The ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will have no real impact unless each and every global citizen make a conscious decision to change their daily habits, from the clothes they wear to the food they eat, Michelle Yeoh, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador, said today, setting the tone for the opening day of the ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
“We cannot continue as usual,” the award-winning Malaysian-born film star said, focusing her keynote speech to Member State ministers, senior officials and representatives on the vast amounts of water required to make everyday consumer products. Putting a spotlight on the fashion and garment industry, she said more than 10,000 litres of water, on average, are needed to produce 1 kilogram of cotton — just enough to make a pair of jeans, she said, adding that overconsumption runs rampant in the fast-growing fashion industry, causing major damage to the environment.
“Think of the positive impact that 6 billion people could have by changing their habits and making the right choices,” she told the Forum, which meets every July at Headquarters to take stock of worldwide progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. [Later in the day, Ms. Yeoh presented a short video, Made in Forests, about the impact of fashion on the planet.]
Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, above all, the Forum is an opportunity to respond to two central questions: Are we on track to deliver the Goals, and what can we do better? Calling for deeper and wider involvement of various stakeholders, she said the United Nations will continue to work at multiple levels to ensure the alignment of policies and business practices with the core aims of the 2030 Agenda.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said achieving sustainable development requires a generation that knows about, cares about and takes ownership of the global development agenda. “Young people will be the ones leading this Agenda in the years to come. In fact, in many places, they already are,” she said, emphasizing the need to tap into the dynamism of young innovators, activists, entrepreneurs and advocates who have the potential to disrupt the status quo and be a strong force for positive change.
Marie Chatardová (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, reviewed the many discussions the Forum conducted last week, during which speakers agreed that the tempo for meeting the 2030 deadline is not fast enough. “We must engage the whole of society in our efforts,” she said, underscoring the importance of engaging major groups and stakeholders, including the business sector and leaders in the world of science, technology and innovation.
Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said that although, “in many ways, the world is a better place today than it was before”, the gains made against poverty have not benefited everyone. Voicing concern that not enough money is being earmarked for the Goals, he said it is essential to be more creative and proactive to harness and mobilize funding. Stronger conflict prevention and justice will also help create the conditions to strive, he said, calling also for doors to be opened wide to young people, as well.
Following the opening session, the Council heard voluntary national reviews from Ecuador, Kiribati, Lithuania, Mali, Guinea, Greece, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Benin, Cabo Verde, Slovakia, Bahrain, Colombia and Viet Nam, during which countries detailed their progress and challenges in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
In the afternoon, the Council took up the Secretary-General’s reports on “From global to local: supporting sustainable and resilient societies in urban and rural communities” and “Harnessing new technologies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, as presented by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. It also received reports from the ministerial chairs of the Regional Forums on Sustainable Development: Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Health of Lebanon; Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba; Levan Davitashvili, Minister for Agriculture of Georgia; Mame Thierno Dieng, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal; and Michael Gerber, Ambassador and Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
Jose Antonio Ocampo, Chairperson of the Committee for Development Policy, noted the Committee’s work, saying that the 2030 Agenda’s pledge to “leave no one behind” required addressing extreme inequalities and the concentration of income, wealth and political power at the top. He cautioned, as well, that, while technology has great potential to advance inclusive development it can also be at the root of national and international exclusion and inequality. “Leaving no one behind” will require shifting development cooperation to a more comprehensive and representative framework that integrates new and traditional providers, he added.
A general debate also took place, which included statements from high-level officials and representatives of Palau (on behalf of the the Pacific Small Island Development States), Paraguay (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Egypt (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Bangladesh (on behalf of the Least Developed Countries), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Kenya, El Salvador (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Guatemala (on behalf of the Like-Minded Countries Supporters of Middle Income Countries), Mexico (on behalf of the United Nations Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Core Group), Indonesia (speaking also on behalf of Mexico, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia), Luxembourg (on behalf of the Group of Friends on Children and Sustainable Development Goals), Peru (on behalf of the Group of Friends for Disaster Risk Reduction), Albania, Romania, Mongolia, Ecuador, Canada, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as the European Union.
The High-Level Political Forum will meet again at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 July, to continue its work.
MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the high-level segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is meeting after a week of intense discussions on sustainable and resilient societies and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. “We all agreed that the time for action is now,” she said, stressing that progress is not going fast enough to realize the Goals by 2030. Reviewing a number of challenges, she said that, while extreme poverty is a third of its 1990 value, 10.9 per cent of the world’s population live below the poverty line. There are also more undernourished people today than in 2016. From last week’s debates, it is evident that major disparities in achievements exist, both within and between countries, with least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States lagging in achieving almost all targets, and middle-income countries facing their own challenges. At the same time, however, new ways of making policies are taking root in such areas as energy, cities, sustainable consumption and production and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Emphasizing the need to maintain the same level of energy in the 12 years ahead, she said Heads of State and Government should reaffirm their commitment to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development next year when the Forum meets under the auspices of the General Assembly.
