Chapter II: A. Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development

Class run by the “Peace Through Adult Literacy” programme in Gao, Mali. The centre operates with support from the UN mission (MINUSMA). UN Photo/Harandane Dicko


The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an unparalleled achievement

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents an unparalleled achievement in setting objectives for the international community. It marks a paradigm shift towards a comprehensive and integrated vision of inclusive sustainable development, applicable to all people in all countries and explicitly anchored in human rights. To ensure that actions follow this vision, more must be done to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into national plans and strategies, establishing performance baselines and effective statistical capacities.
I am committed to ensuring that the success of the Agenda is measured by the yardstick of improvement of the well-being and prospects of the poorest, most excluded and most vulnerable people in society. Countries and stakeholders confirm that the Agenda’s core promise — to leave no one behind — must underpin the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations is undertaking cross-cutting efforts to support national actors in implementing this commitment through support for laws, policies and programmes and the ratification of international treaties. These include measures to eradicate poverty, combat discrimination and uphold equality for all.
Leaving no one behind was the theme of the 2016 high-level political forum on sustainable development, which serves as the central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. In a clear signal of their commitment and of the universal character of the Agenda, countries from all regions and levels of development are outlining national priorities and approaches to include the Sustainable Development Goals in their development plans and strategies. Almost a third of the Organization’s membership has volunteered to report on progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda.
The following challenges are faced by countries and vary enormously by region and other factors:
  • Persistent poverty and inequality;
  • Economic fragility;
  • Unemployment, especially among youth;
  • Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption;
  • Unsustainable use of natural resources;
  • Impacts of current conflicts and lingering effects in post-conflict situations;
  • Vulnerability to disasters and the consequences of recent disasters;
  • Climate change;
  • Lack of resources;
  • Institutional shortcomings: defects in rule of law, tax evasion and corruption;
  • Limited space for civil society.

The Sustainable Development Goals are for the whole of society

To meet these challenges, the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals depends on national actions and on forging multilateral partnerships with Governments and non-governmental organizations, strengthening collaboration between national and local-level entities and promoting inclusivity in decision-making processes. The Sustainable Development Goals offer a new opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to serving people and building trust in political leadership. Key individual contributions are needed from experts, scientists in particular. Science is critical for understanding and identifying synergies and trade-offs among the Sustainable Development Goals, and an independent group of scientists has begun work to prepare the Global Sustainable Development Report for the 2019 high-level political forum. The United Nations is also soliciting expert opinions on advancing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and leveraging its holistic nature. 

27. Cooperation on achieving the 2030 Agenda is working its way across the United Nations system. The Economic and Social Council partnership forum is a critical space for sharing the perspectives and contributions of all partners, while the New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III in October 2016 addresses the manner in which cities are planned, financed, governed and managed. The 2017 Ocean Conference brought people together to formulate tangible solutions on such areas as marine pollution, climate change, ocean acidification and ocean governance. In addition, it will be critical for developed countries to deliver on both official development assistance (ODA) and climate finance commitments.

The challenge of climate change 

Climate change is undeniable; the science is beyond doubt and human influence is clear

Climate change is an overriding megatrend, with a multiplier effect on desertification, displacement of people, weather-related disasters and water scarcity and pressures on other natural resources. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has demonstrated in a series of exhaustive and authoritative reports, climate science is beyond doubt and human influence is clear. I am intensifying high-level political engagement aimed at limiting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius. I am rallying the United Nations development system behind Member States as they pursue climate action, mobilizing resources to support the implementation of national climate action plans and strengthening partnerships through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation. I also intend to convene a dedicated climate summit in 2019 to mobilize political support.

Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals 

Despite the halving of the global poverty rate since 2000, intensified efforts are required to boost incomes, alleviate suffering and build the resilience of those still living in extreme poverty, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. While the proportion of humanity living in poverty is lower, some 700 million people still live in extreme conditions, and progress has not included a decline in inequality. Poverty as a percentage of population is deeply persistent in the least developed countries, although the largest number of people trapped in poverty live in middle-income countries. 

In view of the variability of purchasing power parity, our efforts to eradicate poverty globally require a focus on all levels, from the least developed to the middle-income nations. Nevertheless, with the current economic growth trajectory, nearly 35 per cent of the population in the least developed countries may still be living in extreme poverty by 2030.

One of the keys to creating decent jobs and reducing poverty will be the promotion of structural transformation towards more productive and green activities. Structural transformations can generate resources for social protection that is designed to assist those who are unable to escape poverty with their own resources. Strong national ownership of the development agenda is critical. 

Efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition have advanced significantly since 2000. The proportion of undernourished people worldwide declined from 15 per cent in the period 2000-2002 to 11 per cent in the period 2014-2016. Yet ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition for all will require continued and focused efforts, especially in Asia and Africa. Tragically, famine threatens four States today, caused by drought and conflict.

