More from UNDESA Vol 23, No. 06 - June 2019

Step by step – working towards sustainable development for all

Our world is facing mounting challenges that no one country can face alone. By connecting global policies and national action in the economic, social and environmental areas, UN DESA works with nations across the globe to find solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems. Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the department helps countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable development for all.

This year alone, the department is bringing the global community together for several high-level events aimed at accelerating action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and boosting positive change. It kicks off with the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on 9-18 July and continues in September during UN high-level week with the SDG Summit (24-25 September), the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (26 September) and the Samoa Pathway High-level Mid-term Review (27 September).

Counting everyone, because everyone counts
UN DESA does much more than bringing countries together. The department is a key provider of essential data, information and analysis for the international community to make informed decisions on development issues.

UN DESA keeps track of the world population to help countries plan and to make sure everyone is counted. Where is the population growing the fastest? How are population trends affecting the achievement of the SDGs? The global community will find out on 17 June 2019, when the department will launch its biennial report on the latest demographic trends, the World Population Prospects 2019.

Similarly, UN DESA collects and analyzes data, working closely with national statistical offices around the globe to strengthen statistical capacities, ensuring that no one is left uncounted. Based on this thorough work, the department leads the preparation of the annual Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report, tracking advancements and identifying gaps in our global efforts to achieve the SDGs. Stay tuned for the next SDG Progress Report to be launched on 9 July 2019.

Ahead of the curve
In a similar fashion, and looking through a sustainable development lens, the department monitors and analyzes global economic trends as well as new frontier technologies, often staying ahead of the curve. This was the case in the 1980s when UN DESA warned about the debt crisis and in the late 2000s when the department cautioned about the factors that led to the financial crisis.

The latest global economic trends were revealed in the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) as of mid-2019 launched on 21 May. The report finds that high trade tensions and policy uncertainty continue to damage the prospects of economic growth. The department also shares regular updates on the global economy in the WESP monthly briefings.

Home of sustainable development

Within the UN system, UN DESA is the is the place where every SDG finds a home and where all actors can do their part to make sure we leave no one behind. The department leads the preparations for the annual review of the goals at the HLPF every July, supports Member States as they prepare to present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at this event, and we also provide the platforms where international actors can forge new partnerships and initiatives to spur further action on the goals. UN DESA also made a call asking the international community to share their SDG good practices and success stories. And the results are in, showcasing more than 400 projects in the department’s searchable database.

UN DESA also helps build capacities on the ground. Together with partners, the department supports more than 75 countries in building integrated, evidence-based, inclusive and well-funded national strategies and plans to implement the SDGs. Moreover, the department also works to secure financing for the goals.

Reaching those who are furthest behind first

To realize the promise of the 2030 Agenda of leaving no one behind, we need to reach the furthest behind first. UN DESA leads the way to make this happen. The department is a leading voice to promote inclusion, reduce inequalities and eradicating poverty.

This June for example, the department is organizing the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Tune in on 11-13 June via UN Web TV to follow our work protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Whether by organizing major events, tracking SDG data, taking the pulse of socioeconomic trends or cutting-edge issues, or helping countries build capacity, UN DESA is there to support the international community. Step by step, the department works towards sustainable development for all.

Learn more about UN DESA’s work in our new pamphlet.

It is time to “circle back” and transform the planet

By Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

In India, a young entrepreneur is turning hundreds of tons of flower waste from temples into organic incense sticks, made by women. A simple, cost-effective innovation is helping generate employment, protecting our water bodies and encouraging more research into environment-friendly alternatives. In Burkina Faso, an initiative to repurpose plastic waste into clothes and other items has reduced plastic waste in dumpsites in the city of Koudougou by one-third and improved sanitation.

We have just concluded a record-breaking UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. Close to 5,000 delegates from more than 170 countries demonstrated a global political will to urgently tackle environmental challenges including the need to transform the environmental footprints of the world’s consumers and to promote the kinds of innovations I have outlined in India and Burkina Faso.

These innovations challenge the very basis of how we treat our planet. We can no longer grow now and clean up later. We have reached the planet’s limits and, as the UN Secretary-General recently reminded us, we simply cannot negotiate with nature.

