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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization (2012)

A. Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development

children walking rice fields in Vietnam

Building the foundations for sustainable development is the greatest challenge we face today as an international community. We know what we must do: we must eradicate extreme poverty, protect our planet and catalyse inclusive economic growth.

Accelerating progress on reaching the Millennium Development Goals

The first concrete test of our resolve is three years away: achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The international community has made important progress in many areas: in reducing poverty globally, improving access to primary education for all children, reducing child and maternal mortality, increasing access to HIV treatment and reducing slum populations. We can even celebrate the achievement of some global targets ahead of schedule: 89 per cent of the global population can now access improved water sources and the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has been reduced by half globally. Conditions for more than 200 million people living in slums have been ameliorated — double the 2020 target — and primary school enrolment of girls equalled that of boys. Commitment and the active adoption of improved policies by national Governments have been central to the improvements we have seen.

Progress has not been uniform, however. Inequalities among many populations are rising — particularly in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Food insecurity and malnutrition are prevalent. While access to health and education may be expanding, the quality of services in many regions remains inadequate. While the Millennium Development Goal water target may have been reached, progress towards sanitation targets is dismal and, in some areas, the quality of water has worsened. Last year, official development assistance decreased for the first time in many years and trade protection measures are increasing in popularity.

In short, in this final sprint to 2015, we must not lose our momentum or our focus. To this end, the Organization has been accelerating its work in support of all the Millennium Development Goals and intensifying its efforts to bolster resilience to climatic, economic and social shocks. Efforts include global initiatives like Every Woman, Every Child; the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive; the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement; the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security; and targeted support for national capacity development such as the Millennium Development Goal Acceleration Framework, and in key areas like improving the collection and analysis of national statistics.

Disaster risk reduction is crucial to making development sustainable. Following the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 66/199 on 22 December 2011, the Organization initiated a process to formulate a new disaster risk reduction framework which will replace in 2015 the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. The United Nations also mobilized networks of parliamentarians, local government officials, business and other partners to raise awareness.

Another important recent element of the work of the Organization has been developing accountability mechanisms which can monitor delivery on commitments made to advancing the Millennium Development Goals. This includes developing an Integrated Implementation Framework to help to monitor progress in meeting commitments to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, establishing with Member States a Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health that tracks resources and manages results, and developing a global monitoring framework and voluntary targets for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

The United Nations has further continued to focus efforts on empowering women to help achieve progress across all Millennium Development Goals. In 2010, Member States established UN-Women to lead, coordinate and promote the accountability of the United Nations system on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This past year, UN-Women has focused its work on all aspects of gender equality, including through promoting women’s political participation as voters, candidates and holders of political office with an emphasis on the Middle East and North Africa region; and continuing the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls.

Charting a new course at Rio+20

All these efforts received new impetus at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), where Member States confirmed their commitment to pursue a sustainable development path. This will influence the way the Organization and its Members move forward, not least in relation to the preparations for the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.

The Conference accomplished a number of important milestones. In the outcome document, entitled “The future we want”, Member States agreed to define universally applicable sustainable development goals and launched a process for their elaboration. As agreed in Rio, this work will be closely coordinated with the processes considering the development agenda beyond 2015, including the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda established by the Secretary-General, and will build on the Millennium Development Goals.

In Rio, Member States also decided to pursue policies for an inclusive green fund accompanied by technical support to help countries to adapt green economy policies to their own particular circumstances. In addition, the Conference launched a programme to develop broader measures of progress to complement gross domestic product indicators and a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns. The Conference further acknowledged that human rights are essential to sustainable development.

World leaders agreed to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum, which will replace the Commission on Sustainable Development, and to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme. They committed themselves to initiating an intergovernmental process under the auspices of the General Assembly, to consider strategic options for financing sustainable development. They asked me to propose options to the General Assembly for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.

Beyond those decisions, the Conference produced many voluntary commitments and catalysed the formation of global partnership around sustainable development with civil society, the private sector and a range of major groups and international organizations. For example, Rio+20 galvanized the largest business gathering ever held in support of a major United Nations conference. Over 1,000 executives from more than 100 countries gathered at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum and gave their support to priority issues, including sustainable energy, climate, water, food and women’s empowerment.

The growing need for action on climate change

While climate change may have receded from the headlines of major newspapers, especially since the Durban conference, the climate crisis continues. The World Meteorological Organization has reported that carbon emissions are at their highest in history and rising. The International Energy Agency has warned us that without a bold change of policy direction the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system. The change in climate is already having an important impact on people. There is an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. In 2011, Brazil experienced the deadliest floods in its history, and those in Thailand resulted in the country’s most expensive natural catastrophe ever. Globally, some 106 million people were hit by floods while 60 million people were affected by drought.

In 2011, at Durban, the seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change accomplished three important outcomes. First, it achieved the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Second, Durban cemented the mitigation plans of 89 countries until 2020. Third, it secured the agreement of Governments to negotiate a future legal framework by 2015 that will cover all countries of the world in a fair way.

Clearly, the international community must tackle head on the difficult task of reconciling the challenge of mitigating and adapting to climate change while supporting the growth priorities of developing countries. To do so, it must mobilize financial and technological resources far beyond historical levels, especially for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States, which are among the most affected and vulnerable groups of countries. Governments have launched the Green Climate Fund and are finalizing arrangements for the Technology Mechanism under the Framework Convention. Numerous initiatives led and/or supported by the Organization and its Member States are in place. The private sector has become involved in mitigation action and increasingly in adaptation action.

I am committed to working with Member States to secure resources and a global, binding agreement commensurate with the threat and impacts of climate change, by 2015, as agreed in Durban.

Sustainable energy for all

Sustainable energy — energy that is accessible, cleaner, more efficient and affordable — is essential to sustainable development, which is why I launched a Sustainable Energy for All initiative. I set three objectives for this multi-stakeholder initiative. Pursued simultaneously, these objectives will help to put the world on a more sustainable energy pathway by 2030; they are (a) ensuring universal access to modern energy services; (b) doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and (c) doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

In April, I released my Global Action Agenda which charts a way to achieve this vision on the ground. The Agenda offers the United Nations as a convening platform where stakeholders from both developing and developed countries can mobilize bold commitments, foster new public-private partnerships and leverage the significant investments needed to change the world’s energy systems. This is the partnership model of the future.

The initiative is already having a tangible impact. More than 50 developing countries have engaged with the initiative and more continue to join. Tens of billions of dollars have been committed in support of the initiative’s three objectives. Hundreds of actions and commitments have been catalysed. More than one billion people will benefit from the public and private commitments made. I encourage all our stakeholders to support this critical effort.

The global jobs crisis

The recent economic crisis, coupled with the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, has brought the global jobs crisis to the forefront of the international arena. In many parts of the world we see rising unemployment rates, young people being particularly affected. According to the International Labour Organization, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million young people worldwide are looking for work. We are also seeing a reduction in job quality: part-time, temporary and informal employment is on the rise relative to stable full-time work. The United Nations addressed this issue during the annual ministerial review of the Economic and Social Council. The thematic debate and high-level policy dialogue emphasized alternative policy options and approaches for promoting decent and productive jobs given reduced policy space and the need to safeguard the environment. The resulting ministerial declaration (see A/67/3/Rev.1, chap. IV.F) put full and productive employment for all, especially women and young people, at the centre of national development strategies and the United Nations development agenda.

In support of this agenda, the Organization will further develop programmes and assist Member States with policies to stimulate job creation.