Promise of Sustainable Development in Peril, Secretary-General Warns High-Level Political Forum, Urging Every Government to Strengthen Action, Make 2023 Count
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, in New York today:
In 2015, countries unanimously committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — an action plan to advance a world of peace, prosperity and dignity for all.
Today, that promise is in peril. Halfway to the 2030 deadline the world is woefully off-track. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Progress Report Special Edition paints a stark picture.
It shows that progress on fully half of all SDG targets is weak and insufficient. That almost a third have stalled or gone into reverse. That emissions continue to rise. Gaping inequalities persist. Hunger is back to 2005 levels. Gender equality is 300 years away. And on our current course, almost 600 million people will still be mired in extreme poverty by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic, a burgeoning climate crisis, widespread conflict, and the consequences of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine have hobbled fragile and limited progress.
But, let’s be clear: our world was off track well before these upheavals. Ambition, urgency and solidarity have been lacking. So has finance. Many countries are facing a financial abyss. The annual SDG funding gap has risen from $2.5 trillion before the pandemic to an estimated $4.2 trillion.
Promises made on official development assistance and climate finance are not promises kept. Governments are drowning in debt — with developing countries facing sky-high borrowing costs. And 52 nations are in default or close to it — with no effective system of debt relief in sight.
This is the high-level political forum. The world is crying out for high-level political action. Action to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality — for everyone, everywhere. Without it, the 2030 promise is in danger of slipping away: Sowing disillusionment, mistrust and resentment, imperilling the planet, failing women and girls, and denying opportunity and hope for millions of people.
In our dangerous and divided world, no country can afford such an outcome. It is in all our interests to choose a different path. The 2030 Agenda is that path. It is a route to bridging divides, restoring trust and building solidarity. I urge every country to make 2023 count.
Lay the ground now for coordinated efforts to get the Sustainable Development Goals on track — by making the most of the Food Systems Summit Stocktaking, the Climate Ambition Summit, the three health meetings, the preparatory meeting for the Summit of the Future, the Group of 20 (G20), the Annual Meetings of the Bretton Woods Institutions, the twenty-eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), and of course, above all, the SDG Summit.
Specifically, I urge every Government to come to the SDG Summit with clear plans and pledges to strengthen action in their countries to 2030. We need ambitious national commitments and interventions to reduce poverty and inequality by 2027 and 2030. And clear policies, investment plans and partnerships to drive progress across major SDG transitions.
We also need the SDG Summit to re-energize civil society, businesses, and others to throw their weight behind the goals – strengthening the global movement to deliver. I welcome the engagement and moral voice of young people and civil society here this week. And I urge you to continue to fight for the SDGs. Above all, we need the SDG Summit to send a clear message from world leaders through a strong political declaration.
As the negotiations are now in the final days, I urge each and every delegation to show flexibility and ambition so that together we rise to meet the moment. We need a political declaration that renews and revitalizes the SDG promise; That lays a path for faster progress on key SDG transitions, from social protection and jobs, to energy, education and more. And that sends a clear signal on finance: by demanding urgent action to deliver the SDG Stimulus and by paving the way for much-needed reforms of the international financial architecture. Why? Because finance is the fuel that will drive SDG progress.
Yet, today’s international financial system is failing: It is failing to provide developing countries with long-term, affordable finance for development and climate action. And it is failing to provide those countries with a safety net in the face of shocks.
I have called for a new Bretton Woods moment. And put forward a Policy Brief proposing how we can redesign the global financial architecture so that it operates as a global safety net for all countries and provides access to affordable long-term finance.
At the same time, we can and must act now to provide immediate relief to developing and emerging economies. That is why I have proposed the SDG Stimulus of $500 billion per year for investments in sustainable development and climate action. We need a massive surge in finance, including through increasing the capital base of multilateral development banks. And through changing their business models so they leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries.
The SDG Stimulus also calls for action on debt — urging leaders to establish a timely and effective debt relief mechanism that supports payment suspensions, for countries facing severe shocks, longer lending terms and lower rates. And it calls for an expansion of contingency financing for countries in need, including through rechannelling special drawing rights including through multilateral development banks — the multiplier effect. This can all be achieved now — if there is sufficient political will.
We need meaningful strides in the right direction by the end of 2023. So, I am urging G20 countries to set a timeframe this year to establish a new debt resolution mechanism. And developed countries to honour their commitments on climate finance: Deliver the promised $100 billion this year, replenish the Green Climate Fund and double funding for adaptation. This cannot wait.
Every one of our SDG goals demands that we accelerate climate action. The World Bank estimates that up to 130 million people could be pushed into poverty by 2030 because of rising temperatures. Already, now, today: wildfire smoke is choking people across North America; lack of food is taking lives in the Horn of Africa; floods and hurricanes are destroying homes and wrecking livelihoods around the world. All this when temperatures have risen 1.1°C. Yet, current policies are taking us to an increase of 2.8°C. This is madness.
But, it is not too late to change course. Limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C is possible if the world takes a quantum leap in climate action, together. To achieve this, I have proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact — in which big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries support emerging economies to do so.
And I have put forward an Acceleration Agenda to super-charge these efforts. This asks countries to accelerate their net zero timelines, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.
This means developed countries committing to reach net zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050. And it asks them to take concrete steps to phase out fossil fuels, to deliver climate justice, and to accelerate a just transition and a renewables revolution.
We must show that we are serious if we are to rebuild trust between nations. By the end of COP28, I count on all G20 leaders to have committed to ambitious new nationally determined contributions. And I urge all parties to ensure that COP28 operationalizes the loss-and-damage fund.
We face a bleak picture with challenges at every turn. But, as we cross the halfway mark to 2030, one overriding truth stands out in my mind: Change is possible. Backsliding is not inevitable. Poverty, pollution and gender inequality are not pre-ordained. They are trends that can be reversed, problems that can be solved, tragedies that can be averted, lives that can be saved.
And together, we can deliver. Let’s make this year count. Let’s keep the promise.