General Assembly Endorses Political Declaration Reaffirming Shared Pledge to Lift Millions from Poverty, Fight Extreme Hunger, as Called for in 2030 Agenda
Several Speakers Upset by Text’s Omission of Unilateral Coercive Measures, Strong Commitments on Climate Finance, Gender-based Targets
Endorsing a political declaration adopted by world leaders last week, the General Assembly today reaffirmed its commitment to lift millions out of poverty and fight extreme hunger as initially pledged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with speakers divided over language or the lack thereof in the text on issues pertaining to climate change, the global economy, unilateral coercive measures and gender-based targets.
The Declaration of the high-level political forum on sustainable development was adopted 18 September during the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, held under the auspices of the General Assembly (see Press Release GA/12529). The wide-ranging 10‑page document acknowledges that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is in peril.
At the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, adopted in 2015, world leaders stressed that progress on most of the SDGs is either moving too slowly or has regressed. Their recommitments came at a critical juncture, they had said, noting that the world is currently facing numerous challenges, from the COVID‑19 pandemic and protracted conflicts to lingering food and fuel crises that have pushed millions of people back into poverty just as humanitarian needs rise and the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced.
Over 20 speakers today expressed their position before and after the adoption of today’s resolution (document A/78/L.1), through which they endorsed the Political Declaration. They remained divided, with some welcoming the Declaration’s endorsement, while others expressed regret that the document did not represent the concerns of all Member States, including acknowledging that unilateral coercive measures severely threaten sustainable development.
Cuba’s delegate called the absence of a reference to unilateral coercive measures a “major shortcoming”. Iran’s delegate pointed to such measures’ impact on a country’s development, stressing that the document ignores the needs of millions of people. His counterpart from Syria said 3 billion people around the world are being “left out”, beleaguered with insecurities relating to food, water, health, and energy — “all of this because of unilateral coercive measures”. States cannot invest in the necessary infrastructure to achieve the SDGs. They are also having difficulties addressing the consequences of natural disasters linked to climate change, he said.
However, several speakers welcomed the Declaration’s endorsement by consensus, with the representative of the United States noting that Washington, D.C., has invested more than $100 billion in global development over the last two years and will continue to contribute more via the private sector. She did, however, express regret that the Declaration does not call for expedited efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s gender-related targets.
The delegate from the United Kingdom said he was pleased that the Assembly could join consensus on endorsing the Declaration, noting that there are just seven years to go before the 2030 target year. The collective promises of the SDGs are in jeopardy and that is why real and robust political will is more critical than ever before.
While he expressed regret that more was not done to achieve additional commitment in policy areas, such as debt, reform of the international financial institutions and climate change, Japan’s representative said the Declaration is a strong commitment to the principle of “leaving no one behind”.
Other speakers underscored the structural crisis in the world economy and the need to reform the international financial system to benefit development, with Egypt’s representative stating that his delegation had wished for a stronger text on issues relating to concessional finance. Concessional climate finance to developing countries is a prerequisite to achieving a just energy transition, the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs, he also said.
Pakistan’s delegate pointed out significant advancements of the Declaration, including the commitment for improving international debt mechanisms and using the multidimensional vulnerability index as a criterion to access concessional finance. But these commitments must not remain “simply on paper”.
The Declaration will serve as a “roadmap that will guide our redoubled efforts” in the second half of the implementation of the SDGs, the speaker for Hungary said. However, a more nuanced approach, one that equally takes into account various detrimental long-term socioeconomic ramifications of migration, would have been better suited in the text. The international community must strive to foster favorable economic and social conditions that allow people to enjoy sustainable living standards in their homeland, she said.
Explanation of Vote before the Vote
The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, said the Group requested the inclusion of a reference to the critical issue of the imposition of unilateral and coercive measures on developing countries. The worsening of the situation in the countries that have been subjected to these kinds of measures since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly during the COVID‑19 pandemic, was an additional reason to insist on such a reference. The Group maintains that the absence of a reference to unilateral coercive measures is a “major shortcoming” in the document to be adopted today. In that sense, the Group reiterates that those measures greatly hindered efforts of the affected countries towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable development in general.
Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of Cuba said that, despite the draft’s shortcomings, “it conserves language and concepts that are important for the countries of the South in a way that we feel is acceptable. Nevertheless, we cannot fail to mention our deep concern for the processes used during the informal consultations relating to the text that repeatedly impeded a real dialogue between Member States,” he added. Traditional negotiation practices must return to allow each Member State to express its opinion and present its proposals. The “legitimate owners” of the negotiation processes must adhere to the rules of procedure. Cuba will continue to advocate for the application and enforcement of these established procedures and especially in respect to the countries of the Global South, he affirmed.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking for the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and associating himself with Cuba, said that the resolution before the Assembly ignores the unilateral coercive measures that are impacting the global economy as a whole. This question cannot continue to be ignored or “swiped under the rug”, he stressed, noting that these measures have worsened the global crisis. Calling them “cruel and inhumane”, he said they also are a “deliberate attack” on development. Expressing regret that it was not possible to reach consensus on the Political Declaration, he underscored that the text is missing a crucial element to achieve three dimensions of development. Imposition of a political agenda or consensus cannot become a “new trend”, he emphasized, renewing a call for lifting the unilateral coercive measures.
The representative of Oman, speaking for the Gulf Cooperation Council, called on Member States to avoid procedures that might undermine the capacities of developing countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, including good-neighbourliness and non‑interference in States’ internal affairs. Noting that the 2030 Agenda is universal in nature, he underscored the importance of giving impetus to article 17 of the Political Declaration. He also said that the principle of respect for diversity conforms with the national legislation, religious values and cultural values of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, condemning all forms and manifestations of intolerance, extremism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. The burning of the Qur’an and deprecation of divine scriptures and books encourage hatred and extremism, he added.
The representative of Zimbabwe, aligning her country with the statements of the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, underscored the negative implications of unilateral coercive measures on the capacity of affected countries to attain the SDGs, pointing to “restriction of access to the means of implementation, especially at this challenging time when we are facing a global ‘polycrisis’ like no other”. Her delegation’s negotiations with other delegations on the language on such measures align with the evidence presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures and show that these measures impede implementation of the SDGs and other rights of most people in targeted countries. She stated her country’s support for the inclusion of paragraph 30 in the 2030 Agenda and enjoined countries that impose such measures to engage in constructive dialogue and diplomacy.
The representative of Iran said his delegation considers the Political Declaration a non-binding and voluntary document, and it is not committed to those parts which contradict Iran’s national priorities and regulations. His delegation engaged constructively to reach an acceptable solution. Yet this document ignores the needs of millions of people. He is disappointed that the Declaration does not address several delegations’ legitimate concerns, including the detrimental effect of unilateral coercive measures on a country’s development. These measures are cruel and inhumane violations of basic human rights, and they undermine the principles of global trade.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation will join the consensus on the Political Declaration’s adoption. Its final language, especially its evaluative and operative parts, contains elements that are important for the future of a multipolar world, including recognition of the structural crisis in the world economy and the need to reform the international financial system to benefit development. Negotiations in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) would make it possible to have an in-depth discussion on how to implement the mandate. Yet his delegation is concerned with attempts to ignore the dire straits of millions of people living under sanctions, he stressed. Illegal unilateral measures, especially extraterritorial ones, deprive people of their basic needs and rights, he said, calling such measures “the antithesis of multilateralism”.
The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said his delegation “expressed our concern from the very first negotiation session”. Three billion people around the world are being “left out” and “threatened by food insecurity, water insecurity, health insecurity, energy insecurity — all of this because of unilateral, coercive measures”. States cannot invest in the necessary infrastructure to achieve the SDGs. It is also difficult to then be able to address the consequences of natural disasters linked to climate change, he added, noting the consequences of the earthquake that affected Syria in February. “Unilateral, coercive measures prevented us from activating early warning systems to save lives,” he stressed, reiterating Syria’s appeal for the “complete, immediate, [and] unconditional” lifting of these measures, which are indeed tantamount to “economic terrorism”.
