PRESS RELEASE: High-level thematic debate on achieving the sustainable development goals

Without firm commitment from rich nations, sustainable development for all people will remain an idealistic dream

UN General Assembly High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 21 April 2016 – Without a firm commitment to action from the world’s richest nations, sustainable development for all people will remain an idealistic dream, the President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft said tonight.

“We have heard loud and clear from poor and middle-income countries of their determination to implement the 2030 Agenda, yet some of the richest nations are still not playing their part in terms of their own planning nor pushing for the global regulatory frameworks that would allow for funds to flow to developing countries,” Mr Lykketoft said on Thursday evening, at the end of his High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the SDGs.

Some of the world’s richest nations still need to fully commit to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by all 193 UN member states last September, he said.

“Until countries can agree on an efficient method of collecting revenues and preventing tax evasion, sustainable development for all will remain an idealistic dream,” he said.

Mr Lykketoft convened the 21 April meeting of world leaders in New York to identify opportunities to kick-start implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Secretary-General’s SDG Advocate and Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, also told member states that tackling tax evasion and other illicit financial flows is essential to ensure more public resources for implementing the goals.

“We have the wealth to achieve the SDGs and the Panama files reminded us that much of it is stashed away in tax and secrecy havens. By ending impunity and moving to tax justice, we would mobilize vast financial resources to fund the global transformation to a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable world economy,” he said.

The 17 Goals that apply to all UN member states, call for national action and global cooperation to end poverty, reduce inequality, shift the global economy to more low-carbon solutions and build more peaceful and just societies.

Taking place side-by-side with the Paris Climate Agreement Signing Ceremony on Friday 22 April, the UN High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the SDGs was a chance for governments, business leaders, the UN and civil society to demonstrate what they are actually doing to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Addressing leaders at the opening ceremony, Mr Lykketoft said that current humanitarian and refugee crises, violent extremism and violent conflict will only get worse if the goals are not implemented.

“Action now can create pathways out of our current crises and begin the transformation that our world desperately needs – a transformation that is good for people and planet. But if we fail, the consequences will be felt for generations … centuries,” Mr Lykketoft told the UN General Assembly.

Today’s debate focussed on the key enablers for sustainable development – finance, technology, data and partnerships – and, in particular, on the kind of actions that are needed to unlock the resources needed to attain the goals.

A key theme throughout was the need for different actors to work better together.

“Effective partnerships can create coalitions of willing actors that can share and diffuse knowledge, costs and expertise. And they can open new markets and prepare the ground for innovative and strategic developments,” Mr Lykketoft said. “Much of this, however, depends on the engagement of a diverse range of actors, which requires, amongst others, that we overcome challenges relating to trust and understanding between those actors.”

A large number of private investors and companies participated in the one-day event and outlined the kind of contributions they are making to enable implementation. Many, for example, said that they were ready to finance green investment but they called for regulatory frameworks that make such investments more financially attractive than traditional investment opportunities.

Many governments expressed concern that the 15-year SDG initiative will fail if action is not taken immediately to address climate change.

UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, speaking at a reception on Thursday night (21 April) on how climate action can drive SDG implementation, urged leaders to waste no time in signing and implementing the Paris Climate agreement and the SDGs.

“I encourage all of the partners gathered here tonight to continue to collaborate.
Scale up your actions and show the world what is possible,” he said.

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Media inquiries:
Dan Thomas, Communications Director and Spokesperson for the President of the UN General Assembly daniel.thomas@un.org and tel: +1 917 225 1913
Ulla Oestergaard, Deputy Spokesperson for the President of the UN General Assembly oestergaard@un.org +1 646 388 3080

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