Delivering on Sustainable Development Goals Requires Transformational, Inclusive Leadership, Deputy Secretary-General Tells World Government Summit

DSG/SM/1249-ENV/DEV/1922
9 February 2019

Delivering on Sustainable Development Goals Requires Transformational, Inclusive Leadership, Deputy Secretary-General Tells World Government Summit

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s keynote remarks at the 2019 World Government Summit’s SDGs in Action event — “Leadership for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” — as prepared for delivery, in Dubai today:

I am delighted to be with you at this SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] in Action event.  The SDGs continue to be our blueprint for a sustainable future.  We are here because we are committed to bringing the 2030 Agenda to life and ensuring that we live up to the shared ambitions and promises set out in September 2015.

If anything, our world has become even more complex since then and our challenges an opportunity to work better together.  Every day, we see the growing dangers of climate change, the growing risks of rising inequalities, the growing drumbeat of hateful rhetoric and xenophobia, and the growing challenges brought on by mass movement of people.  All of this and more make the 2030 Agenda — our shared road map of a people-centred and planet-sensitive future, for everyone, everywhere — more critical than ever.

I am pleased that SDGs in Action has become a critical feature of the World Government Summit.  You help bring together stakeholders to examine key challenges and opportunities to implementing the SDGs and identify potential innovative solutions and approaches to financing the development agenda.  The good news is that we see the momentum of a movement to embrace the SDGs from all levels of government and society.  But we also know there is more to the story.

At the current pace, the world is off track from achieving the 2030 Agenda.  That is why I very much welcome your action-oriented focus on the importance of leadership for achieving the SDGs.  The SDGs are a beacon of hope.  Properly addressed, they will be the transformation required for development to take hold and benefit all.  Ensuring progress for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships that leave no one behind.

While in many countries progress is being made, sadly, in other parts of the world, we are beginning to see some regression of commitments.  Delivering on the SDGs requires leadership — transformational and inclusive leadership.  That leadership was on full display when Heads of State and Governments adopted these historic and far-reaching goals in 2015.

Leadership today requires us to take tough decisions that will demand an end to business as usual.  It calls on us to move out of comfort zones and embrace innovative ways of working, thinking and leading.  Many of you here understand that, with many of you unparalleled leaders in your field.  So let me zero in on five key areas for action.

First, we must step up the commitment to share experiences, tools and report on progress — good and not so good.  At the global level, the United Nations High-Level Political Forum is an important platform for sharing experiences, lessons, ideas and knowledge; and for making connections between people working on various parts of the SDGs.  Each year, through the voluntary national reviews, Member States have presented their assessment of SDG progress, providing a stocktaking of SDG implementation and showcasing political leadership and momentum in support of the Agenda.

We must continue to make the most of platforms that provide robust data and evidence to identify gaps and mobilize actions to accelerate transformational change.  We must also do this in a timely manner.  The current time lag of 3.5 years will not help make the case for investment that needs to be targeted.  The High-Level Political Forum summit this September will be a keystone moment, providing the global community with our first pulse-check of global progress towards implementing the SDGs.  I encourage all countries to actively engage in the preparations for the High-Level Political Forum this year — and invite them to engage at the highest political level for the September summit, which will include summits on climate, health, finance and the Samoa Pathway.

Second, we need to do more to ensure effective, inclusive and accountable public institutions.  By that, we mean institutions built on strong and transformational leadership — at the local, national and global levels.  We mean a public service that is built on trust, integrity, transparency and accountability.

The vicious circle that leads to poverty and inequality is often connected to a lack of access to public services, inadequate capacities, non-inclusive institutions and poor governance.  This goes beyond improved service delivery to ensuring that all citizens are enabled to fully realize their basic rights to education, health, water and sanitation.  This means that we must step up our efforts to ensure that our citizens — especially women, girls and youth — are given a seat at the table and included in the shaping and implementing of the agenda.  Only then will we be able to capitalize on this crucial opportunity for transformational change.

Third, we need to strengthen the commitment to national and local level ownership.  Heads of State and Government are essential in guiding SDG implementation at national and subnational levels.  In many countries, effective leadership is bringing encouraging progress.  The SDGs are being incorporated into national constitutions and development plans.  There is more systematic coordination across ministries and departments.  A whole-of-government approach is increasingly no longer simply a buzzword.

We live in an era of seismic changes — in our demographics, in the way our communities are shaped, in the way we use our natural resources.  Cities, local governments, authorities and public servants, mayors can — and must — be powerful drivers of economic, social and environmental transformation.  Indeed, local government networks around the world are taking important steps to bring the 2030 Agenda closer to the people.  We look forward to the Local Action for Commitments Forum on the margin of the High-Level Political Forum summit this September.

Fourth, we need to boost support for multi-stakeholder partnerships — notably leveraging and harnessing the contributions from civil society organizations, academics and the private sector.  To put it simply, in addition to a whole-of-government approach, we need a whole-of-society engagement to build effective partnerships and networks for action.  This will result in sustainable gains in the individual and collective lives of our people.  For example, more and more businesses are aligning their strategies with the SDGs and assisting Governments in driving national implementation for climate action.

Across the globe, the private sector is galvanizing its efforts for the 2030 Agenda, connecting the SDGs with innovative business solutions in agriculture, nutrition, water, energy and a whole lot more.  Through investments conducive to achieving the SDGs, businesses can create jobs and empower women.  They can boost education with relevant skill sets and embrace more responsible patterns of consumption and production.  They can contribute to a growth pattern that ensures the protection of our environment and preservation of our planet, and support stable societies that deter violent extremism.  And, of course, they are critical to helping tackle underlying causes of displacement like climate change.

There is a growing interest in sustainable investment and innovative instruments, including social impact investments.  The financial sector can harness this momentum to drive change in the way the private sector operates, improving disclosure of social and environmental impacts and placing greater emphasis on long-term sustainable investment and development.

Fifth and fundamentally, we must do more to harness the potential of innovation — and the power of a restive youth.  From technological innovations to new agricultural practices, young leaders are accelerating SDG implementation across the globe and finding new approaches to age-old development challenges.  In Kenya, for instance, youth leaders have harnessed solar power to provide irrigation kits and cold storage units to smallholder farmers, thereby significantly increasing their productivity.

Innovation at all levels, including by leveraging new technologies, is essential in our quest to implement the SDGs.  Mobile banking, for example, has become a fast, inexpensive and convenient tool, enabling millions of customers, especially women in rural areas around the globe, to benefit from previously inaccessible financial services.  The SDG Global Councils, for example, are bringing together innovative solutions and mobilizing resources to implement the SDGs.

Two thousand and nineteen is a milestone year for the first stocktake of the SDGs.  It must be a year of leadership.  It must be a year of engagement.  It must be a year of accelerated action — and concrete results.

I thank the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for their support.  Thank you once again for your leadership and commitment.  Let’s keep working together to ensure that the promises of the 2030 Agenda are a reality in people’s lives.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.