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DSG/SM/1698
3 March 2022

Education, Climate Finance, Equitable Vaccination Crucial Pillars of Sustainable Development in Africa, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Kigali Regional Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, in Kigali, Rwanda, today:

I am pleased to be with you today for the opening of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development.

We are meeting at a crucial time when our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and [the African Union’s] Agenda 2063 hangs in the balance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought havoc to our societies and economies.  Hunger and poverty are increasing for the first time in a generation.  One in two students in Africa suffered learning losses during the pandemic.

Over 700 million people across the continent still have no access to the internet.  Slow and fragile progress towards gender equality risks going into reverse.  The climate crisis, biodiversity loss and pollution are destroying lives and livelihoods at an unprecedented rate.

Momentum towards an inclusive and sustainable recovery is thwarted by inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines and access to finance.  Ongoing conflicts and insecurity are also serious obstacles.  And now the conflict in Ukraine is further destabilizing a global economy still reeling from the pandemic.

The 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 — together with the Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda — remain our best blueprints to successfully confront the challenges we face.  This eighth session of the Africa Forum on Sustainable Development presents an important opportunity to focus our energy on implementation and chart an ambitious path forward.

There is solid ground to build on.  The fact that we can again meet in Kigali today is testament to Africa and Rwanda’s resilience and the leadership of his Excellency President [Paul Kagame of Rwanda] and other leaders across the continent.  I want to highlight five priorities to help inform your deliberations.

First, we must end the acute phase of the pandemic and build resilience against the next outbreak.  Through the COVAX Facility, the African Union is on its way to securing over half a billion vaccine doses.  But, despite these tremendous efforts, high-income countries have administered 13 times more doses per person than low-income countries.  Vaccinating 70 per cent of the world by July this year remains our primary objective.

We must also build stronger and more resilient health systems by investing in primary health care and health surveillance systems, as well as greater production of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.  The actions taken by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and national agencies are important steps in this regard.

In all of this, we will build on the global legacy of Paul Farmer.  His sudden death last month leaves a void in the global health community and I want to take this opportunity to honour his memory.  I also know this is indeed a personal loss to President Kagame and the people of Rwanda due to his special bond with and phenomenal public health contribution to the country.

Second, we must scale up and speed up investments in the protection of people and ecosystems at the front lines of the climate crisis.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on adaptation released just days ago is a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.

Extreme weather is destroying crop yields, eroding food security and overwhelming our infrastructure.  Developed countries must urgently deliver on the commitment they made at the [twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26)] in Glasgow to double adaptation finance to at least $40 billion per year by 2025.  Regional and multilateral development banks must scale up their renewable energy and resilient infrastructure portfolios and mobilize more private finance.

At the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, I witnessed the resolve of Member States and other stakeholders to tackle environmental issues and other challenges to global governance, by embracing a more inclusive multilateralism, in line with the vision outlined in the Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda.  I hope we can demonstrate similar resolve in support of the Egyptian presidency of the next climate conference — COP27, the African [Conference of the Parties].

Together with [the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP15)] in Abidjan, the United Nations Ocean Conference and the Stockholm+50 meeting, we will have many opportunities to build a resilient future.

Third, we must supercharge just transitions in energy, food systems and digital connectivity.  We need a just energy transition that allows Africa to access clean and affordable energy while protecting livelihoods.

The Just Energy Transition Partnership launched at COP26 to support South Africa set a valuable precedent for international collaboration.  We need sustainable and resilient food systems which guarantee access to healthy diets and nutrition for all, while restoring and protecting nature.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit in September 2021 and the creation of the Food Systems Hub in Rome are essential steps aimed at supporting countries in this critical transformation.

We need affordable connectivity and digital skills to create more job opportunities for young people.  The [launch of the] Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa later this year will also be an important milestone in this regard.

Fourth, we must recover the huge learning losses of the pandemic by advancing education and life‑long learning.  Education is the bedrock of all successful economies.  Today, however, it is under enormous strain.

Rwanda and many other African countries have made great strides in education outcomes.  But, despite important achievements, conventional education systems everywhere are struggling to equip learners with the knowledge, skills and values needed to thrive in our rapidly changing world.  In developing countries especially, the pandemic risks causing a generational catastrophe.

That is why the Secretary-General is convening the Summit on Transforming Education this September.  The Summit will seek to renew our collective commitment to education as a pre-eminent public good and mobilize the action, ambition, solutions and solidarity needed to transform education.  I count on African Governments and leaders to embrace the Summit as a critical opportunity to project forward the education systems envisaged under Agenda 2063.

Fifth, we need to accelerate gender equality and economic transformation.  Over 70 per cent of people across Africa — the majority of them women — continue to earn their livelihoods in the informal economy, which is an afterthought in economic strategies and metrics.  Robust and decent job creation must be matched by the achievement of universal social protection.

The Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection launched in September 2021 is central to these efforts, aiming to create 400 million decent new jobs in the care, green and digital sectors, and expand social protection to half of the global population by 2030.

Achieving gender equality and [Sustainable Development Goal] 5 requires ambitious action from all of us.  Together, I hope we can implement the five transformative recommendations of the Secretary-General, namely:  repealing all gender-discriminatory laws; promoting gender parity in all spheres and at all levels of decision-making; facilitating women’s economic inclusion; ensuring greater inclusion of the voices of younger women; and following through on an emergency response plan to prevent and end violence against women and girls.

The fate of the Sustainable Development Goals will be decided in Africa.  To succeed, Africa must have the financial resources to invest in a better tomorrow.

We are far from where we need to be.  Debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios have risen to almost 70 per cent.  Today, 17 African countries are at high risk of debt distress, and four are already in debt distress.  The Secretary‑General has appealed for a serious reform of the international financial architecture, which shamelessly favours the rich and punishes the poor.

The Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Liquidity and Sustainability Facility is an important partnership with the private sector to increase liquidity for sustainable investment in Africa.

We also need to ensure that finance is invested in the real economy.  Special drawing rights should be re-channelled to countries most in need and invested in universal social protection as well as the green, digital and health‑care economies.  The African Continental Free Trade Area can be a game‑changer for Africa’s sustainable development ambitions.

The goal of $100 billion a year in climate finance must be met starting this year, and quickly scaled up.  Crucially, countries in need must be able to access this money.  That is why we are pushing for urgent reforms of the access and eligibility systems.

Together with the African Union, the repositioned United Nations development system is mobilizing to deliver expertise, convening power and skillsets.

At last week’s meeting of the Regional Collaborative Platform, we agreed on an ambitious workplan and concrete deliverables.  We also committed to support further investments in better data and national data ecosystems as crucial tools to inform policy and programmes and measure progress towards the [Sustainable Development Goals].

The challenges ahead are significant.  But, together, we can — and we will — succeed in building a better future for all.  The United Nations will remain your steadfast partner at this pivotal moment.

For information media. Not an official record.