“We must engage the whole of society in our efforts,” she said, underscoring the importance of engaging major groups and stakeholders, including the business sector and leaders in the world of science, technology and innovation. Much could be learned from the voluntary national reviews to be presented this week by 46 Member States setting out how they are implementing the 2030 Agenda. A strong message from those reports is that the 2030 Agenda, while enjoying support at high levels of Government, must be promoted in local contexts, alongside a strengthening of the institutional capacities of all key stakeholders. Other challenges include strengthening the role of evidence-based statistics and policy making, stronger public institutions for mitigating climate change and disaster impact, and enhancing productive capacity to develop economic resilience. A high‑level segment of the Council on Thursday will include a discussion on long‑term projections and scenarios on advancing sustainable development and leveraging new technologies for the Goals, she said.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said there is cause for celebration, and “in many ways, the world is a better place today than it was before”. Fewer children are forced to work, more are in school, electricity is spreading, and the international community has made an ambitious push to work together to address its huge challenges. However, the gains made against poverty have not benefited everyone. While some have access to world‑class doctors, others are dying from preventable and curable disease. One in six people still lack safe drinking water. Many women and girls remain excluded or oppressed. Millions of people still remain without electricity. Meanwhile, the planet is quite literally melting, he said.
Three years ago, the international community came together and made the 2030 Agenda universal, he said. Instead of weak ideals, the world set itself clear goals. “We are here to review how well we are doing,” he said, adding that Member States are meeting at a time of great opportunity. The 2030 Agenda and its goals focus on “how we consume, produce, live and work together”. He pointed to a few areas in need of urgent attention. “There is no clearer way to say this: we do not have enough money to meet our goals,” he continued. It is essential to be more creative and proactive to harness and mobilize funding. Stronger conflict prevention and justice will also help create the conditions to strive. “All systems were built by men, for men,” he said, noting the exclusion of many systems. Far more leadership and participation from women is urgently needed. “We need to open our doors much wider to young people as well,” he added.
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, above all, the Forum is an opportunity to respond to two central questions: Are we on track to deliver the Goals and what can we do better? It is already clear that the international community is seeing progress in certain areas such as addressing global unemployment and cutting the rate of forest loss. However, for the first time in a decade the number of undernourished has increased. This undermines the commitment to “leave no one behind”. Young people remain three times more likely to remain unemployed than adults. Progress on providing access to energy is not satisfactory. Reducing biodiversity loss and stopping land degradation will require additional effort. Official development assistance (ODA) pledges remain unmet.
“The clock is ticking,” she continued, adding that, to move forward at the speed required, deeper and wider involvement of various stakeholders is urgently needed. The United Nations will continue to work at the local, national, regional and international levels to ensure the alignment of policies and business practices with the core aims of the 2030 Agenda. “It means delivering support to the world’s most vulnerable countries…and expanding partnership with academia, civil society and young people,” she added. “Let us resolve to use the time available to build on lessons and take the necessary steps to demonstrate that the 2030 Agenda can change the lives of people,” she added.
JAYATHMA WICKRAMANAYAKE, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said achieving sustainable development required a generation that knows about, cares about and takes ownership of the global development agenda. “Young people will be the ones leading this Agenda in the years to come. In fact, in many places, they already are,” she said, emphasizing the need to tap into the dynamism of young innovators, activists, entrepreneurs and advocates who have the potential to disrupt the status quo and be a strong force for positive change. Investing in youth will open the door to unparalleled multiplier efforts to achieve a sustainable, peaceful, and just and equitable world. Pointing to this year’s voluntary national reviews, she said the frequency of references to youth inclusion is heartening, but there should be more detail about efforts to ensure meaningful engagement.
Presenting a set of recommendations, she urged Member States to engage young people in the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, and to bring youth delegates to the Forum, which should consider a broader and more systematic engagement with young people. She called for strong youth structures that would give young people — including young women and girls, indigenous youth and those living with disabilities — a chance to participate in the Goals’ review and follow-up processes. At the local level, that could include engaging youth representatives in municipal planning, budgeting and monitoring work. Emphasizing that investing in young people can move the needle on achieving the Goals in the space of a generation, she appealed for concerted action on creating disaggregated data that would show how the Goals are impacting young people’s lives. Without such data, she said, ideas about young people risk being made from stereotypes and overgeneralizations.