But innovations also represent some good news. When we “circle back” and see value in what we discard, everybody wins: we protect nature, build livelihoods and improve the health of people. In 2017, humanity used an estimated 90 billion tons of resources. More than 50 per cent of that was dispersed or emitted as waste, while less than 10 per cent was cycled back into the economy.

The food we waste every year, due to damp warehouses, delayed shipments, or consumers who forget their leftovers in the back of the fridge – is enough to feed the world’s hungry four times over. That’s no small matter, given that we’ll probably have another two billion mouths to feed by 2050.

Our piles of discarded smartphones, washing machines, televisions and batteries contain valuable caches of copper, silver, gold, palladium, and other precious resources. But in harvesting this valuable resource, we can generate less carbon emissions than compared to mining the earth for fresh minerals.

And thanks to some innovative thinkers, ocean plastic is now a viable raw material that’s being used to make everything from boats, running shoes, sunglasses, skateboards to carpet tiles.

If countries deliver on all that was agreed in Nairobi and implement the resolutions, we could take a big step towards a new world order where we no longer grow at the expense of nature but instead see people and planet thrive together.

Someone very wise once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

So, what does this mean practically for us? It means altering consumption habits and confronting conundrums like the fact that meat and dairy products use an overwhelming majority of farmland but constitute only a fraction of the calories we consume. It means governments investing heavily in sustainable solutions that restore nature and regenerate the biosphere. It means consumers holding companies accountable to invest in better and sustainable materials, processes and infrastructure. And it means being kinder to the environment in how we extract resources from nature.

Science has sounded a red alert and painted a future that we simply do not want. 2019 is a year of both urgency and opportunity and chance for all of us to transform the planet!

SDG 12 in numbers

How societies use and manage their natural resources fundamentally shapes their quality of life and the health of their environment. The world continues to use more and more natural resources. Decoupling economic growth from resource use is one of the most critical and complex challenges facing humanity today. A shift towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns will require strong national public policies, sustainable consumer behavior, and a transformation of business practices along global value chains.

In 2017, worldwide material consumption reached 92.1 billion metric tons, up from 87 billion in 2015 and a whopping 254 per cent increase from the 27 billion in 1970, with the rate of extraction accelerating every year since 2000.

The material footprint per capita is used to measure the amount of raw material extracted to meet a person’s need. The “material footprint” per capita in developing countries grew from 5 metric tons in 2000 to 9 metric tons in 2017, but it is still less than half of the value for developed countries (close to 23 metric tons in 2017).

 

For all categories of materials, developed countries have at least twice the per capita footprint of developing countries. In particular, the material footprint for fossil fuels is more than four times higher for developed than developing countries.

About one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, the majority in developed countries.

By 2018, a total of 108 countries had national policies and initiatives relevant to sustainable consumption and production.

According to a recent report from KPMG, 93 per cent of the world’s 250 largest companies (in terms of revenue) are now reporting on sustainability, as are three quarters of the top 100 companies in 49 countries.

Playing with genes: The good, the bad and the ugly

Genetic technologies—the ability to manipulate and transform the properties of cells, seeds, plants, animals and even humans—are pushing the frontiers of science and offering us new hope for increasing food production, curing disease and improving the quality of life. While the upsides of genetic technologies are promising, we also need to consider the consequences—the bad, and even the ugly.

The good

We now have the knowledge and tools to address some of the most protracted challenges facing humanity, including health challenges that affect millions of people around the world. In the fight against malaria, genetic technologies are being used to develop new vaccines and enable “gene drives” that specifically target the parasite-carrying mosquitoes. The possibility of developing an effective vaccine to a disease contracted by 200 million people each year or eradicating it completely presents an enormously exciting prospect.

In food production, genetic technologies are helping farmers increase production and overcome the risk of drought, floods, and pests. There are commercially available genetically modified crops that are resistant to pests, herbicides, and to viral disease. Flood-resistant rice varieties are helping millions of farmers in South Asia, allowing higher crop yields and enhancing food security.

The bad

On the flip side, we are observing a growing “genomics divide” between those that can afford cutting-edge genetic technologies and those who cannot and are consequently left behind. Firms in developed countries own the rights to most of the innovations in genetic technologies. Furthermore, genetic therapies—one application of genetic technology—are mostly developed for rare diseases and come at high costs, ranging from $373,000 to $1 million per patient per year, making them unaffordable for most people. Clearly very few people have the means or the insurance coverage necessary to take advantage of these therapies.

