Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the closing of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, in New York today:
The eight days of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development have been a time to recommit to the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda and to assess where we are. I believe your discussions — along with the Voluntary National Reviews of 46 countries — have helped show the resolve to implement the Agenda.
They demonstrated also the commitment at other levels of your Governments, namely at local and regional authorities. They reflect the growing and increasingly crucial efforts of civil society, the private sector, academia and others. And indeed, we see important progress in a number of areas around the world — reducing maternal and child mortality, expanding basic education, improving access to electricity and much more.
But, your discussions have also made clear that we are lagging or even backtracking in other areas that are fundamental to our shared pledge to leave no one behind. For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased, mainly due to conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change. Gender inequality continues to hold women back and deprive them of basic rights and opportunities. And investment in critical sustainable infrastructure remains entirely inadequate.
At the same time, we face mounting challenges: runaway climate change; a growing number of conflicts and inequality; an erosion of human rights; an unprecedented global humanitarian crisis and persistent pockets of poverty and hunger. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our collective response to building a fair globalization. They are a recognition of the need to address the gaps in the extraordinary expansion of the global economy over the last decades. We need to embed the essence of the 2030 Agenda into everything that we do.
How do we get there? Let me point to several essential pathways. First, we must mobilize the transformative power of the world’s young people. In September, we will launch the United Nations strategy to support and engage young people. Education is essential — as a critical tool for empowerment, for advancing gender equality and decent work for all, and for changing the way we produce, consume and live.
Second, we need to get greenhouse‑gas emissions under control. Climate change is moving faster than we are. Yet, we see insufficient political will to meet commitments. The foundation for climate action is the Paris Agreement on climate change. Its main goal is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.
But, we must acknowledge that Paris is not enough. The economic and social transformation needed to stay well below 2°C requires nothing short of an industrial and energy revolution and we are not yet there. In September 2019, I will convene a climate summit to galvanize greater climate ambition. I count on you to pave the way for bold climate leadership and innovative action.
Third, funding gaps for SDG investments are vast and urgent. We must unlock the large levels of financing necessary to implement the 2030 Agenda, particularly in vulnerable countries. Countries must do everything to mobilize internal resources. But, the international community must do all it can to make sure they support countries in this effort by fighting illicit flows of capital, money‑laundering and tax evasion. In September, I will convene a high-level meeting on financing the 2030 Agenda.
Fourth, technology has great potential to help deliver the SDGs. But, it can also be at the root of exclusion and inequality. We need to harness the benefits of advanced technologies for all. Last week, I announced a new High‑Level Panel on Digital Cooperation that will focus on this challenge.
Finally, we must further strengthen institutions. This was apparent both in the Goals reviewed this year, and in the Voluntary National Reviews. For peaceful and inclusive societies, we need justice, effectiveness, transparency, accountability and participation — principles that institutions should follow to deliver the 2030 Agenda, to realize all human rights and to strengthen the trust on which social cohesion is built.
In today’s globalized world, we cannot look at development simply as a conflict-prevention tool. Development also plays a very important role in creating the conditions for resilient societies and a peaceful world. But, development is an end in itself and it must be a central objective of the action of the United Nations. We must address the drivers of conflict and support the long-term capacities and institutions that are required for sustaining peace and sustainable development.
Multilateralism is the only way to tackle the complex, interconnected and long-term challenges we are facing. The recent conclusion of consultations on the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees is extremely encouraging — addressing issues that are central to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, where comprehensive and robust international cooperation is essential.
I am also pleased that Member States have embraced reform of the United Nations development system so that we are better equipped to help Governments respond to the 2030 Agenda. Operationalizing the resident coordinator system is an essential next step and I am grateful to those countries that have already indicated their willingness to help fund that system during the transition in 2019.
Every Government, every human being can rally behind the 2030 Agenda as an agenda for prosperity and peace on a healthy planet. Let us leave this Forum with a fresh commitment to work together, to share innovative solutions and live up to the Agenda we set for ourselves. Let us demonstrate through decisive actions that the transformation demanded by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is well and truly under way. Thank you very much for your commitment.