Highlights Vol 23, No. 12 - December 2019

The whole world benefits when everyone is included

“Disability inclusion is central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. When we remove policies or biases or obstacles to opportunity for persons with disabilities, the whole world benefits,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said earlier this year when he addressed the 12th session of the Conference of State Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Today, one billion people, or 15 per cent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Recent data show that persons with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty than persons without disabilities due to barriers in society such as discrimination, limited access to education and employment and lack of inclusion in livelihood and other social programmes.

To change this, and to make sure that everyone is included regardless of ability, leaving no one behind, the world made a promise by adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals provide powerful guidance to local communities, countries and the international community to ensure that our development efforts are disability-inclusive.

It is against this backdrop that UN DESA is commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) this year focusing on the theme “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda”. The theme centers around the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisioned in the 2030 Agenda, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’.

At this year’s event, participants will hear more about important initiatives for disability inclusion which have been launched this year. This includes the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS) which was launched by the UN Secretary-General in June this year to transform the way the UN works on disability, operationalizing disability inclusion throughout the entire organization.

They will also learn how UN entities and other stakeholders are taking action and how progress is being been made to advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities, their rights, well-being and perspectives in the global agenda.

Civil society and the private sector are also taking the lead in supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In December 2019, a global conference on disability and development will take place in Qatar to step up ongoing efforts by global, national, regional and local actors to keep the promise of the 2030 development agenda for all.

Another component of this year’s celebration will focus on the power of sport to bring people together. Not only does sport help empower persons with disabilities, while promoting peace, tolerance and understanding. But it also has the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behavior and to strengthen social ties and networks among persons with disabilities. Together with different international actors, the UN is increasingly supporting interventions that are improving accessibility and availability of sporting opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Follow this year’s observance of the IDPD at UN Headquarters in New York to learn more about these efforts. The programme will consist of an official opening, a panel discussion on new initiatives for disability inclusion, and a spotlight event on the theme of ‘Sport for all for peace and development’. The event will be broadcast live via UN Web TV.

For more information: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International cooperation on migration – what’s next?

December is a time to recall that all migrants—no matter their immigration status—are entitled to the same basic human rights as everyone else. Migrants form a vital and integral part of our societies and contribute much to sustainable development. As revealed by UN DESA’s latest revision of estimates of the International Migrant Stock, the number of international migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019, an increase of 51 million since 2010. The global number of international migrants has grown faster than the world’s population. As a result, migrants comprise 3.5 per cent of the global population today, compared to 2.8 per cent in the year 2000.

On 18 December, the United Nations celebrates International Migrants’ Day, marking 29 years since the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. One of the nine core international human rights instruments, the Convention distinguishes between the basic human rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, regardless of their immigration status, and other rights of those who are in a regular situation. After almost three decades, the resolution continues to enjoy limited buy-in: only 55 Member States have ratified it so far, none of which are major migrant-receiving countries.

But that does not mean international cooperation on migration has stalled. On the contrary, exactly one year ago, on 10 and 11 December 2018, Member States came together in Marrakech, Morocco, to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The General Assembly formally endorsed the Marrakech Compact on Migration on 19 December with an overwhelming majority of 152 Member States voting in favour.

The Compact has 10 cross-cutting and interdependent guiding principles: people-centred; international cooperation; national sovereignty; rule of law and due process; sustainable development; human rights; gender- and child-sensitive; whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach.

It includes 23 objectives covering the full migration cycle, ranging from conditions and drivers of migration in home countries, to preparations for migration, movements, border management and integration in destination countries to development impacts, return and reintegration. Each of these objectives includes a series of concrete actions Member States can take.

In 2018, the Secretary-General established the UN Network on Migration, comprising 38 UN system entities to ensure coordinated support to Member States. A member of the Network’s Executive Committee, UN DESA co-leads the working group on data and evidence, contributes to the development of the Network’s knowledge platform and connection hub and supported the negotiations on the organizational arrangements for the international migration review forums.

In May 2019, the Network launched the start-up fund for safe, orderly and regular migration to support the implementation of the Compact. Today, the trust fund has already received pledges totalling more than $7 million.

The year 2020 will be a litmus test for international cooperation on migration as UN Regional Economic Commissions and other migration-related platforms undertake regional reviews to assess the status of implementation of the Compact. The results of these reviews will inform the first International Migration Review Forum in New York during the first half of 2022.

For more information: UN DESA’s Population Division – International migration

Photo: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

One world. One Net. One Vision ⁠— the 14th Internet Governance Forum

More and more of us seem to live our lives today in equal parts in the physical world and in cyberspace. From public discussion to education, to catching-up with friends and online commerce, a sizable portion of our social interactions now happens online. But while we have millennia of experience in managing our relations in the physical world, governance of the Internet is an area nearly as new as the web itself.

For the past 13 years, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has been the place where stakeholders from all walks of life can meet as equals and freely discuss the most burning issues in Internet governance.

With a Secretariat hosted by UN DESA, the IGF does not have decision-making mandates, but it does inform and inspire those who do. It facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and minimize its risks and challenges.

The fourteenth annual meeting of the IGF will be hosted by the Government of Germany in Berlin from 25 to 29 November 2019, to discuss the overarching theme of ‘’One World. One Net. One Vision.’’ More than 3,000 participants from different stakeholder groups, including some of the most prominent authorities on global Internet governance, will attend the Forum.

The discussions will revolve around the three priority themes of data governance, digital inclusion and security, safety, stability & resilience. In addition, the Best Practice Forums, led by the Internet community, will share experiences on big data, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, gender and access and local content. With 18 Dynamic Coalitions and 116 national and regional IGF initiatives, the Forum’s programme will have something for everyone.

The Forum will discuss how digital frontier technologies can benefit our economies and societies, bringing us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The IGF community will also consider a growing number of concerns and challenges that are eroding public trust in cyberspace. The increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks, data and privacy breaches, and the proliferation of hate speech and overly-restrictive forms of censorship, among other emerging challenges, threaten to undermine the beneficial impact of the Internet.

The Forum will conclude with forward-looking key messages from its main sessions and workshops and a closing ceremony to thank the host government and welcome the host of the 15th IGF – Poland.

For more information: Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

More than 125 Acceleration Actions already registered to speed up SDG implementation

At the recent SDG Summit, United Nations Secretary-General called for a Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.  To support this effort, UN DESA’s Division for SDGs has set up a dedicated online mechanism to mobilize and publish new and ambitious SDG Acceleration Actions from national governments and all non-state actors.

As we were closing this issue of UN DESA Voice, 129 SDG Acceleration Actions had been registered, including major commitments from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Finland and the Netherlands. Given the numerous announcements of actions made during the September “summits week,” the list is expected to grow even further over the coming months.

An overwhelming majority – 78 per cent – of the 129 registered SDG Acceleration Actions aims to address multiple SDGs at the same time. SDGs 17 (partnerships) and 16 (peace, justice, strong institutions) have mobilized the largest number of actions (60 and 57 respectively). They were followed by SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth – 45 actions) and SDG 13 (climate action – 45 actions); SDG 5 (gender equality – 43 actions); and SDG 1 (no poverty – 40 actions).

