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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization

A. Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development

Ban Ki-moon speaks at the MDG Momentum special event

We are within a thousand days of the conclusion of the largest, most successful anti-poverty push in history, the Millennium Development Goals. As the deadline looms, efforts to achieve the unfinished business of the eight Millennium Development Goals are intensifying. Rather than seeing 2015 as an end point, however, we must view it as the beginning of a new era: an era in which we eradicate extreme poverty, protect the environment and promote economic opportunity for all. We must build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, persist in the effort to meet them where they have not been met, attend to the gaps and address new and emerging challenges. To that end, the Organization is supporting Member States in their efforts to define a bold, ambitious and universal post-2015 development agenda with sustainable development at its core. Recognizing the risk that climate change may pose to our development objectives, we are also supporting the negotiations to achieve a legally binding global climate agreement by 2015.

Accelerating progress on the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals have improved the lives of billions of people. Clear and easily understood, they helped to set global and national priorities and fuel action on the ground. Governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and individuals came together, aided by new technologies, scientific advances and partnerships. Consequently, global poverty is declining, access to improved water sources has expanded, 40 million more children are in primary school, more than 5 million children are surviving annually who would otherwise have died, more than 1.1 million people are alive who before would have died from malaria, and an estimated 8 million people in low- and middle-income countries are now receiving life-saving HIV treatment.

However, there are some goals on which we are noticeably lagging. Progress on others has been distressingly uneven. Unless we take resolute action, almost 1 billion people will still live in extreme poverty in 2015. Mothers will die needlessly in childbirth and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. Poor sanitation — the goal where we lag most — will remain a daily challenge for billions. A great deal of work lies ahead to ensure that all children can complete primary education. Fifty-seven million are not in school and, as Malala Yousafzai reminded us so powerfully, many girls in particular must overcome almost insurmountable odds to get an education. Economic growth has been insufficiently inclusive, resulting in a significant jobs gap. Young people bear the brunt:
73 million of them worldwide are out of work, and many others face poor wages and working conditions. Although the Millennium Development Goal on reducing hunger may now be within reach, one in eight people worldwide still do not have enough to eat and progress has slowed or stalled in many regions. Meanwhile, global consumption and production exceed the Earth’s capacity: we currently consume 150 per cent of the Earth’s annual regenerative capacity, up from 65 per cent in 1990.

It is also clear that we need to think differently about the relationships between and within the goals. Failure to meet some targets undermines efforts to meet others. Broad-brush measurement of progress has masked significant and growing inequalities both within and across countries. The most vulnerable segments of society are too often left behind. Failure to achieve gender equality has negative consequences for other goals, which strongly depend on women’s empowerment and access to education, work, health care and decision-making. Failure to secure appropriate sanitation facilities can dramatically exacerbate health challenges, as we saw most tragically in the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Failure to nurture and protect our natural resource base has undermined the attainment of social, economic and environmental Millennium Development Goals, intensified poverty and resource degradation and contributed to deforestation, desertification and biodiversity loss. Geographically, southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa continue to suffer from the highest rates of child and maternal mortality and the disparity between those two regions and the rest of the world has grown. Finally, and in spite of recent signs that the situation may not be as dire as we feared, a significant portion of vulnerable and conflict-affected countries have yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal. Even as we redouble efforts to meet the Goals, the post-2015 agenda must find ways to address the gaps and inequalities that have so significantly detracted from the overall effort.

Several important initiatives were launched in the past year to draw attention to and galvanize action — often from a wide variety of stakeholders — on goals with glaring lags or inequalities. In September 2012, I launched the Global Education First Initiative to spur international efforts to make education a top global priority. We have already secured over $1.5 billion in commitments. In January 2013, I appointed my first Envoy on Youth to promote and support the needs and concerns of young people. Initiatives to end preventable child deaths by 2035 and significantly expand access to family planning were launched as part of Every Woman Every Child. The Zero Hunger Challenge aspires to a future where every person enjoys the right to food, while the Scaling Up Nutrition movement focuses on maternal and child nutrition. In conjunction with the International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013, the General Assembly has undertaken a Sanitation Drive and the United Nations system is re-energizing its efforts in a Call to Action on Sanitation. We have also redoubled our efforts at the national and international levels to improve the available data for monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and are drawing attention to the importance of implementing existing commitments and of stronger accountability and monitoring mechanisms.

Since the Millennium Development Goals were agreed, the world has changed. The size of the world economy has more than doubled, much of the growth taking place in the global South. The world population has become larger, more urban, more connected and more mobile. By 2050, it is projected to reach 9.6 billion people, of whom 86 per cent will be living in what are now developing countries. While the populations of developed countries are ageing, in the developing world half of the population will be under 28 by 2015 and, in the poorest countries, half will be under 20. Civil society and levels of political participation have increased in strength. Young and digitally connected populations have been a major factor in movements for democracy and dignity worldwide, calling for decent work, equality and an end to corruption. These movements have had a dramatic political impact in countries where inequalities have risen in spite of economic growth and poverty reduction. The environmental impact of the past decade’s economic and demographic changes is also dramatic, with rapid increases in total demand for water, food and other commodities and increased energy use with related rise in carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, there is a great deal more awareness of the impact of climate change, including the potential for future losses from natural disasters. Finally, the global aid landscape has begun to change in profound ways. Official development assistance (ODA) declined by 4 per cent from 2011 to 2012. ODA will remain an important source of support and serve as a significant catalyst in particular for the least developed countries. At the same time, more diverse sources and flows of funding will play an increasing role in the future development agenda.

