First Formal Meeting of Independent Group of Scientists of the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023

Dear Colleagues,

My congratulations to each of you on your appointment to the Independent Group of Scientists by the Secretary-General. 

It is a pleasure to be with you today as you begin your work on the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report.


Each of you comes to this group with impressive credentials. You are all knowledge leaders. You come here from different backgrounds, scientific disciplines and institutions. You are women and men from all across the world. 

But you are also united in being committed to pooling your knowledge and experience to shape a better future for all. 

Science, and actions grounded in evidence, are indispensable for:

  • eradicating poverty, 
  • ending hunger, 
  • tackling climate change, 
  • reversing biodiversity loss and 
  • reducing inequality. 

Science is key to accelerating progress across the Sustainable Development Goals, and for recovering from challenges such as this pandemic.


The importance of science was recognized by the United Nations in 2016. They called for this Report to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The 2019 GSDR did just this – it communicated the latest scientific thinking about sustainable development to Member States. It motivated practical, science-based action by all stakeholders towards the SDGs. And it informed the political declaration of the SDG Summit, calling for a Decade of Action and Delivery as we move toward 2030.  


These are unprecedented times. Progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been upended by COVID-19. We are facing dire outcomes. 

Over 100 million more people could be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, causing the first increase in global poverty in more than 20 years.

Acute food insecurity could double.

As GDP contracts, trillions of dollars of income are being lost for workers, especially in informal sectors.

Yes, there has been some alleviation of pressures on the environment in the past months. Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop in 2020, and air quality has improved. But this is temporary unless we see systemic shifts toward investment in low-carbon infrastructure and green jobs.

Through COVID-19 responses, there is an opportunity to align actions to a more sustainable trajectory. Indeed, there is an opportunity to set in motion the transformations called for in the 2019 GSDR, that would move us closer to achieving the 2030 Agenda.  The response and recovery must be green, inclusive and establish resilience. 

The 2023 GSDR can speak to these and outline the way forward.

Your voice will be crucial here, assuring that actions are grounded in the latest science and evidence.

Looking ahead, the 2023 GSDR can also be a tool for strengthening the science-policy-society interface. It is critical that we are prepared and equipped with knowledge to meet the challenges of the future.


UN DESA is privileged to lead the UN Task Team for the Global Sustainable Development Report. I know we have some of our Task Team partners from sister UN agencies here on the call with us, and you will hear from them next. 
I know I speak for the Task Team as a whole, when I say that we stand ready to assist you over the next three years as you carry out your work on the 2023 GSDR. 

I wish you all success.

Thank you.

File date: 
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mr. Liu