Staying true to the spirit of the “global goals,” actions came flowing in from all over the world, with 43 per cent coming from Europe; 19 per cent from Latin American and the Caribbean; 14 per cent from Asia and the Pacific; 11 per cent from North America; 7 per cent from Africa; and 5 per cent from Arab States.

Over a half of all Actions – 65 per cent – came from high-income countries, with 32 per cent coming from middle-income countries and 3 per cent from low-income countries. National governments submitted the largest number of SDG Acceleration Actions (36 per cent), followed by civil society organizations (34 per cent) and UN entities (19 per cent). Other groups, such as the private sector, academia and philanthropic organizations made up the rest.

Major commitments include:

  • Sweden aims to become the world’s first fossil-free state by 2045. The country has doubled the support for its “Industry Leap” initiative which funds fossil-free steel projects. The country also plans to issue its first Green Bond by 2020 and is scaling up its Feminist Foreign Policy.
  • The United Kingdom announced a £515 million package to support education for girls. The country also launched the “Future High Streets Fund” to innovate urban infrastructure and services; mainstreamed social values in procurement in government; doubled its initial contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF); pledged an additional £7 million to support the Blue Belt Programme; and doubled its contribution to the Peacebuilding Fund (from £8 to £16 million for 2018-2020).
  • Mexico launched its plan to provide universal access to internet services for vulnerable communities and will set up a hundred 2030 Agenda Labs in universities.
  • In Finland, assessing climate impacts will become a set process for drafting legislation. Aiming to be carbon neutral by 2035, the country is encouraging its citizens to commit to reducing their average carbon footprints through a “sustainable lifestyle” service, through which users can calculate their personal carbon footprints and draw up a personal plan to reduce them by choosing actions from recommended smart choices.
  • The Netherlands will double the target for its initiative that helps people obtain access to justice. This means that the country aims to improve access to justice for 200,000 individuals in 2020.
  • The Philippines has an ambitious programme to provide free public Wi-Fi to all citizens in all public places in the country. As of June 2019, a total of 2,677 sites have become operational.
  • Greece announced an innovative cross-sectoral priority plan to speed up circular economy by setting criteria in public procurement, clustering businesses and taking employment measures towards collaborative economy.
  • The Maldives is partnering with Parley for the Oceans, American Express, AB InBev and Adidas to create a nationwide framework to deliver on several goals.
  • India has an ambitious plan to install 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydropower.
  • The City of Barcelona announced an ambitious plan to guarantee the right to decent housing for every resident through addressing housing crisis and enhancing the functionality and affordability of houses.
  • Companies from 25 countries committed to science-based targets for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 as part of the UN Global Compact’s “Business Ambition for 1.5 °C: Our Only Future” initiative.
  • Through the “World’s Largest Lesson Nigeria” initiative, Project Everyone aims to spread the word about the SDGs to youth and adults throughout Nigeria. So far 500,000 children have learned about the SDGs, and 8,000 youth and teacher volunteers have been mobilized as trainers.
  • Agrolibano, a melon export company in Honduras, is working to reduce the multidimensional poverty in rural communities through social investment in education, health services and standard of living.
  • The Kadiwaku Family Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been reaching out to 650 youth with disabilities to strengthen their entrepreneurial capabilities.

You can browse the database—and find out how your government or organization can register an SDG Acceleration Action–here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgactions.

The journey to age equality

Everyone deserves to live with dignity and respect. Yet, this right is anything but guaranteed as we grow older. People’s experiences later in life can differ dramatically, depending on their country of residence, social status, disability and other factors. These inequalities are often the result of poverty, maltreatment, neglect and limited access to basic services throughout a person’s life. And without targeted interventions, inequalities often deepen in old age.

“The journey to age equality” can only be achieved by promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of older persons and ensuring equal opportunities throughout for everyone throughout their lifetimes, as recognized by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By implementing policies that enhance equality, Governments can trigger the necessary changes towards an inclusive society for all ages, where older persons participate fully and without discrimination.

For the first time in history, older persons now outnumber children under five years of age. By 2030, the target date to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), older people are projected to exceed the number of youth.

The recent G20 Summit recognized ageing as one of the megatrends that will define the world’s economic and social development in the years to come. Countries need to plan for population ageing now to ensure the well-being of older persons by protecting their human rights and economic security and by safeguarding access to age-appropriate healthcare services, decent work and lifelong learning opportunities, as well as formal and informal support networks.

We have a duty to champion the role of older persons as active participants in society, especially in an era where they are frequently overlooked and underappreciated.

The International Day of Older Persons

The first day of October will be an opportunity to make ageing a more visible issue, as the world celebrates the International Day of Older Persons. This year, the global event will focus on pathways of coping with existing inequalities to prevent even further disparages in old age.

On 10 October, UN DESA in collaboration with the NGO Committee on Ageing in New York will hold the official commemoration of the United Nations International Day for Older Persons (#UNIDOP).

The event will feature the launch of UN DESA’s World Population Ageing 2019 Highlights, which draws on the latest population estimates and projections published to paint a picture of the world’s ageing population today and in the years to come.

For more information: International Day of Older Persons 

General Assembly – the work continues

The 2019 general debate has officially come to a close, but the work of the General Assembly hardly ends once the world leaders leave. Over the next months, the nitty‑gritty debates and negotiations in the General Assembly’s six main committees begin. UN DESA is substantively supporting the work of two of them.

Second Committee – Economic and Financial Issues

The Second Committee of the General Assembly addresses a range of issues related to sustainable development, from the macroeconomic situation to poverty eradication.

Chaired by Cheikh Niang, the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the UN, the Committee will kick off its work on 7 October 2019 under the theme “Inclusive societies based on new economic models and sustainable use of natural resources.”

This year, the Committee will consider issues ranging from financing sustainable development to advancing and monitoring the SAMOA Pathway for small island developing States, to reviewing the desertification, biodiversity, and climate change conventions.

It will also deliberate on challenges and solutions for countries in special situations, such as least-developed and landlocked developing countries. In addition, the Second Committee will take a closer look at the double bind of income poverty and time poverty and at emerging economic models, during two special side events organized with UN Women, UN DESA and UNCTAD.

At a joint meeting with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Second Committee will deliberate on the “Ecosystem Approaches for shifting the world onto a sustainable pathway.”

Third Committee – Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues

The Third Committee begins its seventy-fourth session on 1 October, under the chairmanship of Christian Braun, the Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the UN. The Committee’s discussions on social development will cover a range of issues related to youth, family, ageing, persons with disabilities and education for all.

The Committee’s deliberations will be informed by the Secretary-General’s report on the “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the 24th special session of the General Assembly.”

The report calls for strengthened international cooperation for social development, especially on universal and equitable access to education and health care, and to advance progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report highlights the importance of investing in people, which is essential to develop human capacity and achieve social development.