Post-2015 United Nations development agenda

The post-2015 development agenda represents an unprecedented opportunity to meet new and anticipate future challenges, while finding more effective ways to meet existing goals. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in June 2012, Member States confirmed their commitment to sustainable development in three interconnected dimensions: economic development (including the end of extreme poverty), social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. They agreed to build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals by developing a set of goals for sustainable development that are global in nature and universally applicable. The General Assembly has established an Open Working Group, with 30 members, to develop those goals, and this work is ongoing. Member States will also discuss strategy for financing sustainable development and consider options for improved sharing of technology.

In July 2012, I established a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons — 27 individuals from government, civil society, academia and the private sector — in support of Member States’ efforts towards a post-2015 development agenda. The Panel was charged with producing bold yet practical recommendations that would help to respond to the global challenges of the twenty-first century, building on the Millennium Development Goals and with a view to ending poverty and promoting sustainable development. At the heart of the Panel’s proposals are five transformational shifts. The new agenda must include everyone. It must put sustainable development at its core in order to drive prosperity, while addressing the threats to humanity from climate change and environmental degradation. Generating jobs must be a priority. Peace, security and freedom from violence are essential. A new global partnership is needed to implement the agenda. This is a universal agenda that requires deep transformations in the way our economies work and our societies are organized, both in the North and in the South. The recommendations of the Panel inform my own report on accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the development agenda beyond 2015, for the consideration of Member States in September 2013. My report also draws on other inputs, including from the scientific and technological community, the business sector, a broad set of consultations at the national, regional and global levels, and the views of the United Nations system. Overall, these efforts point to the importance of arriving at a single and coherent post-2015 agenda, firmly grounded in the principles of human rights, equality and sustainability, and applicable to all countries while taking into account regional, national and subnational circumstances and priorities.

Consultations on the post-2015 development agenda have been opened to people from all over the world. The consultations indicate that people want a global development agenda, backed by national policy action, which can empower them to realize the future they want. They want their leaders to take action to create the conditions for a more equitable and safer world. They want to see further progress on education, health, water and sanitation.

I look forward to the special event on the Millennium Development Goals, to be held in the General Assembly in September 2013, where these strands will begin to come together. This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift in international development. Accountability, mutual responsibilities and a clear understanding of different capabilities in responding to this paradigm shift will be essential to its implementation.

The need for action on climate change

Lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet and its resources are two sides of the same coin. The poor and vulnerable suffer most, but no country is immune from the effects of climate change. The past decade has been the warmest on record. Extreme weather is on the rise. The cost in lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and resources is growing. New data to advance our understanding of the human causes of the warming of the planet will be available in the forthcoming fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In the past year, the urgency of the challenge was further recognized by Member States. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Member States reaffirmed climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time. At the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Member States successfully launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and agreed on a firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015. Developed countries reiterated their commitment to deliver on promises for long-term climate finance support to developing countries. Recognizing the importance of political leadership, I note broad, positive responses to my offer to convene leaders in 2014 to mobilize the political will necessary for this universal climate agreement. The high-level meeting, planned for September 2014, will provide a platform for leaders to demonstrate political will, raise ambition, and catalyse action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience.

Meanwhile, my Sustainable Energy for All initiative, a multi-stakeholder partnership of Governments, the private sector and civil society, is working towards universal energy access, a doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvement, and a doubling of the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030. To date, tens of billions of dollars have been mobilized and more than 75 developing countries have opted into the initiative. Support for the initiative comes from all quarters, from small island States to emerging and developed economies. New leadership for the initiative is now in place, regional and thematic hubs have been created, and progress is being made.

The case for climate action has never been clearer or more compelling. Policy tools exist and, where applied, are generating concrete results. Some 118 countries around the world now have renewable energy policies or targets. More than half are developing countries. Thanks to the growing public and political support for tangible action, international agreements are being translated into action and public policy on the ground. Investment in clean energy has surpassed $1 trillion. However, more is needed. For the United Nations part, I am proud that renovations to the Secretariat building in New York are designed to reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent and that, as part of the wider “Greening the Blue” initiative, we are taking steps to lessen the greenhouse gas footprint of peace operations. The challenge of climate change and sustainable development will need to be met through the coordination of poverty elimination, economic development and environmental protection.


In the next two years, we face a series of milestones and deadlines that together provide a unique opportunity to inject political momentum and take tangible action on these interconnected challenges. In 2013, in addition to the special event on the Millennium Development Goals, we have the high-level dialogue on international migration and development, the high-level meeting on disability and development, and the fourth session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which aims at a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. In 2014, the special session of the General Assembly on the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development will be held, as will the 10-year Review Conference on the Implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action for the landlocked developing countries and the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. I will also convene global leaders for a major summit on climate change. These processes culminate in 2015 with agreement on a new development agenda and the deadline for a comprehensive, binding climate change agreement. The United Nations will support Member States as they endeavour to make the most of each individual event and to ensure that the cumulative impact is far-reaching and fitting to the enormity of the challenges ahead.