MICHELLE YEOH, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador, said that, while the 2030 Agenda is an ambitious blueprint, there will be no impact on the ground unless each and every global citizen makes a conscious choice to change habits. Governments can assist this transition by advancing policies that help citizens become more conscious about their choices. Meanwhile, businesses can support and speed up the transformation by offering products and technologies that accelerate change. “As an actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, communication is my job,” she said, underscoring the power of united voices.
“We cannot continue as usual,” she stressed. Signs of water shortages are widespread. Around 700 million people suffer from water scarcity. Water availability is also affected by pollution. Cotton covers only 3 per cent of arable land, but 24 per cent of the insecticides and 11 per cent of pesticides in the world are used to cultivate it. “Yet, while we read about water shortages and pollution in the news, we aren’t always conscious of the fact that we, as consumers, are part of the problem,” she emphasized. One way to rectify the problem is to be mindful of the water footprint of the products we buy, be it the water required to grow our food, to grow feedstock for animals for meat production, or the water required to produce the clothes we wear.
More than 10,000 litres of water, on average, are needed to produce 1 kilogram of cotton, which is just enough to make one pair of jeans, she said. “Think of the positive impact that 6 billion people could have by changing their habits and making the right choices,” she added. There are currently about 3.2 billion people in the global middle class; by 2030 that number is likely to increase to 5.4 billion. This will lead to increased consumption, further straining resources. Overconsumption runs rampant in the fashion industry, which has been growing exponentially over the years, causing major damage to the environment. “It sounds like a futile area to focus on. It is not,” she said, adding: “A sustainable society needs to have consciously dressed citizens.”
Reporting on Regional Forums
GHASSAN HASBANI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Health of Lebanon, reported that the Arab Regional Forum for Sustainable Development met in April under the theme of natural resources. Discussions examined the subject from an Arab standpoint, reaffirming regional priorities and differentiating development plans. Participants recalled that sustainable management requires greater cooperation. In that context, they considered that carrying out necessary change in the Arab world requires a reform of the job market, among other issues. They also underscored the importance of a new sustainable development architecture for sustainable consumption and setting policies to build the digital economy. Participants also called for a mechanism to establish public budgets and methods to involve the private sector. Such methods should also allow migrants and diaspora to participate. The forum also emphasized the importance of good governance and internal oversight, as well as a gender-specific approach. Involving young people was also identified as important. Further, participants called for the adoption of an innovative approach to highlight society’s often‑marginalized strata. Discussions during the three days of debate focused on the need to move such recommendations into concrete action. Moreover, they should be implemented in cooperation with the Arab League and United Nations agencies operating in the region.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ, Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba, reported on results from the forum’s second meeting held in Santiago, Chile, in April. Three questions stood out from the discussion: participation; people as the focus of actions; and the analysis of strategic advantages of each country in economic, social and environmental dimensions. It was also agreed at the meeting that the 2030 Goals should be a State policy, not affected by Government transitions. Forum members based their analysis on a report prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) secretariat, which demonstrated the need for greater cooperation because national actions are insufficient. The document also called for implementation to narrow financing, technological and trade gaps and to strengthen global financial governance and urged the United Nations system to further address the specific development needs of middle-income countries and consider variables going beyond criteria related to per capita income. The importance of South-South cooperation was also stressed as a core element of international development cooperation and as a complement to, not a substitute for, North-South cooperation. Moreover, he noted that inequality remains a prevailing feature in Latin American and Caribbean countries, including those with high economic growth. Consequently, it is necessary to increase investment in social services and expand economic opportunities. “We stand by the opinion that growth must be sustained, inclusive and equitable,” he said.
LEVAN DAVITASHVILI, Minister for Agriculture of Georgia and Co-Chair of the fifth Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, said that the forum met from 28 to 30 March to discuss the theme of “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. Throughout the meeting, Member States recognized the forum’s important role in providing a platform to share achievements and challenges, as well as the opportunities arising from the 2030 Agenda. The forum stressed the importance of inclusive, multi-stakeholder participation, including by disadvantaged, poor, vulnerable and risk-exposed populations, as well as engagement by all levels of government. The forum also underscored the progress made towards implementing Sustainable Development Goal 17, particularly with respect to global, multi-stakeholder partnerships, technology and innovation, and data and statistics. It also reviewed the progress on the regional road map for implementing the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific.
MAME THIERNO DIENG, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal, reported on the fourth Africa Regional Forum took place in May. Its main conclusions underscored the scale of the challenges faced by Africa, as well as what is at stake in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Progress achieved is grounds for optimism, he said. Access to water has improved, and 82 per cent of the urban population of the continent outside of northern Africa now has access. However, coverage varies in Africa from one country to the next, and the disparities between urban and rural areas are pronounced in most parts of the continent. One of the forum’s key messages is the need to transform societies to make them more resilient. It is also necessary to fully implement the Paris Agreement on climate change; invest more in drinking water and sanitation services; include women, children, indigenous people and other vulnerable groups in decision‑making processes; and continue to attack illicit financial flows.