The report also addresses the special needs of Africa, the least developed countries, and various social groups at risk of being left behind. It recommends the acceleration of progress towards universal health coverage; scaling up social protection, including floors; addressing the specific challenges of disadvantaged groups; and mobilizing additional resources to invest in water and sanitation infrastructure.

The Third Committee will also discuss the forthcoming UN DESA World Social Report, which analyses inequalities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, migrant status, disability and socioeconomic status.

For more information:

Second Committee of the General Assembly

Third Committee of the General Assembly

Investing in the SDGs makes economic sense

Financing is the thread that connects many of the priorities during the UN high-level week of action for people and planet this September – from advances on climate action to universal health coverage to the SDGs and small island developing States. 

Although significant progress has been made since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in 2015, recent data confirm that the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs. This includes the slow pace at which the financing gap for the SDGs – amounting to trillions of dollars – is being filled.

To scale up financing and investment solutions for sustainable development, the General Assembly will on 26 September 2019, convene its first High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development since the adoption of the Addis Agenda.

At the 2019 ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum held earlier this year, governments and stakeholders clearly identified the gaps and deficits in trust, policies, regulations and institutions that are holding back progress. A wide range of issues, such as the need for sustainable public and private investments; debt sustainability; international taxation; and illicit financial flows were identified as challenges.

These are also areas where progress greatly depends on high-level political commitment and collective action. Yet, existing international norms and institutions may not be fit for purpose in the context of the transformative shifts needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda and a rapidly changing global landscape.

In addition, the private sector needs to be mobilized to transform financing for development. Evidence shows that investing in the SDGs makes economic sense and interest in sustainable investment is growing. Yet, money is not moving towards the sectors or countries where it is needed most, owing to various obstacles to investment.

The Addis Agenda includes concrete policy actions for the 2030 Agenda in key financing areas. More recently, the Secretary-General’s Strategy on Financing the 2030 Agenda recognized the need for deep changes in public policies and across the business and financial sectors to mobilize finance for sustainable development.

The United Nations is ideally placed to foster broad-based, inclusive discussion and generate a call for action at the highest political level. The High-level Dialogue offers an opportunity for Member States and key stakeholders on financing for development to raise the ambition and level of commitment.

The Dialogue will help to build momentum for the implementation of the Addis Agenda and address risks to financing the SDGs, mobilizing action at all levels. Critically, it will also provide opportunities to announce and launch major, high-impact initiatives to accelerate progress on financing for sustainable development, leaving no one behind.

More information on financing for sustainable development can be found online: DESA/Financing for Sustainable Development Office and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development.

Photo: Georgina Goodwin/World Bank

Priorities of small islands in the global spotlight at Samoa Pathway Midterm Review

Five years ago, in Apia, Samoa, governments from around the world adopted the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action—or SAMOA Pathway —an ambitious 10-year framework that articulates the aspirations of small island developing states and sets them on course for sustainable development. On 27 September, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a one-day High-level Midterm Review to assess progress made in addressing the priorities of SIDS through the implementation of the Samoa Pathway.

The event will bring together heads of state and Government, as well as partners from a variety of sectors, to assess progress, gaps and challenges in the implementation of the Samoa Pathway, as well as the priorities, solutions and lessons learned for the way forward, with an eye to seeking out the strongest synergies with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Small island countries face a unique set of issues relating to their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to external economic shocks and global environmental challenges, including the impacts of climate change, which threatens their very survival. The SAMOA Pathway is consistent with the 2030 Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Abba Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda and aims at building resilience and sustainable economies for SIDS through sustainable development.

The Samoa Pathway Midterm Review will result in a negotiated High Level Political Declaration. In addition, it will present an opportunity for the announcement of new partnerships in support of SIDS. These new partnerships will be an integral part of the SIDS Partnership Framework, which was designed to monitor progress of existing partnerships, and stimulate the launch of genuine and durable partnerships for the sustainable development of SIDS.

In the lead-up process to the September meeting, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), with the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) and Regional Commissions, organized a series of meetings to review the progress and implementation of the Samoa Pathway at the national and regional levels. These were held in Belize, Mauritius, Samoa and Tonga in 2018.

For more information:

High-level Midterm Review of the SAMOA Pathway

A day to celebrate indigenous languages of the world

“The health of our languages is connected to the health of the earth […] We lose our connection and our ancient ways of knowing of the earth when our languages fall silent. […] for the sake of future generations, we must ensure they too can speak the language of our ancestors.”

On 1 February 2019, when the International Year of Indigenous Languages officially launched at the UN Headquarters in New York, Kanen’tó:kon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Mohawk Nation, in a moving speech, explained why indigenous languages matter. On 9 August, indigenous languages will once again hit the spotlight as the main theme of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, 5,000 are estimated to be indigenous languages. With fewer and fewer speakers actively using them, around half of these languages are in danger of falling silent forever.

Indigenous languages are extensive and complex systems of knowledge, including knowledge of our environment. Protecting languages means protecting biodiversity, cultures and livelihoods. But despite their immeasurable value, many languages are disappearing at alarming rates due to forced relocation of indigenous communities, disadvantages in education, illiteracy, and poverty affecting indigenous peoples.

This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will showcase not only challenges, but also opportunities and innovative solutions for preserving and developing these unique tongues. It will highlight the fundamental importance of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to save and strengthen indigenous languages, traditions, cultures and communities.

The main celebrations of the International Day will take place on Friday, 9 August from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Indigenous experts and guest speakers will discuss the role of indigenous language and present creative initiatives for their promotion, preservation, and revitalization. The event will be broadcast live on UN Web TV.

Meanwhile, at the main lobby of the UN Headquarters, an innovation hub will open its doors to showcase some of the most innovative approaches that promote the knowledge and use of indigenous languages. The interactive exhibit will feature games, apps, interactive maps, videos and more 21st century tools for preserving centuries-old languages.

International Youth Day 2019 – Transforming Education

Exactly 20 years ago, the UN General Assembly decided that 12 August shall henceforth be celebrated every year as the International Youth Day. At a time when the world is increasingly looking to young people as leaders and as a moral compass on everything from climate action to peacebuilding, to education, celebrating their achievements and engagement is more important than ever.

Over the last 20 years, the International Youth Day has engaged hundreds of thousands of young people on solving some of the world’s most pressing problems. It has also helped to highlight the challenges that prevent young people from realizing their potential. Previous International Youth Days shone the spotlight on such themes as “Safe Spaces for Youth,” “Youth Building Peace” and “Mental Health Matters.” This year, the focus is on “Transforming Education.”

Transforming Education

Quality education that is inclusive and equitable is critical to preparing young people to be active, engaged citizens and learners throughout their lives. The International Youth Day will highlight the novel ways in which young people, youth-led organizations, governments and other partners are transforming education to achieve Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On the surface, we are making remarkable progress towards ensuring quality education for all. In 2010, 63 per cent of children of adequate age were receiving early childhood or primary education. By 2016, that proportion grew to 70 per cent, meaning that millions more children were now going to school. But beneath these positive developments, a global learning crisis is lurking. According to the latest SDG Report compiled by UN DESA, 617 million children and adolescents – six out of every 10 – are not reaching minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

Access to education needs to be expanded to include youth in vulnerable situations, whether caused by conflicts, poverty, disability or other factors. Education must pursue equity by reflecting traditionally marginalized perspectives, including those of cultural diversity and gender equality.