In agriculture, public concern is mostly focused on the rapid spread of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the food chain, their safety and sustainability, that the gains and risks are shared equitably, and that cultural and religious beliefs are respected.

The ugly

It is not hard to imagine how genetic editing can turn ugly. Despite significant improvements, gene editing is still imprecise, which could lead to inadvertent changes to the genome. There are also concerns over the unknown, long-term safety of gene editing.

There are growing concerns regarding germline editing—modifications that can be inherited by an unborn child. In the case of germline editing of unborn children, an important question arises, that is, what constitutes informed consent? How can a future person have a voice on genetic changes that will affect them throughout their lives, and perhaps passed on to their offspring?

There is also the possibility of unforeseen ecological changes with genetic targeting of plants and animals, which may destroy an entire species or disrupt ecological balance.

The future

Genetic modification clearly demands careful consideration from policymakers, academics, private companies, and civil society. Technological advances in this area are moving faster than the regulatory capacity of most governments. Recently, scientists have joined together to call on the Member States to move swiftly to strengthen the global regulatory framework and minimize the risks of genetic technologies.

Many stakeholders would also like to see the Member States agree on a moratorium on human germline editing until the world can agree on common norms and standards. The Director-General of the World Health Organization has already responded to these concerns, establishing in March this year a new advisory committee to develop global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization is another UN entity likely to play a key role in supporting the Member States in developing and adopting common norms and standards for applying genetic technologies in food production. In addition, there will be need for the Member States in the General Assembly and ECOSOC to further discuss the possible implications of genetic technologies on inequality in income, opportunities and outcomes within and across countries.

 

For more information: https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/publication/frontier-technology-quarterly-may-2019/

What makes effective governance?

How does one know when countries have implemented good governance? Although a cornerstone of all developmental efforts and the sine qua non of sustainability, governance is often nebulous. As a concept, it is hard to decipher. As a practice, it is hard to pin down. We can debate endlessly over the different elements that can go into its conceptual foundations. We can apply all kinds of elaborate models of analysis to get to the bottom of it. All efforts will surely and squarely lead to our pure dazzlement by the richness of its multifarious applications around the world.

Principles of effective governance for sustainable development, developed by the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last July in New York, aim to tackle precisely these features of governance: how to lucidly operationalize it so that everyone can find common ground when talking about its scope and scale; and of course, how to integrate it organically into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so that no one is left behind.

These eleven Principles of effective governance are:

Effectiveness: 1) competence; 2) sound policy making; and 3) collaboration;
Accountability: 4) integrity, 5) transparency and 6) independent oversight; and
Inclusiveness: 7) leaving no one behind, 8) non-discrimination, 9) participation, 10) subsidiarity and 11) intergenerational equity.

The principles bring together commonly applied strategies, many of which have been recognized and endorsed over the years in various United Nations forums, resolutions and treaties. To be exact, CEPA has identified sixty-two such strategies; and its next challenge is to weave them together in coherent and cohesive ways so that the global tapestry of governance can be made more visible and legible for everyone.

Our next step in our staunch commitment to supporting ECOSOC in its vision to promote sustainable development with human dignity is to operationalize the principles so that effective governance and public institutions can directly and vigorously feed into SDG16 and the rest of the Goals.

In its eighteenth session last month in New York, CEPA outlined a three-pronged roadmap for progress: First, efforts should be channeled towards collecting further evidence of what works and what does not, under different sets of circumstances. Second, all relevant stakeholders should be engaged in formulating and upgrading the principles. And thirdly, principles backed up with evidence-based governance indicators must form the analytical basis for assessing impact of reforms.

It is heartening to see that Member States, such as Ecuador, have expressed interest in adopting the principles towards strengthening public institutions for partnerships and effective SDG implementation. CEPA will continue its cooperation with prominent organizations in the field such as the Praia Group on Governance Statistics and The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Development Initiative.

Governance is humbling in a way. There is no one right answer. Effective governance, on the other hand, is empowering. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is clear in its vision and objectives. Transformative pathways towards sustainability are many, but our steadfast commitment as humanity to march along them towards peace and progress is one.

For more information:

Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA)

Get the latest global economic trends!

The World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2019 will be launched on 21 May in New York. The report updates the economic prospects for the world economy reported in January 2019.