MICHAEL GERBER, Ambassador and Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and Chair of the 2018 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), said that, while there has been much progress, more remains to be done. He noted the various topics discussed at the Regional Forum, including ensuring universal access to water, improving energy efficiency and promoting sustainable forest management and biodiversity. The forum showed that the domestic implementation of the 2030 Agenda in high‑ and middle-income countries is taken seriously. The forum has also grown into a platform that brings together the key owners — Member States — with other stakeholders that offer their expertise. Civil society organizations held a preparatory consultation and emphasized that they stand ready to participate not only in global and regional discussions, but also in developing and implementing policies at the national and local levels. The 2030 Agenda calls for initiatives that reflect the linkages between different goals and targets. “Not only do we need to identify the linkages, but we also need to understand their nature and strength,” he said.
Address by President of United Nations Environment Assembly
SIIM KIISLER (Estonia), President of the United Nations Environment Assembly to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, provided an overview of the 2017 Environment Assembly and shared the nine recommendations made by participating ministers from around the world. They included increasing research and encouraging development while promoting science-based decision‑making in public and private sectors. They also recommended investing in innovative solutions to foster inclusive and sustainable economic productivity, encouraging sustainable lifestyles, promoting fiscal measures to invest in more environmentally sound solutions and strengthening and enforcing more integrated policies. Finally, he said the ministers recommended bolstering monitoring and accountability systems and sharing best practices; promoting North-South, South‑South and triangular cooperation across the United Nations; and developing and expanding multi-stakeholder partnerships. The 2017 session also requested reports on environmental and health impacts of pesticides and fertilizers and ways of minimizing them; environmental impacts of antimicrobial resistance and the causes for the spread of resistance; the extent, risks and impacts of soil pollution; and progress being made by States to implement key actions that can significantly improve air quality. He said the theme of the next Assembly session will be “innovative solutions to environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”.
Introduction of Reports
LIU ZHEMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “From global to local: supporting sustainable and resilient societies in urban and rural communities” (document E/2018/61). Such support is an integral part of implementing the 2030 Agenda, he said, with significant elements including local ownership, capacities, foresight and risk planning, policy integration and inclusivity. The report also presents several common cross-cutting elements that stakeholders should give priority to, including national and local ownership of resilience‑building strategies, as well as foresight and risk planning.
He then introduced an overview of the United Nations flagship report World Economic and Social Survey 2018, titled “Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development”. Frontier technologies, such as artificial intelligence, genomics and renewable energy technologies, could have a major impact on sustainable development, including the potential to exacerbate unemployment and inequality while raising moral and ethical concerns. The overview underscored the need for a balanced approach for managing innovation, with the United Nations playing a steering role. [The full report will be launched in October.]
He went on to introduce the Secretary-General’s report titled “Harnessing new technologies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” (document E/2018/66), which he said elaborates on the policy implications of the dazzlingly fast progress of frontier technologies. The report stresses the urgency to anticipate and prepare for the huge impact that such technologies are already having on jobs and societies. “It is a call to action,” he said, describing the text as an attempt to launch a dialogue among Member States and others on mobilizing new technologies for the 2030 Agenda and the common good. The report discusses the roles and responsibilities of Governments and the steps they can take to harness opportunities and address potential risks. It also discusses the need for the United Nations to improve its own understanding of how new technologies can affect respective mandates, drawing lessons from Member States’ experiences.
JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Chairperson of the Committee for Development Policy, noted the Committee’s work, which focused largely on leaving no one behind, which remains central to building sustainable and resilient societies. Progress towards graduating from the Group of Least Developed Countries can be a positive development for both the graduating countries and the international community. Having analysed the “leave no one behind” concept, the Committee found that, despite many successful experiences, overall trends do not point to a degree or speed of advancement compatible with the 2030 Agenda timeframe. This is true in many critical areas, including education, health, housing and ending poverty. Extreme inequality persists within countries and cities, as well as among countries. Many countries, in particular least developed countries, still lack the productive capacity necessary to put them on a path towards sustainable development.
To leave no one behind is not enough to address the problems of those at the bottom, he said. It is also necessary to address the extreme inequalities and the concentration of income, wealth and political power at the top. Governments also need to remove barriers to political and civic participation and ensure that they are accountable to all citizens. In addition, while technology has great potential to advance inclusive development it can also be at the root of national and international exclusion and inequality. At the international level, the deep inequalities that persist among countries are not sustainable. To leave no country behind and ensure sustainability and resilience, countries need to have the ability to build sound, efficient and redistributive tax systems and the policy space to define and implement their own sustainable development strategies. Leaving no one behind requires shifting development cooperation to a more comprehensive and representative framework that integrates new and traditional providers.