We must also move beyond thinking of education through the narrow economic lens. It should serve a broader purpose of fostering intellectual curiosity and critical engagement with sustainable development challenges. The faster the world acts on these challenges, the better our shared future will be, as the impact of education will last for the entire lifetime of today’s young people.

How to celebrate International Youth Day 2019

The official commemoration of International Youth Day 2019 is hosted by UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD), in collaboration with UNESCO. The event will hone in on inclusive education as part of the overall theme. Ensuring inclusive education means fully including young people from vulnerable groups or in vulnerable situations.

The event will feature an online discussion with UN representatives, members of academia and young experts. It will be open to everyone willing to discuss the ways of achieving inclusive education.

For more information about the International Youth Day, please visit: http://bit.ly/UN-IYD19 and follow @UN4Youth on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the discussion by using #YouthDay

SDG Progress Reports 2019: Are we on track to achieve the global goals?

The year 2019 will close the first cycle of the 2030 Agenda implementation. In July, the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) will have reviewed global progress on the last remaining set of SDGs and 142 countries will have presented their Voluntary National Reviews. Two SDG progress reports will try to shed light on the progress the world is making to achieve the SDGs and highlight the areas that need our most urgent attention.

Both reports show that despite progress in a number of areas over the past four years, on some of the Goals, progress has been slow or even reversed. The most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most and the global response has not been ambitious enough.

For instance, extreme poverty has reached the lowest point since its tracking began. And yet, at the current pace, we are still not on track to end poverty by 2030. Similarly, many countries are taking actions to protect our environment, but the health of our earth is still deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The Report of the Secretary General: The Special Edition of the Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report, is an official document mainly intended to inform the HLPF on progress towards the SDGs. Going beyond the usual data-driven analysis of progress, the special edition addresses the global response to the 2030 Agenda and the gaps and challenges encountered over the first cycle of its implementation. It also describes efforts necessary to accelerate SDG action. It highlights cross-cutting actions to advance progress on all the Goals and targets and help the ones who are falling behind.

The report was prepared by UN DESA, in cooperation with the UN system Task Team on HLPF, co-chaired by UN DESA and the United Nations Development Programme.

The Sustainable Development Report 2019 tells the stories of SDG progress with charts, infographics and maps, and presents an in-depth analysis of selected indicators. This report is prepared by UN DESA’s Statistics Division with inputs from more than 50 international and regional organizations. In addition to the global trends, this report also highlights regional progress and analyses.

Both reports are based on the global indicator framework developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators and present those indicators for which sufficient data are available.

The Sustainable Development Report 2019 will be launched on 9 July 2019—the opening day of the HLPF. The Secretary-General’s report is already available to Member States as they prepare for their deliberations at the HLPF. The two reports are accompanied by a comprehensive Statistical Annex and the Global SDG Indicator Database with country and regional data. The reports will also be presented in an interactive platform on the Sustainable Development Goal indicators website.

Global goals projected on the film screen

Storytelling can go a long way in capturing people’s imagination, and what’s more, inspire the kind of action that lasts. Showcasing stories that illustrate people and organizations working to build a better world and realize the Sustainable Development Goals is at the heart of the SDGs in Action Film Festival. The event, to be held outdoors on the North Lawn of UN Headquarters on the evening of 11 July, is the culmination of a global contest asking for short film submissions showing action on the 17 global goals.

Nearly 1,000 films were submitted during an open call this spring, and six winning filmmakers from Brazil, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, Portugal, and Trinidad and Tobago will present their short films to the public on the sidelines of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

In addition to the SDGs in Action Film Festival, this year’s special events organized by UN DESA include a wide array of events meant to include more voices in the UN’s conversations about how to inspire accelerated action for the SDGs. They include:

  • The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI): How can higher education institutions better integrate the SDGs into their sustainability strategies, research, teaching, pedagogy and campus practices? This event will bring together these institutions and a wide array of UN partners seeking to showcase the best examples and generate new ideas for engaging youth in the SDGs through the academic world. (10 July)
  • Philanthropy & the SDGs: Philanthropic organizations are playing a growing role in supporting sustainable development, and this first-ever event provides them with a dedicated space at the margins of the HLPF to discuss how to use their resources effectively. Representatives will discuss current models of philanthropic engagement to implement the SDGs and identify opportunities to scale up philanthropic leadership and transformational action to further accelerate SDG action. (16 July)
  • Lead, Transform, Succeed: Chief Sustainability Officers for SDGs: UN DESA and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development will again bring together Chief Sustainability Officers and sustainable business leaders to explore practical solutions around how we can bring about the transformation of some of the world’s key economic systems to realize the ambitions of the SDG agenda. The event will allow experts to dive into the challenges in integrating the SDGs into business strategy and underline groundbreaking examples of collaboration for achieving impact at scale. (17 July)
  • Local 2030: Local Action for Global Commitments: The UN-wide Local2030 network is facilitating a two-day event focused on inspiring local-level SDG financing and highlighting local implementation of the goals. The event will convene and connect experts from the public, private and non-governmental sectors, local leaders, and representatives from multiple UN agencies. (16-17 July)
  • SDG Learning, Training and Practice Capacity-building Workshops: This series of 10 courses, co-organized UN DESA and UNITAR, features speakers and experts from academia and other sectors on crucial topics related to the implementation of the SDGs, for instance “Designing and managing SDG partnerships for greatest impact.” (9-15 July)

All of these events will seek to put the world on a better path towards achieving the SDGs by 2030, through increased dialogues, networking and partnerships.

The 2019 winning films in each category will be posted on the SDGs in Action Film Festival website on 11 July. Find out more about all of DESA’s special events during HLPF here.

Celebrating the world’s public servants

As countries ramp up their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN DESA highlights the central role of public institutions in delivering the promise of the 2030 Agenda. The annual United Nations Public Service Forum and Awards, held on the UN Public Service Day, 23 June, celebrate the men and women who act as the backbone of institutions and the brainpower that enables the day-to-day delivery of public services.

The Forum offers an opportunity for public servants from different countries to come together to share challenges and strategies on how to better deliver public services. It provides a platform for the exchange of experiences on how to innovate in the public sector to advance the 2030 Agenda.

“Promoting responsive, effective and accountable institutions lies at the heart of the work of the United Nations and sits at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General and Head of UN DESA. “Transparent and accountable institutions, free from corruption, ensure that public service delivery is both accessible and equitable so that no one is left behind.”

The 2019 UN Public Service Forum will be held from 24 to 26 June in Baku, Azerbaijan, under the theme “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through Effective Delivery of Services, Innovative Transformation and Accountable Institutions.”

