Press Remarks - Launch The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is my pleasure to be with you as we launch The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021. 

The world is at a critical moment in its pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This report uses the latest available data and estimates to reveal the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s lives and livelihoods, and on the SDGs. It also points out areas that require our urgent and coordinated action. 

The pandemic has halted, or reversed, years, or even decades of development progress. Global extreme poverty rose for the first time since 1998. In 2020, more than100 million people were pushed back into extreme poverty and chronic hunger. An estimated 8.8 per cent of total working hours were lost – an equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs.  And disruptions to essential health services has threatened years of progress in:

  • improving maternal and child health, 
  • increasing immunization coverage, and 
  • reducing communicable and non-communicable diseases. 

The poorest and most vulnerable continue to be at greater risk of becoming infected by the virus, and have borne the brunt of the economic fallout. Vaccine distribution has vast inequities. As of 17 June last month, around 68 vaccines were administered for every 100 people in Europe and Northern America, compared with fewer than 2 in sub-Saharan Africa.  Millions of children risk never returning to school, and are forced into child marriage and child labour.

Despite a pandemic-related economic slowdown, the climate crisis continues largely unabated. A temporary reduction in human activities resulted in a dip in emissions. However, concentrations of greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2020, reaching new record highs. 

This report paints a worrying picture regarding the state of the SDGs. Yet, it also highlights stories of resilience, adaptability and innovation during the crisis, which indicate a brighter future is possible.  There has been:

  • immense community resilience, 
  • rapid expansion of social protection, 
  • the acceleration of digital transformation, and 
  • a unique collaboration to develop life-saving vaccines and treatments in record time.  

Our collective response over the coming 18 months, will determine whether the COVID-19 crisis serves as a much-needed wake-up call.  The global community, first and foremost, needs to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. This is a critical step that can truly spur a decade of action. 

Transformational changes are needed, and the SDGs provide the road map. To address the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic, structural transformations are required, including:

  • significantly strengthening social protection systems and public services; 
  • increasing investments in science, technology and innovation; 
  • strengthening the financial position of developing countries; 
  • investing in clean energy and industry, and 
  • enhancing women’s participation in decision-making.

The report also demonstrates that weaknesses in data and information systems present an added and enormous challenge to decision makers. A year into the pandemic, only about 60 countries had data on COVID-19 infection and death rates, that could be disaggregated by age and sex, and that were publicly accessible. Timely and high-quality data are more essential than ever before. Decision makers should treat data as a strategic asset, and a priority in building back better. Increased data financing from both international and domestic resources, is essential.

We are at a critical juncture in human history. The decisions we make and actions we take today will have momentous consequences for future generations. Lessons learned from the pandemic will help us rise to current and future challenges. Let us seize the moment to make this a decade of action, transformation and restoration to achieve the SDGs, and make good on the Paris Climate Agreement.

I thank you. 

File date: 
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Mr. Liu