18 July 2019

Progress Too Slow to End Extreme Poverty by 2030, Warns Deputy Secretary-General, Stressing Need for European Union’s Lead on International Cooperation

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Economic and Social Council side event “Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Europe and Around the World”, in New York today:

It is a great pleasure to join you this afternoon.  Four years on from 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gained traction across the world.  They have been increasingly integrated into sustainable development plans at both national and subnational levels.  Private sector actors have actively begun aligning their policies, business models and operations behind them.  International organizations, including our own United Nations development system, have repositioned themselves to be better geared towards supporting stakeholders in implementation.  And civil society actors have embraced the 2030 Agenda as a call to action, transformative change and holding Governments accountable.

The European Union and its member states have also advanced a strong response.  You have lived up to the principle of universality — with nearly all European Union member States having presented their voluntary national reviews since 2016.  You have sought to advance internal action on key SDG issues with major initiatives on the circular economy, climate change and youth employment.

You have made a pivotal contribution to the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, remaining the world’s largest source of development assistance, advancing new initiatives, such as the Africa-Europe Alliance and the Spotlight Initiative on Gender-based Violence.  Crucially, the European Union has maintained strong and vocal support for multilateralism.

Recent SDG reports show that these many efforts have produced some encouraging progress.  Despite some regions seeing rising poverty, extreme poverty rates and child mortality rates have continued to fall on average.  Some targets relating to gender equality, such as the prevalence of female genital mutilation or women serving as members of national parliaments, are moving in a positive direction.

Action against diseases like hepatitis are showing results — for example, the incidence of new chronic hepatitis B infections has reduced considerably, thanks to the widespread use of the hepatitis B vaccine in infants.  And a growing number of people in the poorest countries have more access to electricity, with this positive trend witnessed in all developing regions.

We must draw encouragement and inspiration from this progress.  At the same time, it is clear from the SG’s recent SDG Progress Report that we are far from where we need to be.  We are moving too slowly to end extreme poverty by 2030.  We are at risk of missing targets on zero hunger and reducing inequality.  And we are fast approaching tipping points in biodiversity loss and greenhouse‑gas emissions.

The five summits this September are an opportunity to see the synergy in all these issues and respond decisively to this situation in the next decade.  For instance, we still have time to get on track to avert the worst effects of climate change and achieve the SDG 13 by 2030.  But, we must shift gears, accelerate and scale up the means of implementation from global policy to local actions.  We must embrace development pathways that deliver economic and social transformation with a level of urgency that the world’s leading scientists and the world’s young people are demanding.

To succeed, we will need the European Union not just with us, but on the front lines.  We must build on efforts these past four years by advancing a deeper response.  Institutions, laws, policies, budgets, data systems and decision-making processes must be changed to give real power to the paradigm shift at the heart of the SDGs — leaving no one behind and balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Systemic change is needed on key entry points — such as on education, gender equality, energy or food systems — that allow us to take advantage of the interlinkages across the 2030 Agenda.  And ambitious nationally determined contributions that are aligned to the 1.5°C target must be brought forward and operationalized.

We also count on the European Union to continue to lead in the area of international cooperation, especially where we meet the crises of cross-border issues.  That means ensuring that official development assistance (ODA) and climate finance commitments are met, leveraged and targeted to those countries with the greatest needs.

It means changing incentives to align public and private investment with the SDGs.  It means tackling tax avoidance, illicit financial flows and loss of remittances, working together to advance safe, orderly and regular migration, and promoting an enabling environment at all levels where all actors can contribute to the Goals.

The decade ahead needs to be decisive.  I look forward to continuing the excellent partnership between the European Union and the United Nations as we work to ensure that this decade is one of unprecedented action, one that delivers on our promises for people and planet.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.