TOMMY ESANG REMENGESAU, JR., President of Palau, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Alliance of Small Island States, said that, for his bloc, “resilience is a way of life.” The islands are small and far away from the centres of industry and commerce, with limited economic bases and few natural resources or exports. As a result, the islands are vulnerable to economic shocks and climate change. From infrastructure to settlements, utilities and industry, the Pacific has committed itself to a risk-informed path for sustainable development capable of withstanding shocks. “Severe shocks are inevitable,” he said, adding that, “increasingly, they are the result of escalating impacts of climate change”. The rise in sea levels threatens the islands’ coastlines, water supplies and their very existence. In this context, the recent Security Council open debate on climate-related security risks was an encouraging step.
The Pacific has adopted a regional framework for resilient development, complemented by national sustainable development plans foregrounding risk reduction, particularly regarding natural disasters, he said. He also welcomed this year’s initiative to launch the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development and called for increased partnerships to meet local needs. Concerning sustainable urbanization, the bloc had emphasized resilience and disaster risk reduction with an eye to ensuring smart land-use planning with limited space. He also drew particular attention to Sustainable Development Goal 17, noting that the Pacific region recently completed its regional preparation for the mid-term review of its blueprint for sustainable development in the form of the Samoa Pathway.
ALICIA BEATRIZ PUCHETA DE CORREA, Vice-President of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the Group will focus on the preparatory work for the midterm review of the Vienna Programme of Action. She hoped that a constructive dialogue would be established in order to assess the progress achieved. Speaking in her national capacity, she said the motto of transformation to sustainable and resilient societies was in sync with the Goals to be reviewed, which were also the foundation of Paraguay’s national development plan and are in line with the 2030 Agenda. Access to clean water is a basic human right. However, a significant proportion of the global population still draws its drinking water from wells, surface water and rain water without any guarantees as to its quality. Approximately 2 billion people in the world lack drinking water and 1 billion do not have access to electricity. By 2030, the world will need 40 per cent more water and 50 per cent more energy, she said.
SAHAR NASR, Minister for Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Ending hunger and achieving food security is also fundamental in this regard. However, 783 million people still live below the international poverty line and the number of undernourished people has been on the rise, reaching an estimated 815 million in 2016. Sustainable financing options, global partnerships and long-term investments are needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda. “Water is critical for sustainable development,” she pointed out, expressing concern that 844 million people still lack basic managed drinking water services and 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services. She also stressed the necessity of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable energy for all, expressing concern that 1 billion people are still living without that access.
Turning to cities and human settlements, she pointed out that the number of people living in slums has increased from 689 million to 881 million, calling for more sustainable consumption and production patterns. Also, it is necessary to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss. In addition, she emphasized the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respect for the territorial integrity and the political independence of States. She urged States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.
KARMENU VELLA, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc is continuing to make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda, with the European Commission expected to publish a reflection on its sustainable future. The interconnected nature of the 2030 Agenda is a critical asset that calls for action to address trade-offs and meet multiple objectives, contributing to cross-cutting issues, such as human rights, inequality and building synergies with the Paris Agreement on climate change, among other international agreements. He reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, recognized the importance of access to clean, sustainable and affordable energy, and underscored the value of the New Urban Agenda.
“Sustainable consumption and production is crucial to achieve sustainable development within planetary boundaries,” he said, affirming the European Union’s commitment to a low-carbon, resource efficient and circular economy. With the world’s largest network of protected areas, Europe is demonstrating that biodiversity and ecosystem services can be integrated into planning and decision‑making in all relevant sectors. Turning to the bloc’s external action, he said its External Investment Plan is increasing private investment in Africa and the European neighbourhood. Emphasizing that Europe is the world’s largest provider of ODA, he called on other States to meet their ODA commitments. He went on to stress the need for more global progress on data and statistics, as well as full support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda.
AHM MUSTAFA KAMAL, Minister for Planning of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the 2030 Agenda recognizes the least developed countries as the poorest and most vulnerable nations of the world, who need enhanced global support to meet its targets. Spotlighting some of those countries’ development disparities, he said the percentage of the population in least developed countries using safely managed drinking water in 2015 was 33 per cent, compared to 71 per cent globally. The same year, only 45 per cent of the population in least developed countries had access to electricity, compared to 87 per cent worldwide. “We are deeply concerned over the fact that we hardly see any progress in the implementation of [Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships],” he said, also expressing frustration about the lack of significant progress in establishing an investment promotion regime for Least Developed Countries.