In the mid-year update, the global growth outlook has weakened, amid unresolved trade tensions and elevated international policy uncertainty. Across both developed and developing countries, growth projections for 2019 have been downgraded. While part of the economic slowdown reflects temporary factors, downside risks to global growth remain high.

Heightened financial risks are compounded by greater frequency and severity of natural disasters, reflecting the rising effects of climate change.

Tackling the current growth slowdown and placing the world economy on a robust path in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development require more comprehensive and well-targeted policy responses, including a combination of monetary, fiscal and development-oriented measures.

Join Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development and UN Chief Economist Elliott Harris and Chief of UN DESA’s Global Economic Monitoring Branch Dawn Holland as they present the global and regional economic update live at 11 am EDT on May 21 via UN Web TV.

For more information: World Economic Situation and Prospects

SDG 16 in numbers

Progress across Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions needs to accelerate. The global homicide rate has recently increased, various forms of violence against children persist and the number of detected victims of human trafficking has grown. A renewed commitment is needed to reduce levels of violence worldwide and to strengthen the participatory institutions needed for inclusive governance.

The global homicide rate ticked up in 2017 to 6.1 intentional homicides per 100,000 people, following a general downward trend in homicide rates since 2000.

Nearly 8 in 10 children from 1 to 14 years of age were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment at home between 2006 and 2018.

The number of detected victims of trafficking in persons has increased, which could reflect either a

positive (enhanced efforts by authorities to identify victims) or negative (larger trafficking problem) trend. The vast majority, 70 per cent of detected victims of human trafficking are females.

The share of unsentenced detainees in the overall prison population has remained largely constant at 30 per cent in recent years. Particularly high levels of pre-trial detention, over 40 per cent, exist in Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Even if many regions have reached universal or near-universal birth registration, globally the average is

just 73 per cent, and fewer than half, 46 per cent, of all children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa have had their births registered in 2018.

At least 1,456 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries across the world since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed each day defending the rights of others.

Today’s youth are the cornerstone of tomorrow’s society

By Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

Today’s youth are the cornerstone of tomorrow’s society. How well-equipped they are with education, skills and professional experience will determine their success and our future. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, will take place on 8-9 April 2019, providing a platform for young leaders from around the world to engage in a dialogue among themselves and with United Nations Member States and to share ideas for advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for sustainable development, and the Paris Climate Agreement. The Forum serves as a unique space for young people to share their vision and elaborate their substantive contributions to United Nations upcoming meetings.

This month also sees the 2019 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up, to be held 15-18 April at UN Headquarters in New York. Among the important issues to be discussed by the Forum is finding the appropriate policy mix to make growth more inclusive and generate decent work opportunities for all.

UN DESA’s latest Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects reviews global labour markets, with a focus on youth. Youth employment remains a global policy challenge. Since the global economic crisis in 2009, the number of young persons (aged 15-24) in employment has contracted by more than 15 per cent.

While this partly reflects extended education, globally, 21.2 per cent of young people were in neither employment, education nor training last year. According to ILO’s “World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019”, this has long-term implications for income prospects of individuals, and over time, a high share of young people who are neither acquiring skills through education or employment acts as an obstacle to innovation and sustained economic growth.

While youth unemployment is a global problem, the challenge in Africa is particularly daunting. Africa has the youngest population in the world. Countries such as Niger, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique have a median age for their population of below 18 years, and the reduction in infant mortality coupled with slowing but still high fertility rates has translated into a significant “youth bulge” across the continent. It is estimated that about 10-12 million people in the continent are joining the labour force each year, a figure projected to rise further in the next decade. This potentially entails enormous economic benefits. Yet, translating this “youth bulge” into a “demographic dividend” critically depends on the capacity to generate productive jobs.

Future labour market situations hinge on initial experiences, including the ability to access the labour market, and on the skills and competencies acquired and continually updated through life-long education and training. A cohort of youth excluded from the labour market can negatively impact many spheres of society, making strategies for youth employment a central piece of sustainable development. Promoting youth capacity building and labour force participation with decent jobs, as well as swift school-to-work transitions remain crucial.

Decent work and economic growth in numbers

Globally, labour productivity has been on the up and unemployment has decreased. However, we need to make more progress to increase employment opportunities, especially for young people. Informal employment and labour market inequality must be reduced, particularly the gender pay gap. To ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth, we also need to promote safe and secure working environments and improve access to financial services.