The representative of Nicaragua, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said his delegation was “constantly insisting” that the impact of unilateral coercive measures be included in the resolution. “However, we have been completely ignored, and this document is therefore incomplete,” he stressed, also adding that 2 billion people and more than 30 countries suffer every day as a result of these “illegal, terroristic unilateral, coercive measures”. “These aggressions, these sanctions are not compatible with and are a contradiction of the Charter of the United Nations,” he said.
The representative of Pakistan, associating himself with Cuba, said that his delegation has joined consensus on the Political Declaration to be adopted. The non-inclusion of unilateral coercive measures and the provisions against foreign occupation do not compromise their legality or the principles they reflect, he added. Pointing to significant advancements of the political declaration, including the commitment for improving international debt mechanisms and using the multidimensional vulnerability index as a criterion to access concessional finance, among others, he said that these commitments must not remain “simply on paper”. To this end, after the adoption of the declaration, Pakistan will initiate consultations to create an intergovernmental mechanism to promote and monitor the implementation of such commitments.
The representative of Egypt said that the consensual adoption of the Political Declaration should “turbocharge” and reaffirm Member States’ commitments towards the SDGs in the remaining seven years. His delegation had wished for a stronger text pertaining to the provisions of the means of implementation for developing countries, including concessional finance, and for reform of international financial institutions and multilateral development banks, among other provisions. Concessional climate finance to developing countries is a prerequisite to achieving a just energy transition, the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs, he stressed.
The representative of Belarus, aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, drew the Assembly’s attention to his country’s non-acceptance of the use of unilateral coercive measures, which have a negative impact on regional, global and national sustainable development. He bemoaned their impact on the socioeconomic development of affected countries and their people’s well‑being and enjoyment of rights to development. He underscored Belarus’ active commitment to global efforts addressing this situation, adding that ignoring issues important to developing countries, particularly on unilateral coercive measures, is unacceptable. Regretting “that the final text of the Political Declaration on the SDG summit does not contain reference to this”, he cautioned against setting this precedent for future processes.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Assembly adopted by consensus the “Political declaration of the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the General Assembly” (document A/78/L.1). The resolution endorses the Declaration, adopted on 18 September 2023 by the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Assembly, which is contained in the text’s annex.
Explanation of Vote after the Vote
The representative of Australia, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the Group is staunchly committed to advancing the 2030 Agenda. The SDG Summit was a crucial milestone as the international community reached a halfway point in its efforts to achieve the SDGs. The health of the planet, the well-being of people and the global economy are all at serious risk right now. The Political Declaration is a moment for all delegations to recommit to the 2030 Agenda, he said, disappointed that some Member States used the negotiations to roll back progress on issues such as climate ambition, gender equality and health. The needs of Indigenous people were not met. There were unequal ambitions across the three pillars of the 2030 Agenda. All Member States have a duty to agree on what was decided to produce the 2030 Agenda, he stressed.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said she was pleased to confirm the adoption of the Political Declaration on the SDGs. However, she cautioned that only 15 per cent of them are on the right track. After years of progress in combating poverty and hunger, the world faces such challenges as the cost of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Russian Federation’s war of aggression and its devastating impact on food and energy security, and the global threat of climate change. More than ever, the world needs the mobilization of all Governments and societies to fulfil the promises made in 2015, she said. “The SDGs are not just a list of goals,” she said. “They carry the hopes and dreams and rights and expectations of people all over the world.”
The representative of Colombia highlighted the need to advance swiftly and with greater political will toward reforming the international financial system. It is fundamental to broaden fiscal space for developing countries and ensure that the financial means needed to protect global public goods are sufficient. Colombia expresses disappointment at the absence of an explicit reference in the Declaration to the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence. This is one of the main hurdles that women face. Colombia is also disappointed over the absence of a commitment to accelerate a fair energy transition, given its centrality for the climate agenda. “This absence is an example of our collective failure, and we hope that this will be corrected,” she said.
The representative of Hungary welcomed the adoption by consensus of the Political Declaration, noting strides made by her Government in the area of sustainable development. “We are convinced that [the Declaration] will serve as a road map that will guide our redoubled efforts in the second half of the implementation of the SDGs,” she said. However, paragraph 29 of the Declaration represents an unbalanced approach when it comes to addressing the issue of international migration. “We do believe that the text of the paragraph would have benefited from applying a more nuanced approach, one that equally takes into account various detrimental long-term socioeconomic ramifications of migration,” she added. The international community should strive to foster favorable economic and social conditions which allow people to enjoy sustainable living standards in their homeland.
