The international community is counting down to a historic moment on 25 September. Over 150 world leaders will then gather for the UN Summit on Sustainable Development at UN Headquarters in New York to commit to 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that aim to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change in the next 15 years. Leading up to this major event, the efforts of UN DESA have played a key role.
Following what is expected to be a spectacular opening ceremony in the UN General Assembly Hall, UN Member States will officially adopt the new universal, transformative and people-centered 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. With 17 sustainable development goals at its core, the new agenda calls for action in five areas of critical importance: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.
“The biggest strength of these goals is that it’s been the product of unprecedented engagement in the United Nations,” explained Nikhil Seth, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), ahead of the summit.
“Everybody is committed to these goals – governments are committed, civil society is committed, academia is committed, the private sector is committed – everyone owns these sustainable development goals,” Mr. Seth stressed, also describing how universality is one of their main characteristics.
At the same time, he underscored that we will all have a role to play for their successful implementation. “And that’s going to be the real challenge,” he noted, describing the task of converting this agreement into “reality which benefits the welfare of people everywhere.”
Mr. Seth also emphasized the importance of long-term perspectives in implementing the agenda, as well as the need to prepare for possible global crises along the way “so that we do not throw these goals off the path for the betterment of the lives of everyone by 2030.”
He moreover described the significant role played by the department, which has eventually led to this moment, where we have 17 SDGs ready for adoption.
“UN DESA has a profound, substantive and logistical role in the summit,” he said, sharing how the new agenda has been developed with the substantive inputs from the department and how UN DESA has also led the coordination efforts within the entire UN system.
“It’s been a long commitment,” Mr. Seth said, also explaining how “Rio+20 sowed the seeds of the success” of this summit, as it laid the groundwork for this new agenda. “But perseverance pays, and that’s the first lesson I have found in this experience,” he said. He also talked about the importance of leadership and democratic engagement and how this has “made a big difference to the flavor, the outcome, and the inclusiveness of this process.”
The fact that the SDGs have stemmed from what has been described by many as the most inclusive consultative process in UN history, will most likely also play a major role for the successful implementation of this new agenda, as the international community following this summit, will strive to turn global action into local results, benefitting people and planet.