The Forum will focus on developing effective and accountable public institutions that empower public servants to better serve their constituents and leave no one behind.  The Forum aims to equip public servants from all levels of government with the skills and mindsets needed to provide effective and responsive services, as well as to meet the SDGs.

The Forum will include capacity building workshops with sub-themes, such as linking government performance with the power of disruptive technologies, digital transformation for the SDGs, promoting more gender responsive public service and enhancing social inclusion of vulnerable groups (see full programme here).

The Forum will also host a plenary panel on SDG 16 with a focus on accountable and effective institutions, providing a strong link to the 2019 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which is set to review SDG 16 in July.

The Forum will also feature the UN Public Service Awards ceremony. The Awards, accorded by UN DESA, recognize the exceptional public servants from across the globe who deliver strong, inclusive and effective institutions and services.

For more information:

UN Public Service Forum

UN Public Service Awards


More than 400 submissions listed in new SDG good practices database to inspire action for the goals

What are the inspiring breakthroughs and success stories that illustrate SDG implementation? What are the good practices that can be replicated and scaled up? What are the gaps and constraints and how should we address them? Looking ahead, what steps should we take to accelerate progress? To help answer these and other questions, UN DESA circulated a call for submissions of SDG-related good practices or success stories from Member States, the UN system and stakeholders – and received more than 600 suggestions!

After a vetting from an interagency panel of experts, the first batch of good practices have been released on a searchable online database, featuring more than 400 submissions. More SDG good practices will be made available as the review is finalized. The intention is to periodically issue a Call for Submissions of good practices, so if your organization missed this round, there will be another opportunity in the future.

To search the submissions including by sorting them by individual SDGs, click here and select the “SDG Good Practices” checkbox under the “Action Network & Databases” section in the left column. There is also a search bar for searching by country name or organization name.

Some of the vetted good practices from this initial, global Call for Submissions that could be replicated or scaled up include:

  • Brazil: The Sustainable Cities Program in Brazil is an open data portal that aims to create awareness, mobilize and commit public and local governments to the construction of fair and sustainable cities through a systemic approach that integrates all areas of public administration—health, education, social assistance, housing and mobility.
  • South Sudan: Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF) promotes the Community-based Animal Health Workers model as a cost-efficient and locally available option to offer access to quality animal health services to pastoralists in South Sudan, where more than half of the population is dependent on livestock for survival. VSF trains members of hard-to-reach and at-risk communities in good husbandry practices and basic animal health care.
  • Vietnam: HelpAge International and local partners have developed and tested a development model of Inter-generational Self Help Clubs to establish and strengthen the capacity of inclusive, sustainable and affordable civil society organisations throughout Vietnam to engage effectively with local community groups and authorities to promote greater inclusion of vulnerable groups—older persons, women, persons with disabilities—in service delivery and social development.

More examples of good practice projects and initiatives being done to implement the SDGs around the world will be highlighted by UN DESA each week through the SDG Summit in September to inspire others to take action.

Photo credit: UNDP Brazil

Alec Baldwin joins call to protect indigenous activists

Accomplished American actor and environmental activist, Alec Baldwin, spoke out at the UN Headquarters in New York against violence perpetrated on indigenous activists that defend their lands and forests from exploitation. Speaking on the sidelines of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mr. Baldwin said that, on average, four environment defenders lost their lives every week in 2017. Most of them were indigenous people. “The people who are protesting on behalf of the greater good of all the people (…) are criminalized and the people that murder them roam free,” he said.

Calling on governments to persecute these atrocities, motivated by certain companies’ pursuit of profit, Mr. Baldwin stressed that people everywhere can also make a change through informed and responsible consumer choices.

“I still believe that the greater number of people around the world want to do the right thing,” he said. “How many people would choose to murder indigenous people to increase how much meat they eat or how much oil they burn?”

Mr. Baldwin was at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to moderate a UN Environment‑hosted side event on indigenous forest defenders. Another speaker at the event, indigenous activist from Indonesia, Rukka Sombolinggi, made a heart-wrenching plea for responsible consumer choices to “stop eating from [indigenous peoples’] blood and tears.”

Ms. Sombolinggi believes that the security of indigenous peoples can be improved by establishing better communication channels with the consumers and by divesting from companies involved in violence against indigenous peoples. “We have to make sure that there is no more investment for companies that kill us,” she urged.

The indigenous peoples “never oppose development,” Ms. Sombolinggi explained, but they expect the companies involved to respect their rights to free, prior and informed consent. Otherwise, development projects risk becoming an aggression.

The 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which focuses on the protection of traditional indigenous knowledge, runs through 3 May 2019.

For more information:

18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

Forests play vital role in empowering people, promoting economic growth and combating climate change

It is estimated that 1.6 billion people, or 25 per cent of the human population, depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income generation. Forests provide ecosystem services, such as timber, food, fuel, fodder, non-wood products and shelter – which are essential for human well-being. At the same time, they contribute to soil and water conservation, carbon storage and clean air. When forests are sustainably managed, they can be healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which can thrive while at the same time providing essential goods and services to people worldwide.

The critical role of forests for a healthy planet, was also stressed by UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin at the most recent COP24 in Poland.

“Forests are central in developing solutions both to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” Mr. Liu said. “These terrestrial ecosystems have already removed nearly one third of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. Through sustainable forest management, they could remove much more.”

From 6 to 10 May 2019, the UN Forum on Forests will hold its 14th session (UNFF14) at UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together representatives from Member States, international and regional organisations and stakeholders to take stock of the progress in implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030. UNFF14 will also provide a timely opportunity for the Forum to provide input to the 2019 meetings of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The Strategic plan and its six Global Forest Goals and associated targets provide a global framework for sustainably managing all types of forests and trees, halting and reversing deforestation and forest degradation, and increasing forest area by 2030. The Plan provides a blueprint to promote forest contributions in implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UNFF14 agenda includes discussions on contributions of forests in accelerating progress in achieving the SDGs and in particular the SDGs under review by HLPF 2019, namely SDGs 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnerships). Based on this, the UNFF14 Bureau has identified three thematic priorities for UNFF14:

  • Forests and climate change;
  • Forests, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment; and
  • Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

To support discussions on these thematic priorities, a set of background analytical studies were commissioned. To promote greater awareness of the Global Forest Goals of the Strategic Plan, the UNFF Secretariat has also produced a booklet to be launched at UNFF14.

UNFF14 will also discuss contributions by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, regional organisations and Major Groups in implementing the Strategic Plan; private sector engagement; monitoring, assessment and reporting frameworks; forest financing including capacity development activities of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network; and communication and outreach.

The UN Forum on Forests is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council and is composed of 197 Member States of the UN and State Members of the Specialized Agencies. Since its inception in 2000, the Forum has reached numerous forest policy milestones including the agreement on the first UN Forest Instrument in 2007, establishment of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) in 2015, and agreement on the first UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 in 2017.

Through its work and through these instruments, the Forum and the international community continue to work to safeguard and protect our forests, which are essential to life here on Earth.