For least developed countries, the real gross domestics product (GDP) per capita fell sharply from 5.7 per cent in 2005–2009 to 2.3 per cent in 2010–2016. That is only one third of the SDG 8 target of 7 per cent annual growth.

Labour productivity measures how much economic output an average employee produces. At the global level, productivity grew by 2.1 per cent in 2017. This is the fastest growth registered since 2010.

Globally, 61 per cent or nearly two in every three workers were engaged in informal employment in 2016. Excluding the agricultural sector, 51 per cent of all workers fell into this employment category.

Data from 45 countries suggest that women still earn less than men: in 89 per cent of these countries, the hourly wages of men are, on average, 12.5 per cent higher than those of women.

The global unemployment rate in 2017 was 5.6 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent in 2000. Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, with the global youth unemployment rate at 13 per cent in 2017.

Worldwide, 152 million children between 5 and 17 years are victims of child labour; almost half of them (73 million) work in hazardous child labour.

For more information:

Sustainable Development Goal 8

Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018

Standardization of geographical names – why does it matter?

In today’s digital world, standardized geographical names are vital. They help us find our way in society and they also help us organize the world we live in. They also play a key role in our efforts to achieve sustainable development, providing fundamental channels of communication, facilitating cooperation among local, national and international organizations. We also need standardized geographical names in emergency situations. Without them, it can be challenging to respond to crises.

This month, the “new” United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) will convene  for its 2019 Session from 29 April to 3 May 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York. The session, organized by UN DESA’s Statistics Division, brings together over 150 experts from national naming authorities and academia to discuss strategies and methodologies by which the standardization of geographical names throughout the world can be advanced for the benefit of all citizens, Governments and non-governmental organizations.

The Session aims to increase awareness of geographical names standardization, share the benefits that names provide to the daily functions in national economies and highlight its role as an enabler in preserving cultural heritage. It is hoped that delegates will be further empowered to strengthen their efforts to collect, manage and disseminate geographical names and forge partnerships and alliances to advance geographical names standardization.

The Group of Experts has had a robust work programme spanning over 50 years, 30 sessions and 11 conferences and many significant milestones. In November 2017, the group was dismantled and recreated with the same name and new working methods. The 2019 session therefore heralds the first session of the new body, with a new agenda and over 90 papers for information and discussion, covering topics such as toponymic training, place names supporting sustainable development, toponymic data files and gazetteers, romanization systems, exonyms, geographical names as cultural heritage, and toponymic guidelines for map and other editors for international use.  In keeping with its new standing the group will be formally launching its new website and a prototype of the world geographical names database web GIS application.

The week’s activities include, special presentations, side events featuring working group and divisional meetings, an orientation session for new attendees and special workshops on “Linked Data Developments” and “The Unanswered Questions Relation to Indigenous Toponymy”.

The meetings will be streamed live via UN Web TV.

For more information:
United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN)

 

Empowering women to achieve the global goals

by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

If you wonder why gender equality is so important, just try to think of any part of the world, or even any business, where it’s possible to say that we’ve already achieved it. Whether you consider equal pay for women when they do the same job as a man; a balanced group of decision makers bringing their experience to bear on an issue in boardrooms or parliaments; or women’s full engagement in peace processes; in every case there are gaps that are holding us back from achieving the 2030 Agenda vision of an end to poverty and a peaceful, sustainable world. Those gaps are the spaces where women – and girls – are missing.

These days we’re also seeing mass gatherings of women and girls mobilizing to make their voices heard, in the global marches and online movements such as #MeToo, TimesUp, NiUnaMenos and #TotalShutdown that continue to grow around the world. Most recently, striking schoolchildren in several countries across Europe and elsewhere have been calling out for climate justice and action by policy makers. Their vibrant impatience is the hallmark of new generations of young activists whose engagement is a critical part of the road to 2030.

They are right to be impatient: progress has been made but it’s still too slow. Despite advances in girls’ enrolment in primary education, 15 million girls of primary-school age are not getting the chance to learn to read or write compared to about 10 million boys. Every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18.  Violence against women and girls remains a global pandemic, with one in three women and girls experiencing physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Today, women hold 24 per cent of parliamentary seats globally – still only half way to parity – and the global gender pay gap stands at 23 per cent.

