaders had assembled to energetically affirm their commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Goals. Highlighting steps to scale up actions towards progress, including in key areas such as energy, he pointed out that many emphasized that climate change is both a critical challenge and an existential threat. He also noted that many described their national priorities in protecting the most vulnerable, leaders noted the possibilities afforded by science, technology and innovation and welcomed participation by women, girls and youth. Governments should double down on digital solutions, he affirmed, as they can accelerate 70 per cent of SDG targets.
Closing the session, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, said that one clear takeaway from the two-day Summit is the need for action, ambition, collaboration and timeliness. Invoking eighteenth century poet Edward Young, he quoted: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Now needed is a timely plan of action. “For me, my every morning starts with a reminder of the preamble to the UN Charter — We the Peoples,” he said, adding: “The peoples do not want our excuses. What they want is decisive action and meaningful progress.”
Leaders’ Dialogue 5: Strengthening the Multilateral System
Access to technology, fulfilled funding commitments and an overhaul of the global financial architecture are key to renewing trust in international cooperation, Heads of State and Government and other senior officials stressed today during Leaders’ Dialogue 5: “Unity and Solidarity: Strengthening the multilateral system for enhanced support, cooperation, follow-up and review”.
Moderated by KATRÍN JAKOBSDÓTTIR, Prime Minister of Iceland, and FILIPE JACINTO NYUSI, President of Mozambique, the discussion addressed the urgent need for a reinvigorated multilateralism, with many speakers presenting concrete recommendations to that end, while calling for an equitable treatment of the climate and debt crises and stressing that without dialogue and trust among States, it would not be possible to overcome the issues that loom over humanity.
On that point, VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, underscored the importance of solidarity and its commitment to preventing turmoil in the global food market. Stressing that “Ukraine will never give up”, he reported that its food exports have reached the shores of Algeria, Djibouti, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and many other countries, providing a total of 32 million tonnes of food through the Black Sea Grain Initiative. “Ukraine at war shows remarkable results. The world in cooperation can do so much more,” he declared.
RICARD PIERRE, Minister for Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, drawing attention to the excessive debt and liquidity crisis facing developing countries, called for reform of the international financial architecture. Pointing to its partnerships, he said his Government has enhanced collaboration with the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in Haiti, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies, and takes an inclusive approach that brings in the private sector, banking sector, civil society and international donors.
JONAS GAHR STØRE, Prime Minister of Norway, also called for urgent action on the debt crisis, stressing that debt is a handicap; with it, no targets can be reached. Impediments to international cooperation include lack of funding resources, which must be secured. Also calling for reform of the international financial system, he underlined that such reform will optimize use of the global community’s combined resources and channel funding where it is needed most.
In a similar vein, FUMIO KISHIDA, Prime Minister of Japan, urged support for low-income and vulnerable countries and stressed the need to address the gap in development finance. His country has committed to increasing the channelling of special drawing rights and has significantly contributed to meet the ambitious $100 billion target. It will continue to participate in the reform of the multilateral development banks and related efforts, he added.
Many speakers, including BOOTII NAUAN, Minister of Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives of Kiribati, underscored the importance of technology and global partnerships to that end, pointing to his country’s efforts to implement critical telecommunications infrastructure. His country is harnessing various digital platforms in e‑health, e‑education, and in 2018 launched its first e‑commerce strategy to create an enabling environment for that market and increase digital literacy.
However, AJAY JHA KUMAR, Director of the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society, pointed to the shortcomings in current partnerships, noting that in the climate space, for example, the Group of 20 (G20) is accountable for more than 80 per cent of global emissions but are likely to reduce emissions only by 10 per cent by 2030, against the desired 50 per cent. Moreover, less than 14 per cent of climate finance goes to least developed countries and less than 2 per cent to small island developing States. Highlighting a huge regional imbalance, he called for true partnerships that can deliver the necessary transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Leaders’ Dialogue 6: Mobilizing Means of SDG Achievement
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires providing developing and vulnerable countries with finance and the means of implementation, including grants, easily accessible low-interest loans and technology transfer, world leaders stressed today during Leaders’ Dialogue 6: “Mobilizing finance and investments and the means of implementation for SDG achievement.”