Regarding the global economy, he said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently voiced its concern that world debt is growing rapidly, currently amounting to $164 trillion or 225 per cent of the total global gross domestic product (GDP). Debt has increased twofold for low-income countries in the last two years, and economic globalization is now subject to setbacks resulting from increasingly inward-facing tendencies in some countries’ policies. The least developed countries face serious threats from various directions, including their increased debt burdens, decreasing amounts of ODA and other impediments to their future trade expansion. Emphasizing that least developed countries are highly vulnerable to the effects of shocks and crises — including those related to environment and climate change issues — he called for intensive efforts to mobilize resources and provide technical assistance, capacity-building and the development of resilience at all levels.
CAMILLE ROBINSON-REGIS, Minister for Planning and Development of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the session’s theme affords Member States the chance to take stock of work needed to build sustainable and resilient societies, and to calibrate — or recalibrate — their approaches accordingly. Noting that two CARICOM member States, the Bahamas and Jamaica, will present their voluntary national reviews during the present session, she added that the Community’s Heads of State and Government have acknowledged the essential requirements for sustainable development — namely, poverty eradication, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting natural resources — which will require among other things promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and among countries and promoting the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.
“Sustainable finance is an absolute necessity for the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” she stressed, emphasizing that the collective global focus should centre on how to align financial markets with sustainable development and elaborate on concrete ways in which Member States can approach financing to implement the Goals. Warning that — despite the middle‑income status of most of its member States — CARICOM’s implementation progress can be easily eroded by the region’s high debt-to-GDP ratio, she reiterated calls for a reassessment of the allocation criteria of international development cooperation to reflect the multidimensional nature of development. She also underscored the importance of the Samoa Pathway to the Community’s sustainable development and reiterated her call for dedicated support for strengthening national statistical offices and systems to help countries better collect critical disaggregated data.
JULIUS MUIA, Principal Secretary, National Treasury and the Ministry of Planning of Kenya, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said that, in Africa, sustainable and resilient structural reform requires integrated strategies and approaches. Given the current situation, it is unlikely that affordable and clean energy for all will be achieved in Africa by 2030. African cities are meanwhile growing fast, but that did not make them productive. Creating productive cities will require urgent short-term and thoughtful long-term action, he said, calling for enhanced North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation to facilitate technology transfers and experience sharing. Stressing that unsustainable consumption and production threaten sustainable development, he said development efforts are undermined when resources are not used responsibly, resulting in environmental challenges. Such a situation calls for innovative solutions. Science and technology should drive inclusive and sustainable development, with considerably more investment in research and development. Developed countries must honour their obligations and responsibilities vis-à-vis ODA and the global community must effectively address illicit financial flows and their negative consequences. “Multinational corporations and other such entities, most of which are based in developed countries, should make their rightful contributions in the African countries where their revenues are generated,” he stressed.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, recalled the successful convening of the eighth World Water Forum in Brazil in March, also taking note of the release of the outcome document of the High-Level Panel on Water. He commended countries which have begun to implement the 2030 Agenda at the national level for progress they have achieved. Each country deals with its own challenges in terms of implementation, he noted, including small island developing States, least developed countries, landlocked countries, countries in conflict, middle-income countries and others. ODA should be based on methodology making it possible to build a global architecture based on specific needs and structural gaps, among other factors.
He went on to reiterate the bloc’s commitment to gender equality, an essential condition to achieving human rights and the goals and targets of sustainable development. Moreover, he noted that it was necessary to respect the normative framework of each country in terms of eradicating poverty. In this context, national efforts should be backed by a supportive international environment. That must include trade systems that are coherent and provide better economic governance. In closing, he called for a more conducive environment for sustainable development based on each country’s needs and natural resources.
ALI NASEER (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said that these States face unique vulnerabilities, ranging from their remoteness and limited resource base and structural limitations to their vulnerability to external shocks. In order to see progress, small island States need improved access to capacity-building, financing and support to ensure that they could meet their objectives for both the 2030 Agenda and the Samoa Pathway, he said. Last week, small island States hosted their annual partnership dialogue to highlight successful examples of sustainable development projects and to encourage new partnerships, particularly in underserved regions and less popular, but still important areas of sustainable development such as investment in infrastructure and land use. He congratulated the countries which have presented their voluntary national reviews, and underscored the value to be found in sharing experiences, challenges and best practices.