A good education can boost quality of life and open doors to decent work opportunities. It can give women and girls the life skills they need in order to know and claim their rights, to stand up against discrimination and violence, to become fully engaged citizens and to make decisions about their health care, including their sexual and reproductive health. It also benefits children, families and societies more broadly through poverty reduction and enhanced economic growth.

We need men and women working side by side to dismantle the barriers to gender equality. One of the biggest problems is the unequal division of household work to care for the home and family members. Women spend on average 18 per cent of their day on this unpaid work, versus 7 per cent for men. In some countries that gap is much wider. Whether it is a young girl who is pulled out of school to fetch water or a woman who works full-time and then comes home to a “second shift”, when men step up and do their fair share, women are enabled to pursue paid employment, leadership and leisure activities.

Governments and private sector leaders can play a critical role in making these choices easier, by implementing policies that support paid parental leave, affordable child care and flexible work arrangements. We can also do a great deal to change mindsets through working with partners on changing the stereotypes of men and women that appear in advertising, marketing and many forms of media and entertainment. Something as simple as changing the numbers of women who are depicted in advertising as professionals, rather than only as carers, can make an important contribution to changing what we regard as normal – and to shape a more ambitious future.

Sport can also be one of the great drivers of gender equality by teaching women and girls the values of teamwork, self-reliance and resilience. It can provide girls with social connections and a refuge from violence in their homes and communities, and help them to understand their bodies and build confidence and the ability to speak up. This is particularly important during adolescence, when many girls abandon sport, whether under pressure to conform to traditionally “feminine” stereotypes, or because of early motherhood faced by young women like Dayane Santos in Brazil, whose life was turned around by the ‘One Win Leads to Another’ programme. Similar pressures to conform to pre-set educational stereotypes can stifle girls’ engagement in the learning they need to equip them for the future.

We need to ensure that women and girls are learning the right skills for the changing world of work. Rapid technological and digital advances, including automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are leading to a loss of jobs, and raising the potential for heightened inequality, especially gender inequality. Collaborative initiatives like the African Girls Can CODE programme are combatting this challenges and building equality, through equipping participants like 15-year-old Eno Ekanem, from Abuja, Nigeria with the digital literacy and personal development skills they need to pursue education and careers in ICT and coding.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisages for us a world where no one is left behind, where every woman, man, girl and boy is able to live up to their full potential. Eno and Dayane show us just how important equality is to bringing lasting change, and how those changes go hand in hand with improvements for us all.

Leaving no one behind on World Water Day

Despite the progress of recent decades, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive.

Just four years into the 2030 Agenda, the world is already off-track to meet SDG 6: to ensure water and sanitation for all by 2030. Demand is rising, pollution is worsening, funding is lacking and governance is often weak.

Already-marginalized groups are being disproportionately affected by this water crisis. Women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need.

‘Leaving no one behind’ is the theme of World Water Day on 22 March 2019 and the United Nations World Water Development Report launched on 19 March.

The campaign and report shine a light on the grounds for discrimination that deny so many people access to safe water and sanitation, such as gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, and economic and social status.

To ‘leave no one behind’, water services must meet the needs of marginalized groups and their voices must be heard in decision-making processes. Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognise the right to water for all people, and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most. These are all critical action points in the UN’s Water Action Decade, which continues until March 2028.

‘Water for all’ is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda. We have to act urgently, leaving no one behind.

Key events:

World Water Day pivot event – launch of UN World Water Development Report
Venue: Palais des Nations, Geneva
Date: 19 March 2019
Time: 16:00-17:30

‘Water in Armed Conflict’ – panel discussion
Venue: International Peace Institute, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York City
Date: 22 March 2019
Time: 10:00-12:30

Gender equality and women’s empowerment in numbers

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is the key to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite progress, gender inequality continues to hold women and girls back and deprive them of basic rights and opportunities.

The practice of child marriage has been declining in the last decade, with the proportion of women who were married in childhood decreasing from one in four to approximately one in five. Child marriage is a violation of human rights that often leads to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation, especially for girls.

One in five girls and women (aged 15 to 49) who have ever been married or in union experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the last 12 months, based on data from 87 countries.

On average, women spend approximately three times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men, and significantly more if they have children.

