Countries Must Move Faster, at Greater Scale to End Poverty, Address Climate Change by 2030, Deputy Secretary-General Says at General Assembly Event

21 September 2017

Countries Must Move Faster, at Greater Scale to End Poverty, Address Climate Change by 2030, Deputy Secretary-General Says at General Assembly Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the General Assembly side event “The Sustainable Development Goals in Action: Country-Owned, Country Led”, in New York today.

I am pleased to join you today.

National ownership and leadership are the keys that will unlock the Sustainable Development Goals.  Two years have passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  Since then, there has been very promising momentum around the world.  Member States are taking vigorous action to implement our Sustainable Development Goals.

We saw this most recently here at the United Nations, when 43 countries — twice the number of 2016 — presented their voluntary national reviews at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  The list of countries for next year’s voluntary review process has already reached its maximum of 44.

To me, this is an unmistakable signal of commitment by Governments.  They are walking the talk in terms of national coordination, resource mobilization and budget allocation, and engaging parliaments and local authorities.  And, in many countries, Heads of State and Government are personally leading the charge.  Excellencies Barrow and Atambayev, you are a case in point. 

Of course, country-led action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals extends beyond Governments.  It is also being carried by a multitude of engaged national actors.  It is great to see an increasing number of businesses, non-governmental organizations and the scientific community engaging in Sustainable Development Goal implementation.

At the High-Level Political Forum, which attracted over 5,000 participants this year, I was pleased to see so many informed and enthusiastic actors.  The United Nations development system, too, has shown its firm commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda.

First, by continuing to provide strong country-level support.  To date, 114 Governments have requested support from United Nations country teams on Sustainable Development Goal implementation.  Second, in contributing to the general thinking on how the system needs to be retooled to be fit to deliver on the complex and transformative 2030 Agenda.  This is a priority for the Secretary-General and myself.  We are still in the early stages of this journey.  The way ahead is complex and requires action to be taken to a different scale.

As I have said before, we have hit the Sustainable Development Goals walking — not yet running — and we need to pick up the pace.  Inequalities remain significant, both within and among countries.  Children and youth, women and girls, indigenous groups, older people, rural workers, people with disabilities, migrants and people affected by conflict remain vulnerable, deprived of their rights and opportunities.

They must be empowered and experience the improvements embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals if we are to be true to our commitment to leave no one behind.  To eradicate poverty, address climate change and build peaceful and inclusive societies for all by 2030, countries, with Governments at the helm, must drive Sustainable Development Goal implementation at a much faster rate and at much larger scale.

The latest data show that extreme poverty is down to 11 per cent, but this translates to an estimated 767 million people still living with severe deprivation.  The environment continues to bear the brunt of humanity’s actions, leaving more than 2 billion people to confront water stress and 9 out of 10 city dwellers breathing polluted air.  And there has been a significant increase in violent deaths in recent years, despite a decline in homicides and better access to justice for more citizens around the world.

The 2030 Agenda includes many entry points for promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies.  But it is not just about Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.  We need the full set of Sustainable Development Goals — implemented in an integrated and comprehensive manner — to enable countries to reduce inequalities, create jobs, improve natural resource management, empower women and youth, and fight climate change.

Sustainable and inclusive development is our best form of preventing violent conflict and sustaining peace.  This is reflected in the Secretary-General’s prioritization of prevention across the work of the entire organization.  Increasing focus on the poorest, most vulnerable, furthest behind and hardest to reach is critical.

We need to emphasize data to identify those being left behind.  And we need to monitor progress through disaggregated data, by building the capacity of national statistical systems and by improving data availability.  We know what a strong multiplier effect the empowerment of women and girls has for the whole 2030 Agenda.

Currently, gender inequality is deeply entrenched.  We see it in the slow progress in women’s representation in public and private spheres.  We see it as well in the violence women and girls face, most often with impunity, in all societies.  Therefore, we must reinvigorate our efforts to advance gender equality.

The financing requirements for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals are considerable.  Development banks have significant potential to scale up their contributions to sustainable development financing.  Countries must meet their official development assistance commitments.  We need to leverage South-South cooperation.

But public finance alone is not sufficient.  All sources of domestic financing need to be leveraged in service of the Agenda.  We need to partner with the private sector to ensure that all financing and investment becomes sustainable and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals.  A growing number of businesses are considering social and environmental factors in their investment decisions.  But here again, we need to go to scale.

A key message is that progress will only be achieved through genuine and meaningful partnerships.  Bringing stakeholders together is a critical role the United Nations plays in support of countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

But the United Nations too must change to remain an effective, cohesive, accountable and responsive partner.  Our bold agenda requires equally bold changes to the United Nations development system.  The United Nations has a proud record of generating ideas and solutions to improve the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable.  Yet, the current model of the United Nations development system is insufficient to match the ambition of the new agenda.

In June, the Secretary-General put forward 38 concrete ideas and actions to reposition the United Nations development system to deliver the integrated support needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  In the coming months, we will continue to confer with Member States and the United Nations development system on changes needed to meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda is the international community’s best tool for a more prosperous and peaceful world.  It is more than a dream.  It is a dream with targets and deadlines. 

We are all accountable — Governments to their people; the United Nations to the countries and communities we serve.  We are here to support nationally-led action.  Today, let us renew our collective promise to deliver a future of peace, dignity, prosperity and opportunity for all.

For information media. Not an official record.