“When we reach the signpost of 2030, we hope to be able to look back with satisfaction on all that we have achieved and galvanize the next generation to grow and sustain our planet’s forests, because life without them is inconceivable,” Mr. Liu conveyed in his recent message for the International Day of Forests 2019.

For more information:

UN Forum on Forests

Young people are changing the world

Across countries and continents, our world is witnessing a rise in youth engagement and even a ‘youth quake’ as one news outlet described the recent Global Climate Strike. Inspired by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, some 1.6 million young people in 125 countries took to the streets, demanding world leaders to take climate action – now. To navigate our planet out of harms way, there is already a plan of action in place; the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This April, young leaders from different corners of the world, will join the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum with a mission: to put this plan into action.

The annual forum, labelled the largest annual gathering of youth advocates, takes place at a critical point in time. As UN DESA’s recent World Youth Report lays out, today’s young people face numerous challenges when it comes to education, employment and rising global inequalities.

It is therefore quite fitting that this year’s forum takes place under the theme “Empowered, Included and Equal”, inspiring us all to mobilize support for young people across the globe. After all, they offer 1.8 billion reasons for the world to stand by their side.

“Young people are a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions. They are pushing strongly for the changes we need in the technology arena, in climate action, and in calling for inclusive and just societies,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said when he launched the UN Youth Strategy last September. “Empowering young people, supporting them, and making sure they can fulfil their potential are important ends in themselves. We want this for all people, everywhere.”

Taking place for the eight-consecutive year, the forum serves as a critical platform to move these efforts forward. At this event, youth representatives and members of the international community, can highlight opportunities, raise concerns and discuss efforts to scale up actions across the world to meet young people’s needs and help them realize their rights.

It is also a venue where young people and their roles as “critical agents of change” become apparent. Something last year’s keynote speaker, Salina Abraham, noted in her powerful address.

“They don’t only light fires, they keep them alive,” she said, stressing the potential of supporting youth and youth organizations, also advising the international community to “support, listen and engage.”

When addressing last year’s forum, Mr. Liu also emphasized the essential role that young people play for the SDGs. “I urge you to continue working with policy-makers and your governments to ensure that your voice is heard in their plans to implement the 2030 Agenda,” he said.

This year’s forum will serve as an important platform to channel young people’s contributions to world leaders and decision-makers, expected to join upcoming high-level events at the UN in September. Youth participants will for example be able to debate and develop messages to feed into the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit (23 September), the SDG Summit (24- 25 September) and the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (26 September).

In addition to the forum’s plenary and break-out sessions, many interesting discussions will also take place in the SDG Media Zone. Wherever you are in the world, you can follow the discussions happening at the forum as well is in the SDG Media Zone, live via UN Web TV. To engage and follow the events via social media, use #Youth2030 and #SDGLive.

Young people are changing the world. And they are proving that every effort – big or small – counts. As Ms. Thunberg put it after the Global Climate Strike. “We proved that it does matter what you do, and that no one is too small to make a difference.”

For more information:

2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum

World Youth Report

Youth 2030: UN Youth Strategy

Watch the Forum live via UN Web TV

SDG Media Zone

Countries to examine population mega-trends and their impact on realizing the Sustainable Development Goals

The world’s population is growing larger and older. Currently at 7.7 billion, the global population is projected to increase to around 9.7 billion by 2050. At the same time, more people are on the move and more people are settling down in urban areas. How will these demographic “mega-trends” impact global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? Assessing the interlinkages between demographic change, population programmes and sustainable development will be one of the tasks at hand when the Commission on Population and Development convenes at UN Headquarters in New York for its 52nd session on 1-5 April.

This year marks 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development was held in Cairo. The Commission will examine the gains that have been made in implementing the Programme of Action adopted 25 years ago, as well as the gaps and shortfalls in achieving its goals and objectives. The full implementation of the Programme of Action is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Programme of Action from the Cairo conference was the first of its kind in promoting a people-centred approach to development grounded in the respect for human rights, empowerment of women and environmental sustainability.

This year’s session will celebrate the considerable progress made towards implementing the Cairo agenda over the past quarter century. Milestone achievements include greater access to sexual and reproductive health care, reductions in child and maternal mortality, increased life expectancy, reduced incidence of poverty, improved access to education, and advances in gender equality and empowerment of women.

But the pace of progress has been uneven both within and between regions and countries. While life expectancy has increased in all world regions, the current gap in life expectancy between countries in the more developed regions and the least developed countries is 15 years.

Under-five child mortality rates have fallen by half since 1994. However, a child born in sub-Saharan Africa today is more than 15 times as likely to die before age 5 compared with a child born in the more developed regions. Overall, the benefits of social and economic progress have not been shared equitably.

In some countries, rapid population growth is putting added pressure on service delivery systems and scarce resources. Over time, increased access to education and health care, especially for women and girls, helps to lower birth rates, slowing population growth.

In other countries, historically low levels of fertility are contributing to population ageing and, in extreme cases, to population decline. Such trends present a challenge to sustained economic growth and to social protection systems for older persons.

In all countries, the shift from rural to urban living is bringing advantages for sustainable development, including reduced per capita energy consumption and improved access to services. However, urbanization must be managed well to avoid negative consequences resulting from unbridled urban growth.

In countries of origin and destination throughout the world, migration that is safe, orderly and regular is making a positive contribution to sustainable development. Implementing the 2030 Agenda will help to address the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel some people to leave their homes.

Attaining the shared objectives of the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda will require a redoubling of efforts to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, protect reproductive rights, end poverty, advance quality education, ensure decent work for all, reduce social and economic inequalities, and ensure sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

Meeting the demand for a high standard of living from a growing global population, while addressing the environmental impacts of human activities, including climate change, is one of the central challenges of the 21st century.

During its upcoming session, the Commission is expected to adopt a political declaration that reaffirms the commitment by UN Member States to implement the Programme of Action, reflecting also its relevance for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The declaration is expected to deliver further actions to ensure that the Programme’s vision is made a reality, benefiting people and development.

For more information:

52nd session of the Commission on Population and Development

Climate action and the SDGs: Interlinked and indivisible

Last year’s landmark “Global Warming of 1.5°C” report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that global warming is an urgent worldwide problem that requires an urgent response to prevent its worst effects. Fortunately, we have a plan in place: the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are our blueprint for building a better, more sustainable world that works for both people and the environment.

Implementation of the SDGs is accelerating. National governments around the world are making ambitious plans, developing new programmes and undertaking capacity development efforts to lift more people out of poverty and protect natural resources.

Similarly, countries are making progress on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce carbon emissions as part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. National Adaptation Plans and National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies will also be critical in addressing climate change challenges.

However, as it is now, the processes for implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are progressing in parallel in most countries—and they need not be. SDG 13, after all, is dedicated to taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. By strengthening synergies between the two agenda, we can foster win-win outcomes for climate action and the SDGs.