The representative of Chile, reinforcing the value of consensus as a way forward, condemned unilateral coercive measures that represent a threat to the full achievement of SDGs, especially in the Global South. The adoption of the Political Declaration should be an “urgent call” to that end and must be a “turning point” to adopt concrete and practical measures, she stressed, adding: “What is hanging in the balance is the sustainability of life and the well-being of billions of people who have put their trust in us.”
The representative of the United States, noting that her delegation is pleased to join consensus, said that Washington, D.C., has invested more than $100 billion in global development over the last two years. Recognizing that public investment is not enough, her Government has leveraged limited public funds to mobilize billions more in private-sector investments. It has also re-emphasized the urgency of increasing financing from all sources, she observed, spotlighting the role of the private sector in addition to domestic resource mobilization. Further, she expressed regret that the Declaration does not call for accelerated efforts to achieve health and gender-related targets of the 2030 Agenda, also noting that the document does not contain a more ambitious text on tackling the climate crisis, nor does it mention the imperative of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, among other matters.
The representative of South Africa, associating herself with Cuba’s statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the adoption of the Political Declaration, urging “all countries to display solidarity and a revived commitment to multilateralism to address the development challenges facing the world”. She called on the international community to follow up and support the Secretary-General’s proposal for an SDG stimulus for developing countries, listing specific areas to include — namely, addressing the debt crisis, bridging the SDG finance gap and systemic reforms, including of the international financial architecture. She lamented the exclusion of any reference to unilateral coercive measures in the Declaration, saying this contravenes the United Nations Charter. She further underscored the importance of a conducive environment to support national SDG benchmarks, including “through free trade and less protectionism, especially emerging green protectionism that undermines sustainable development.”
The representative of the United Kingdom said he was pleased that the Assembly could join consensus after endorsement of the Political Declaration was achieved at the highest levels last week. His delegation remains fully committed to delivering the universal visions set out in the 2030 Agenda for environmental, social and economic development. Yet with seven years to go, the collective promises are in jeopardy and robust political will is needed to get the SDGs back on track. Noting that the Political Declaration includes several ambitious commitments, he said finance was very important to achieve the 2030 Agenda. His delegation is committed to achieving a bigger, fairer financial system that increases the voice and representation of all countries, including the poorest developing countries. He is disappointed that the Declaration did not represent the full range of gender commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Japan welcomed today’s consensus adoption and noted the SDGS encounter mounting obstacles in the face of multiple global crises and an increasingly divided international community. It is time to return to the foundations of the SDGs of “leave no one behind”, he said, observing that the Political Declaration represents a strong and unwavering commitment to these principles. Yet he regretted there were missed opportunities to build a shared understanding in some policy areas, such as debt, reform of the international financial institutions and climate change. It is important to have detailed discussions of these issues in the appropriate forums that have more expertise than the United Nations, he stressed.
The representative of Bolivia aligned himself with the statements made by the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations. Bolivia joined the adoption of the draft resolution of the SDG Summit with the understanding it will drive forward the 2030 Agenda, he said. He rejected the imposition of unilateral measures and reaffirmed his full solidarity with the people who are suffering from the impact of these measures, calling them “an attack on the lives of millions of people and the sovereignty of States”. Finally, he expressed his concern over the gradual but significant erosion of the negotiations. “We have seen how the concerns of the developing countries are neglected,” he said, and called for the processes to come back on track.
The representative of Argentina, associating herself with Cuba, said her country opposes the use of unilateral coercive measures and other discriminatory practices. She pointed out that Argentina would have liked to see a “greater ambition” regarding the empowerment of women and girls, diversity and gender equality — present in the 2023 Agenda — reflected in the Declaration. On paragraph 38(b), she said that the importance of promoting the integration of developing countries in value chains should be enhanced, underscoring that international trade is the driver of development and the engine of growth, especially in the context of the post-pandemic reality.