MIGUEL ÁNGEL MOIR SANDOVAL, Secretary of Planning and Programming of Guatemala, speaking on behalf of the Like-Minded Countries Supporters of Middle Income Countries, said that economic growth was not comparable to advances towards sustainable development. At all levels of per capita income, middle‑income countries continue to face serious challenges in all the three dimensions of sustainable development, including obstacles in relation to poverty eradication, inequality, external debt and environmental vulnerabilities, among others. Improvements made in macroeconomic indicators do not necessarily reflect an improvement in the eradication of poverty, given that high inequality, or even a rise in inequality, remains pervasive in middle-income countries, even in countries with high economic growth.
Obstacles faced by middle-income countries are aggravated since the opportunities to be recipients of international cooperation from all sources decrease as per capita income grows, he said. For example, many countries have recently graduated or will graduate from concessional financing windows thanks to strong per capita income growth, and as a result, their access to sufficient and affordable long-term financing for Sustainable Development Goal investments has decreased, often faster than can be compensated by increasing tax revenues in per capita terms. International cooperation is still a powerful tool for complementing middle-income countries’ efforts to mobilize public resources domestically to achieve sustainable development.
MIGUEL RUIZ-CABANAS, Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Core Group, said that an unacceptable number of people in the community lives in poverty. “Stereotypes often result in violence and inhumane treatment,” he observed, noting that discrimination and stigma impose restrictions to housing, employment, education, health care and other basic social services. Governments and the private sector should offer the community support and opportunities without discrimination and without violence of any kind, and in full respect of human dignity and rights.
He went on to note that the “leave no one behind” principle is crucial to the lives and safety of community members because they often experience multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. They also face systemic structural barriers to basic social services, labour market participation and even access to official identity documents on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics. He expressed hope that the discussion will contribute to highlighting the importance of moving from an abstract concept of leaving no one behind to outlining and implementing national policies based on full inclusion, especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons around the world.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), speaking also on behalf of Mexico, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, said an accelerated pace is needed to achieve the Goals. That will require stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships, greater access to financial resources, the promotion of public and private investments, and capacity building, including in data-related fields. He encouraged concrete action on sustainable use of water, clean and renewable energy, better forest and land management and the mainstreaming of biodiversity in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, as well as the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. In this regard, he welcomed collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
He underscored the inclusive nature of the Goals and the crucial contributions of women and girls, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, migrants and others. Welcoming the completion of Goal 17.8 with the inauguration of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries in Gebze, Turkey, he invited States and other stakeholders to provide financial and technical assistance to that institution. He went on to recognize the private sector’s role in job creation, calling for vibrant and favourable ecosystems for small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and social entrepreneurs.
CHRISTIAN BRAUN (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends on Children and Sustainable Development Goals, called for empowering and enlisting the support of young people around the world to achieve the 2030 Goals. “This begins with our youngest citizens and their contributions — no matter how small — can add up to extraordinary and lasting change,” he said. Investing in children benefits them and is also pragmatic as it is an investment in a society’s inclusive economic growth. The Group of Friends is committed to improving the lives of children and young people through local and national 2030 Goals implementation efforts.
He encouraged Member States to create or scale up opportunities for children and young people to learn about and take action to achieve the Goals. Governments should solicit and use their voices and views of their youngest constituents in decision-making processes. He went on to cite a recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report finding that more than half a billion children are “uncounted”, meaning that there is not sufficient, comparable or timely data to track progress on their well-being. Investing in tools and systems to better track progress and provide needed data will be essential. Moreover, it is also necessary to improve the tracking of social spending on interventions and programmes critical to improving children’s lives.
GUSTAVO MEZA CUADRA (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, action must be taken to elevate efforts on disaster risk reduction, and ensure that it is at the core of all development strategies, policies and investments. While a successful global policy architecture has been created that integrates disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change, its integrated implementation must also be monitored. The Sendai Framework Monitor can serve as an invaluable early warning tool to detect whether development programmes and economic strategies are being implemented in a risk-informed manner. Member States should embrace this tool and use the Sendai Framework Monitor to incorporate disaster risk reduction in their voluntary national reviews, he said.
SENIDA MESI, Deputy Prime Minister of Albania, said that its Parliament has endorsed a resolution committing to the 2030 Agenda in line with the country’s development priorities and the goal of integrating with the European Union. Turning to Albania’s voluntary national review, she recalled progress in terms of the consolidation of public institutions and the creation of a professional and depoliticized civil service. The country has also increased the fight against corruption and organized crime and is advancing reform on property rights. Its transformative justice system reform is ongoing and is yielding positive results. Moreover, substantial progress in the European Union priority areas led to the European Commission’s recent unconditional recommendation in April to start accession negotiations with Albania during 2019. She also noted that women’s participation in Albania’s Parliament has reached 29.3 per cent, and the participation of women in Government stands at 50 per cent.