To better connect these two critical frameworks, UN DESA is partnering with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, to host a Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (informally, the Climate & SDGs Synergy Conference). The Conference, to be held from 1 to 3 April in Copenhagen, aims to align the climate and SDG processes, and stimulate action from stakeholders at the global, regional and local levels to maximise benefits.

“We expect that this global conference will deliver […] a set of concrete recommendations for strengthening the interlinkages between climate action and the SDGs,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, at an event announcing the Conference at the most recent COP in Katowice, Poland. “This conference will be aimed at promoting action,” he added.

“Climate change and the SDGs are really one integral agenda,” said Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, also at the Katowice event. “In working together, UN DESA and we at UN Climate Change are setting an example of the way the different entities can join forces.”

Conference participants will identify specific examples to illustrate the potential of synergistic and interlinked approaches towards realizing the objectives of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, including through analyses of NDCs, National Development Plans, National Adaptation Plans and National Risk Reduction Strategies. They will also analyze implementation gaps and challenges and make a set of concrete recommendations for strengthening synergies, increasing ambition, advancing implementation action, maximizing co-benefits and stimulating multi-stakeholder partnerships. These will include directing means of implementation towards more collaborative action, as well as scaling up and enhancing the mobilization of resources that could benefit sustainable development at large including climate action, as well as ensuring effective use of resources and avoiding duplication.

Photo: IISD Reporting Services

You can learn more about the Climate and SDGs Synergy Conference here.

Can multilateralism survive? Examining the future of development policy

International cooperation is under threat along several dimensions: a mounting trade war, stalled global trade talks and the questioning of global institutions by some prominent countries. The media focus is mainly on what this means for wealthy countries, but what does it mean for the rest of the world?

Developing nations already seem to be suffering the consequences. Aid flows to least developed countries are stagnating. The promotion of private financing risks displacing public funds. The number of bilateral trade agreements is increasing, favouring the powerful rather than the worst-off. The defunding of certain multilateral agencies affects women more than men. Inequality within and between countries remains unacceptably high and is in many cases rising. Poorer countries will suffer most from a failure to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets.

What do these trends mean for development policy? Should we press for a return to the old order, or is a pragmatic response required? Does instability even herald opportunity, as the emerging and existing institutions of the global South come to the fore? How should governments in the global South respond? What are the roles of the UN, multilaterals and bilateral trading partners and donors?

A cast of distinguished panellists will try to provide some answers at an open session of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) at UN Headquarters on 12 March from 3 – 4:45 pm.

The session will feature speakers Winifred Byanyima, Oxfam International’s Executive Director and a women’s rights leader and a global authority on economic inequality; Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies at Cambridge University and author of 15 books including Economics: The User’s Guide; Kevin Gallagher, Director of the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University and co-author of The Clash of Globalizations: Essays on Trade and Development Policy; and Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL) and author of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy.

The event will be moderated by José Antonio Ocampo, and streamed live via UN Web TV.

For more information: 2019 CDP Plenary: The Future of Development Policy in a Changing Multilateral Context

60 is the new 50: Rethinking ageing in the SDGs era

Blowing out the birthday candles, a newly minted sexagenarian will often think: “But I don’t feel 60.” And demographers back that sentiment with data that documents the remarkable revolution in longevity, which is redefining the meaning of turning 60. In a very real, demographic sense, 60 is the new 50.

According to statistics from UN DESA’s World Population Prospects, new 60-year-olds in high-income countries can expect to live at least another 25 years. As recently as in the 1950s, this was true of 50-year-olds.

All societies in the world are in the midst of this longevity revolution – some are at its earlier stages and some are more advanced. But all will pass through this extraordinary transition, in which survival to age 60 changes from a flip‑of‑the-coin, 50-50 chance – as was the case in Sweden in the 1880s – to a near certainty at present. What is more, the proportion of adult life spent beyond age 60 increases from less than a quarter to a third or more in most developed countries.

These changes for individuals are mirrored in societal changes. Older persons become the largest demographic group in society – accounting for more than a quarter of the population. Today, that is true for 15 countries, but UN DESA’s Population Division expects that number to grow to 145 countries by the end of the century covering most of the world’s population.

Traditionally, the United Nations and most researchers have used measures and indicators on ageing that are mostly or entirely based on people’s chronological age, defining older persons as those 60 years and older. This has so far provided a simple, clear and easily replicable way to measure and track various indicators of ageing.

However, there has been increasing recognition that the mortality risks, health status, type and level of activity, productivity, and other socio-economic characteristics of older persons have changed significantly in many parts of the world over the last century, and even more so, over the last several decades. This has led to the development of alternative concepts and measures of ageing to provide different outlooks on the levels and trends of ageing, and to offer a more nuanced appreciation of what ageing means in different contexts.

New measurements and concepts of population ageing have significant implications for measuring living conditions and living arrangements of older persons as well as their contributions to their societies. Further, new measurement approaches impact on the assessment of older persons’ needs for social protection and health care, their labour market participation as well as planning for life-long education.

These changes, and the various approaches to understanding and measuring ageing, also carry important implications for the review of long-term, international development goals. These include the objectives highlighted in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and, most recently, the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To take stock of these new concepts and methodological approaches to measuring ageing and to assess their applicability and possible implications for policy analysis and policy development at the national and international level, UN DESA’s Population Division, the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), and Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), are organizing an international expert group meeting on “Measuring population ageing: Bridging Research and Policy”. One of the highlights of the event will be a moderated discussion of journalists on the role of media as they inform but also reflect public attitudes and opinions on population ageing.

The meeting will be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 25 to 26 February 2019 and is expected to be attended by about 80-100 government officials, academia, civil society and the media from all over the world.

Interested participants who will not be able to attend the event in person can follow the event via live-stream over the internet.

For more information: Expert group meeting on “Measuring population ageing: Bridging Research and Policy”

Inclusive social development – essential to achieve the global goals

Social exclusion is connected to all forms of inequality. It affects people’s well-being and deprives them of opportunities and civil representation, which can ultimately push powerless groups into the margins of society. “High and worsening inequality is becoming the defining issue of our time,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin at a recent meeting of the General Assembly’s Third Committee. “According to some estimates, the richest one percent of the global population owned 82 percent of stock of wealth in 2017, while the poorest half saw no increase in their wealth.”

“However, rising inequality is not inevitable,” Mr. Liu continued, referencing the important work of the Commission for Social Development and the fact that the priority theme of the Commission’s 57th session will be “Addressing Inequalities and Challenges to Social Inclusion through Fiscal, Wage and Social Protection Policies.”

Taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 11 to 21 February, the event will feature four high-level panel discussions, general debates, as well as over 45 side events. Organizations accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Member States and UN Agencies will come together to build on the outcomes of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly and the past Commission.

In addition to the main theme, the Commission will look closer at the emerging issue of the “Empowerment of people affected by natural and human-made disasters to reduce inequality: Addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.”

There are also two newly added panel discussions – a ministerial forum on social protection and an interactive dialogue on the priority theme – which will allow for an in-depth consultation on topics of interest to the Commission.

