– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly
8 February 2021
I would like to commend her H.E, Ms. María del Carmen Squeff, Chair of the 59th Commission for Social Development and Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations.
I thank you for the opportunity to address you today. As the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to threaten development gains globally, any discussion on social development is a welcome one.
Social policy has a key role to play in mitigating and overcoming the negative impacts of COVID-19, in particular the impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. Special attention must be made to reach all people, however remote, however disadvantaged. The specific needs of people who have been hit the hardest during the crisis must be taken into account and reflected in recovery planning.
Allow me to be frank: we face the largest setback in socio-economic development since the Second World War. Decades of gains and untold resources are at risk of being wiped away if we do not act.
This is unacceptable. 2020 was supposed to be the year we kicked off the ‘Decade of Action’ to accelerate Agenda 2030. Instead we stand at the precipice of disaster. Forgive me for sounding dramatic, but if not now, when?
When millions are relegated to poverty?
When women’s rights have been eroded and children are unable to access school?
When famine and tragedy are once again filling our screens?
There is no time like the present for us to act with the urgency that the situation has bequeathed us.
The COVID-19 pandemic, for all its tragedies, has unlocked incredible resources and political will. So, there is an opportunity here to change our development trajectory, to be truly transformational.
Doing so requires that we align recovery efforts with the SDGs. These 17 Goals, and their myriad of concrete targets, offer a clear blueprint to a sustainable, resilient world, if we are willing to make a truly forward-looking effort to recover better.
This will not be easy. We need to have a new social contract that prioritizes addressing the root causes of inequality and vulnerability. Key to this is prioritizing equal opportunities and using recovery to close the gaps we see across the SDGs.
This includes expanding access to education and working with partners to ensure that education curriculums reflect the modern world, including new technologies.
It means investing in the infrastructure and partnerships that investors and governments need to move into the world of tomorrow.
And it means closing the digital divide and helping ensure that all people stand to benefit from the innovations we see happening around us.
On each of these points, I am encouraged that the UN Development System continues to support countries in need and are prioritizing the alignment of national and local development plans with COVID-19 recovery and the SDGs.
Before closing, allow me to emphasize that our recovery – in whatever shape it takes – must continue to be people-centered. Social policy has a key role to play in mitigating and overcoming the negative impacts of COVID-19, in particular the impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. Special attention must be made to reach all people, however remote, however disadvantaged. The specific needs of people who have been hit the hardest during the crisis must be taken into account and reflected in recovery planning.
The Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action put people at the center of development and remains as relevant today as ever. As countries face the social and economic fallouts of the COVID-19 crisis there is a need for visionary action, for solidarity, for multilateral cooperation, and above all else, for transformation. The challenges we face today – from COVID-19 to climate to inequality – all go hand-in-hand. Our efforts must be equally as reinforcing if we are to overcome them.
Now is not the time for hesitancy.
So, I thank you very much and I am happy to address you in this important meeting.