GRATIELA LEOCADIA GAVRILESCU, Vice‑Prime Minister for Environment of Romania, said that the 2030 Agenda provides a new direction for development which requires a new way of conducting public policy. Presenting Romania’s first voluntary national review, she said that it highlights the ways her country has created an enabling environment for sustainable development. With a territorial policy oriented to planning and development, Romania’s cities promote sustainable economic, social and environmental societies. They integrate the European Union vision of recycling, promote a holistic approach to urban development and raise citizens’ awareness of their participation in the community decision-making process. The voluntary national review process proves that multilateralism represents the bridge for sharing the diverse experiences of all States on the ways in which they are implementing the 2030 Agenda. Romania is set to take over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019, and has advanced sustainable development as one of the top priorities. The environmental dimension of sustainable development is of the utmost importance, and the United Nations Environment Assembly outcomes and resolutions are crucial for the advancement of the 2030 Agenda and its Goals.
ENKHTUVSHIN ULZIISAIKHAN, Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Development Countries, said that his country was one of the early adopters of the national Sustainable Development Goals and endorsed its Sustainable Development Vision 2030 in February 2016. Currently, the sub-committee on Sustainable Development of the Parliament and the National Committee are providing integrated policy and action guidance to relevant ministries, agencies and local governments. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is being carried out in alignment with other internationally agreed development agendas, including the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. He stressed the importance of using all available means of implementation, mobilizing all available resources and supporting public-private partnerships to achieve the Goals by 2030. His Government has approved a National Strategy for the Development of Statistics 2017‑2020, which aims to contribute to processing and testing national Sustainable Development Goal indicators and measurements in line with the global indicators. Mongolia is planning to deliver its first voluntary national review at the next High-Level Political Forum in 2019.
JOSE AGUSTO BRIONES, National Secretary for Planning and Development of Ecuador, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country was seeking to eradicate gender-based violence, poverty and all forms of discrimination that demean human dignity. The Government is seeking alliances for development and wants to deepen relationships with the private sector and others in that regard. Despite the complex economic situation, the Government has allocated resources to promote the development of the Amazon region’s inhabitants. International cooperation will be essential to support these efforts. “The Government of Ecuador is a Government of dialogue and unity,” he said, urging international financial organizations to show understanding considering that the Government was doing everything it could to reverse a complex economic situation it did not create.
JEAN-YVES DUCLOS, Minister for Families, Children and Social Development of Canada, said that his country is strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda and is pleased to present its first voluntary national review. Canada is ensuring that policies and programmes improve the lives of all Canadians, particularly those who are under-represented. Advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is a priority for Canada. Women and girls must be able to participate fully in decisions that affect their lives. His country is also striving to make its cities and communities more resilient, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable, making significant investments in tackling climate change, improving water sustainability and protecting marine and coastal areas. Three years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, gains have been made, but much more remains to be done.
DORIS LEUTHARD, Federal Councillor and Head of Department for Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland, advocated for a robust follow-up mechanism to the 2030 Agenda, stressing the importance of moving from theory to implementation. Unfortunately, the pace of efforts in some areas is too slow and is even moving in the wrong direction in others. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are vital to achieving all the 2030 Goals. For the Paris Agreement on climate change to be rendered fully operational, solid regulation is needed, including guidelines on future national contributions to ensure clear cooperative approaches, as well as guidance on reporting and in-depth verification. All parties to the accord must maintain nationally determined contributions and keep temperature increase below 2 C or 1.5 C. In addition, a global approach to forced migration is needed while considering the benefits of migration for sustainable development. “We need coherent and long-term strategies throughout the migration cycle,” she stressed. Also, sustainability should not come at the detriment of profitability, she noted, citing examples from her own country in this regard.
AURELIA FRICK, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Justice and Culture of Liechtenstein, said her Government is strongly committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. An interministerial working group carried out a gap analysis at the end of 2017 and identified several focus areas. The Government subsequently adopted its strategy for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Her Government declared the 2030 Agenda part of its Government programme for 2017‑2021 and defined a set of priority Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the importance of migration in reducing inequality within and between States. If managed well, migrant is an engine for economic growth, sustainable development, cultural enrichment and innovation. Liechtenstein promotes the inclusiveness of migrants and refugees through innovative language training, she said, with courses designed to teach German or other languages to migrants and refugees with a method inspired by early language acquisition. The courses are gender-inclusive and enable participants to communicate on a basic level within four weeks. This initiative is her country’s contribution to the road map of Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a group of United Nations Member States, international organizations, global partnerships and other partnerships who lead on the implementation of “SDG16+”, a road map for all 2030 Agenda targets for peaceful, just and inclusive societies.