The side events will cover a broad range of related issues, such as accountability mechanisms, family policies, youth entrepreneurship and national initiatives in various regions, including Africa, Latin America and Europe. In addition, the NGO Committee on Social Development will host a Civil Society Forum on 15 February to forge partnership among stakeholders.

“The role of this Commission is of crucial importance to providing substantive, engaging, technical and expert advice with concrete and action-oriented policy recommendations to ECOSOC and Member States,” remarked Ms. Sama Salem Poules, Vice-Chair of the Bureau of the Commission’s 57th Session. “Without inclusive social development, there will be no achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development, further stressed that fiscal, wage and social protection policies must be sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, such as persons with disabilities, older persons and youth, who are affected by natural and human-made disasters.

The multi-stakeholder panels at this year’s Commission will reaffirm the commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by addressing the systemic causes associated with social exclusion and exchanging their views on equitable and inclusive social development.

For more information: 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57)

Staying on-track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals

2019 will be a critical year for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN DESA will be fully engaged in the preparation of the two High-level Political Forums, one in July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), completing its first cycle, and one in September at the summit level under the auspices of the General Assembly. We must seize the momentum to implement the 2030 Agenda and use this opportune year to assess progress and to strengthen our political will to act to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in all regions.

Many countries are aligning their national policies and institutions behind the Goals to improve people’s lives. Businesses are taking action to invest in new technologies, opening up new markets, and building the sustainable and inclusive economy of the 21st century. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders are also using these Goals to drive change at the local, subnational and national levels and holding their Governments accountable.

Even though progress is being made, gaps are evident. The world remains on a trajectory of increasing inequality, and it is facing armed conflicts, humanitarian and environmental crises, as well as economic, financial and climate challenges.

Moreover, the scale and pace of change in public and private investment in sustainable development remain alarmingly insufficient. We, therefore, urgently need a surge in financing, investments and technological innovation.

In 2019, UN DESA will launch the Global Sustainable Development Report, an analysis by an independent group of scientists undertaken every four years to assess where we stand. Additionally, over the next months, the department will release several other analytical reports to assess progress made towards the SDGs to provide context to this year’s high-level discussions.

This spring, UN DESA and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will also co-facilitate a conference, seeking to amplify the interlinkages between climate action and the broader 2030 Agenda and share best practices on attracting financing for both.

High-level Political Forum in July

The HLPF will be convened under the auspices of ECOSOC from 9 to 18 July 2019.  It will address the theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. Fifty-one countries, both developed and developing, will present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs)— sharing their national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learnt, in implementing the 2030 Agenda and SDGs.

At the same time, the July HLPF will review progress in the thematic areas of quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), climate action (SDG 13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), and partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). UN DESA is coordinating a series of Expert Group Meetings on each goal to prepare and inform the thematic discussions at HLPF.

High-level Political Forum in September – SDG Summit

The HLPF under the auspices of the General Assembly will take place at the summit level on 24 and 25 September 2019. Heads of State and Governments, joined by leaders from civil society organizations, foundations, the business sector and other stakeholders, will focus on the overall implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Areas of progress towards the SDGs will be identified. Actions for scaling up will be considered. A political declaration of Heads of State and Government is expected to give guidance on how to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. The SDG Summit will complement the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, to be held the day before.

UN DESA has launched a call to receive good practices and success stories in SDG implementation by all stakeholders through its SDG Good Practices portal. The main findings of this evidence-based stocktaking will be highlighted and showcase in the lead-up to, and during the Summit.

A series of side events and special events will also be organized to complement the July HLPF and the SDG Summit, aiming to engage and mobilize partners around the SDGs. The special events will include the SDG Business Forum, Partnership Exchange, SDG Film Festival, Chief Sustainability Officers event, Major Groups and Other Stakeholders meeting, an event with universities and higher education institutions, and Local and Regional Governments Forum, which will convene mayors from the world’s major cities to focus on ways to localize the 2030 Agenda.

Other related events

In 2019, four years after the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), we will also have the opportunity to review progress on its commitments and the current state of play on the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum and SDG Investment Fair in April 2019 will be critical junctures for building momentum in response to emerging risks to the economic outlook and potential opportunities. These will feed into the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development in September 2019.

In September 2019, the UN General Assembly will also hold a one-day high level review of the progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. The high-level review will result in a concise, action-oriented and inter-governmentally agreed political declaration.

As the United Nations Secretariat entity responsible for economic, social and environmental issues, UN DESA leads the work from the Secretariat side, preparing for and ensuring the success of the 2019 HLPF in July, the SDG Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (FFD), and the SAMOA Pathway high-level meeting to review progress in September at the beginning of the 74th session of the General Assembly, as well as all other related side and special events.

For more information: High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Making every drop count – a decade for action

Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right that affects our health and our safety. We need safe water to drink every day, and we need adequate sanitation facilities to ensure that everyone has the ability to attend school or work, and is protected against sexual assault. And, we need to manage the flow of wastewater safely to protect our fragile ecosystems. But we have a long way to go.

Today, about 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services, and about 2.5 billion people—36 percent of the world’s population—live in water-scarce regions. More than two billion people must drink contaminated water, resulting in a child dying every minute. Globally, 80 per cent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, and droughts and floods are increasing in severity as a result of our changing climate.

The Water Action Decade, launched on World Water Day last March, is working to halt this growing water crisis. The “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development,” as it is known in its unanimous General Assembly resolution, serves as a platform for countries to share some of their major water challenges and possible solutions. The Decade puts greater focus on sustainable development and an integrated management of water resources to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives.

“The Water Action Decade provides a unique framework to support efforts to overcome these challenges by energizing the implementation and promotion of programmes and projects on integrated and sustainable management of water and sanitation,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. “It further provides an exceptional opportunity to strengthen cooperation and partnership at all levels to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other water-related goals and targets.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, with the support of UN-Water, has drawn up a plan for the Decade, which will be active until 20 March 2028. In it, the Secretary-General calls for the energized implementation of existing water programmes and projects, and mobilized action for water as a tool for sustainable development.

Countries and organizations around the world are already implementing this plan by sharing their experiences with water and sanitation projects on a new website for the decade – www.wateractiondecade.org.

Additionally, the Government of Tajikistan, with the support of the UN system, organized the High-level International Conference of the Decade in Dushanbe from 20 to 22 June under the theme “Promoting Action for Policy Dialogue.” The Conference was attended by high-level delegations and representatives from 120 countries, including heads of state and government, and provided valuable opportunities for Member States and other stakeholders to promote actions, partnerships and policy dialogue to support internationally agreed water goals and targets.

On 28 November, the General Assembly’s Second Committee adopted a resolution by consensus, calling for a United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the Decade, to take place on 22-24 March 2023 in New York.

Furthermore, Member States requested the President of the General Assembly, to convene a one-day high-level meeting to promote the implementation of the water-related Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda in New York in 2021.

All of these different actions are in line with the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Water, which in its outcome document, “Making Every Drop Count,” emphasized the need to convene UN meetings on water at the highest possible level to spur commitments of global leaders.

For more information:

Water Action Decade

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