Moderated by MACKY SALL, President of Senegal, and ULF KRISTERSSON, Prime Minister of Sweden, the discussion highlighted the plights of the Global South in the face of economic and fiscal crises caused by multiple global challenges, including the COVID‑19 pandemic and armed conflict. Speakers called for measures in the short, medium and long terms, despite the fact that the reallocation of special drawing rights and the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative are not meeting expectations.
On that, RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, President of Sri Lanka, said that the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change were adopted in 2015, but that extremely limited resources have been allocated to the success of these frameworks. The COVID‑19 pandemic stalled or reversed economic growth in many countries, leading to bankruptcies, including of his own country. Sri Lanka spent 9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to achieve the Goals, but this is not realistic now. Due to its sovereign debt crisis, the country’s debt servicing cost was equivalent to 150 per cent of Government revenue in 2022.
Several speakers said that developing countries in Africa bear borrowing costs up to eight times higher than those of developed countries, citing the exaggerated perception of investment risk by rating agencies, which raises insurance premiums and the cost of projects.
To that point, DEMEKE MEKONNEN HASSEN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said that flow of development finance to developing countries continues to be inequitable and inadequate, and developing countries, especially those in Africa, are forced to focus on debt management instead of development. He called on lending countries and institutions to take radical steps in debt cancellation, restructuring and innovative relief measures.
In another vein, HAGE GEINGOB, President of Namibia, pointed out that due to its upper middle-income status, his country does not qualify concessional loans or grants from the World or International Monetary Fund (IMF). The multilateral financial institutions must increase their “risk appetite” for low- and middle-income countries.
Striking a similar note, NAADIR HASSAN, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Trade of Seychelles, said that his country’s Blue Bond and Debt-for-Nature Swap exemplify successful strategies for financing sustainable development. Highlighting the predicament of small island developing States, he said that his country is not asking for grants, but for the opportunity to access concessional finance. To that end, a multidimensional vulnerability index for small island developing States should be adopted.
Several speakers from donor countries highlighted efforts to support developing countries achieve the SDGs, including OLIVER DOWDEN, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who reported that his country is driving reforms of the multilateral development banks, including stretching their balance sheets to release over $200 billion of additional finance over the next 10 years. To support this, London is announcing two innovative guarantees — one to unlock $1 billion in education financing and the other to unlock up to $1.8 billion of climate finance for Asia-Pacific countries.
JUSTIN PIERRE JAMES TRUDEAU, Prime Minister of Canada and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates group, noted that amid the COVID‑19 pandemic, natural disasters driven by climate change and the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine causing energy and food insecurity, the international community is realizing more than ever “how interconnected we are, and how much work we have to continue to do”. Emphasizing the need to end poverty and hunger, ensure access to health care and quality education, promote gender equality and human rights, protect the environment and build sustainable infrastructure, he affirmed that in an uncertain world, “stability benefits us all”. With nearly 50 per cent of SDG targets moderately or severely off track, the world needs an immediate course correction. However, “it’s just half-time — we can do this,” he stated. With Governments strained by inflation, interest rates, and anxiety around climate disasters and supply chains, he called on the private sector to fully step up to invest around the world.
Noting that “the work must happen at home as well,” he pointed to Canada’s investment in clean energy and green infrastructure, as well as its $10 per day childcare that, in two years, has helped women’s participation in the workforce reach historic heights. Further, since 2015, the Canada Child Benefit has lifted 500,000 children out of poverty, cutting the poverty rate in half. His Government has also increased its ODA to $8.4 billion to eradicate global poverty. While there is no denying the Goals are off-track, he stressed: “The SDGs are not a luxury, not some wish list generated by academics of global nice-to-haves.” Rather, they are the building blocks of success in every community. It will only become harder and more expensive the longer the international community drags its heels. “The future is expecting us all to meet this moment,” he emphasized.