Around 2017, one in three girls aged 15 to 19 had been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated, down from one in two around the year 2000. Some countries are making rapid progress. FGM is a human right violation affecting girls and women worldwide. It may lead to severe pain, excessive breathing, infections (including HIV), infertility, complications during childbirth and even death.

Globally, the percentage of women in single or lower houses of national parliament increased from 19 per cent in 2010 to around 23 per cent in 2018. Slow progress indicates the need for stronger political will and more ambitious measures.

Women occupy less than one third of senior- and middle-management positions in majority of the 67 countries with data.

International Day highlights forests’ role in education for sustainable development

Throughout human history, forests and trees have been connected to learning, wisdom and enlightenment.  Forests and trees have served as outdoor classrooms, providing healthy learning-locations for outdoor-education and fostering environmental stewardship in children from an early age.

Forests are among the world’s most productive renewable natural resources, providing sustainable paths to development as a key driver of economic growth while providing livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people, particularly in rural areas. Education is a key enabler for sustainable development, and for the sustainable management of forests. Learning about forests, and their sustainable management is not just good for the environment, it is the foundation for sustainable livelihood and communities.

In recognition of these important interlinkages between forests and education, the central theme of the 2019 International Day of Forests is “Forests and education.”  The International Day of Forests is observed annually on 21 March, provides a global platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees.

This year, UN DESA’s United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat will organize a special event in celebration of the International Day of Forests on 21 March at UNHQ in New York, which will highlight how forests and education are essential for creating a sustainable future for all. The event will be held in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 10 am to 1 pm, and will feature remarks by senior UN and government officials, a panel discussion and a general discussion by Member States and UN entities.

The International Day of Forests was established by the UN General Assembly in 2012.  Activities held around the world range from scientific conferences and workshops, to art exhibits, tree-planting and community-level events. The theme of the International Day reflects the multi-faceted values of forests, highlighting how forests enrich our daily lives and support global sustainability.

For more information: International Day of Forests

Recognizing the role of migration in achieving the global goals

Today, 258 million people are international migrants, living outside their country of birth. They make important contributions to both their host and home countries. For example, in 2017 alone, they sent an estimated $466 billion in remittances to low- and middle-income countries. International migration makes a critical contribution to sustainable development by raising the productivity of migrant workers and thus increasing the global economic output. In many situations, it also helps to narrow inequalities, reduce vulnerabilities and alleviate the demographic impact of population ageing.

On the heels of the recent intergovernmental conference in Marrakech last December, the Population Division of UN DESA will convene researchers and other experts for a one-day symposium on 26 February 2019, to review evidence on interrelations between international migration and development.

Taking place at UN Headquarters in New York, the symposium is being organized in lieu of the annual coordination meeting on international migration, in close coordination with the Office of the President of the General Assembly, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Network on Migration.

The symposium will highlight opportunities for addressing issues related to migration and development during the high-level political forum on sustainable development taking place in July and September 2019, as well as ways and means of improving the collection and use of migration data in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. It will also promote the sharing of information on recent initiatives on international migration and development.

By bringing together experts on international migration from the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, national governments, civil society, academia and the private sector, the expert symposium will offer an opportunity to advance the global discussion and to share practical information about ongoing and anticipated activities on migration and related topics. The event also aims at exploring ways to strengthen the evidence base on international migration, which is crucial for developing and implementing sound policies, dispelling myths and countering xenophobia.

The expert symposium will contribute to the High-Level Debate on International Migration and Development to be convened by the President of the General Assembly on Wednesday, 27 February 2019, which will focus on the role of migration in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be reviewed by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2019. On 28 February 2019, IOM will hold this year’s first session of the International Dialogue on Migration under the theme “Youth and migration: Engaging youth as key partners in migration governance”, bringing the voices of young migrants and agents of change into the global debate on migration.

Photo courtesy of IOM

For more information: Expert Symposium on International Migration and Development

Hooked on carbon – how can we break the habit?

UN DESA’s latest World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report could not be any clearer: the global transition to cleaner energy is not happening fast enough.

After three years of remaining flat, energy-related carbon emissions picked up again in 2017, reaching a new historic high, and preliminary evidence suggests that this worrisome record will be crushed again for 2018. This increase in emissions coincides with robust growth in global GDP – a sure sign that, despite progress on renewable energy sources, the world economy is still very much carbon-dependent.

This spells trouble not only for the climate and the environment, but for every aspect of our lives, including the global economy. The 2019 WESP report warns that climate change, which used to be a long-term economic risk, has now become a very real and direct threat to economic activity and to the livelihoods of millions of people.

According to Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE, the number of weather-related loss events has more than tripled since the 1980s, and 2017 ranked among the top five years with most natural catastrophes. That same year, natural events caused losses estimated at a whopping $335 billion and, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, displaced 18 million people in 135 countries. Extreme weather continued in 2018, leaving more than 10,000 deaths in its wake.

Things are likely to get worse, warns the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, unless we reduce our carbon pollution by 45 per cent by 2030 and bring it down to ‘net zero’ by 2050. We can only achieve such dramatic reductions if we decouple our economic growth from carbon emissions or, in other words, if we end our economy’s addiction to fossil fuels.

One way to facilitate the required technological and economic transformation is to put a price on carbon pollution. This can be achieved through measures such as emissions taxes or emissions rights trading mechanisms. Fair and equitable carbon pricing would create an incentive for developing innovative low-carbon technologies and generate an additional source of revenue. Governments could redistribute that revenue as social transfers to ease the transition to the low-carbon economy.

Carbon pricing could also help to pay for low-emissions technology and infrastructure and incentivize natural climate solutions, such as reforestation, land-use change and other ecosystem-based approaches. These measures could accelerate efforts towards economic diversification in countries that remain highly reliant on fossil-fuel production.

To learn more about the effects of climate change and its policy challenges, read the February issue of UN DESA’s World Economic Situation and Prospects Monthly Briefing. Every month, the WESP Monthly Briefing brings you the latest and most relevant information on global economy. Stay tuned!

Follow our efforts for the SDGs in 2019!

As 2018 came full circle, we look back at yet another busy year, where pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been front and center of our efforts.

We’ve gathered young people, civil society, businesses as well as innovators from around the world to share ideas and solutions to help make the global goals a reality on the ground. At the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the world honed in on goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 and 46 nations presented their efforts to realize the goals.

To tackle the global water crisis and make a difference for the 4.5 billion people who currently lack safely managed sanitation services, a decade for action was launched in connection with World Water Day.

Seeking innovative solutions to secure funding for the goals was also high on the agenda, and in addition to the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development, the Secretary-General convened the High-level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development during the UN High-level week.

The latest data on SDGs progress was also released during the year, showcasing where we’re making progress and where we need to step up efforts. The Second UN World Data Forum was also held, bringing together data experts to collaborate on tackling data gaps and challenges, launching new initiatives and identifying mechanisms to increase financing and support for better data for sustainable development.

Throughout the year, UN DESA has also kept a close eye on global economy trends, issuing its flagship report the World Economic Situation and Prospects, as well as monthly briefings with continuous updates. The department also took a stand for climate action at COP24.

The year concluded with the launch of the first-ever report on persons with disabilities and the SDGs, followed by the adoption of a milestone compact – the Marrakesh Compact – to ensure the safety and dignity for the 258 million international migrants in the world.

Continue following our efforts in 2019 via our website, via Twitter and Facebook. To get a snapshot of our upcoming efforts for the global goals in 2019, check out this highlight article.

Giving NGOs a voice at the UN

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) will hold its 2019 regular session from 21 to 30 January 2019. One of the Committee’s main tasks is to review applications for consultative status by NGOs and to recommend granting status to them. The final decision on the granting of status is taken by the Economic and Social Council, to which the Committee on NGOs reports.

Recognizing the crucial role of civil society in elaborating and implementing development policies, the consultative status allows non-governmental organizations to take part in a high number of UN meetings: those of the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies, such as the Commission on Social Policy and Development, the Commission on the Status of Women or the Population Commission, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Human Rights Council and other UN processes and events opened to civil society.

At its coming session, the Committee will consider 288 new applications for consultative status and 233 applications deferred from previous sessions. It will also review the quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs, an obligation for those in status to inform on their activities and contribution to the UN’s work. The Committee meets for eight working days in January and seven additional days in May. Its increased workload over the recent years testifies to the strong interest by civil society actors to engage with the UN in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other major endeavors of the organization.

For more information: The Committee on NGOs

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