Donor aid has increased but more is needed. A significant achievement in 2016 was the rise in net ODA from member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)/Development Assistance Committee by 8.9 per cent in real terms to $142.6 billion, a new peak. An increase in aid spent on refugees in donor countries boosted the total. But even when refugee costs were removed from the calculation, aid rose 7.1 per cent.

Data and statistics on the Sustainable Development Goals 

In 2017, the Statistical Commission adopted the global indicator framework to monitor progress towards the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. Tracking progress on the Sustainable Development Goals requires the collection of an unprecedented amount of data disaggregated at all levels, which poses a major challenge for national and international statistical systems. The global statistical community is working to modernize and strengthen statistical systems to address all aspects of the production and use of data on sustainable development. 

To this end, the first United Nations World Data Forum, held in South Africa in January 2017, brought together key stakeholders to discuss innovations in capacity-building. Furthermore, the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-building developed the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data, which provides a framework for addressing the capacity needs of national statistical systems and innovative solutions for achieving the full 2030 Agenda.

In February 2017, the General Assembly adopted the recommendations of the open-ended intergovernmental expert working group on indicators and terminology relating to disaster risk reduction (resolution 71/276) to measure progress against the global targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. As a result, the simultaneous and coherent measurement of disaster-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework is now possible, reducing the reporting burden on countries.

Gender statistics will play a critical role in monitoring progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations is working collaboratively with other global, regional and national actors (including national statistical offices) to enhance the availability and use of gender statistics to support the accelerated implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve transformative results for women and girls.

Means of implementation 

The ambitious and complex 2030 Agenda can be achieved only if countries have the means to pursue the goals. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development identifies ways to unlock the necessary resources and investments. In its first substantive report, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development concluded that the current global growth trajectory would not deliver the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030. However, it found that national actions and international cooperation could help change the global trajectory and support countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. A major undertaking of the Task Force in 2016-2017 was building a comprehensive catalogue of progress on more than 300 commitments and actions agreed by Member States.

The financing required to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is estimated to be on the order of trillions of dollars annually. The redirection of capital flows can include efforts to attract, leverage and mobilize investments of all kinds — public, private, national and global. Nevertheless, there are theoretically enough savings in the global economy to drive this transformation, and the benefits will flow back to investors.

Strengthening the capacity of developing countries to formulate more effective and efficient tax systems is a critical element in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters has been working on a number of products, including training and in-country assistance, that will help countries to ensure appropriate taxation and in particular to counter tax evasion. In another initiative, the United Nations, OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have jointly launched a new Platform for Collaboration on Tax.

The goal of enhanced development cooperation is to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed, landlocked and small island developing countries, to implement programmes and policies to end all dimensions of poverty. The Development Cooperation Forum, an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform, is the primary locus for discussing efforts to improve the quality, impact and effectiveness of development cooperation. It is used by Southern partners to share their experience, good practices, solutions and challenges among themselves and with a range of actors. In that context, the Government of Argentina, in collaboration with the United Nations, will host a high-level symposium on South-South and triangular development cooperation in Buenos Aires in September 2017. 

Strengthening implementation 

The challenge now lies in coordinated and coherent implementation by Member States, non-governmental organizations and partners across the United Nations system

The 2030 Agenda provides a vision for development; the challenge now lies in its implementation. It is critical to mobilize adequate financial and non-financial support, ensure the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder partnerships and maintain a relentless focus on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The General Assembly requested me to prepare concrete proposals, and my vision includes planning for collective results, linking functions with funding. Member States have reaffirmed the complementarity and mutually reinforcing nature of the Sustainable Development Goals with peace and security and human rights, as well as with work streams under the sustaining peace agenda.

Regional dimensions 

Increasingly, regional and subregional groupings of countries are identifying solutions to their common development challenges, while regional institutions are being called upon to work collectively with Member States to develop regional strategies and approaches, not only on cross-border issues but also on more traditional issues of economic, social and environmentally sound development.

In 2017, each regional commission engaged with Member States to adopt, align and integrate the 2030 Agenda into their national development frameworks and convened a regional forum for sustainable development that will inform the high-level political forum.

Countries in special situations 

Each country faces specific challenges, and the most vulnerable countries deserve special attention. The United Nations continues to support the implementation and follow-up to the Istanbul Programme of Action (least developed countries), the Vienna Programme of Action (landlocked developing countries) and the Samoa Pathway (small island developing States), as well as the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The United Nations has also played an important role in establishing the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries; the challenge now is to fully operationalize the Bank in seeking to fulfil Sustainable Development Goal target 17.8.


In a step welcomed by Member States, the United Nations has initiated a new approach to the cholera crisis in Haiti (see A/71/620), consisting of two tracks. Track 1 consists of intensified efforts to upgrade the water and sanitation systems, while track 2 provides a package of material assistance and support for those Haitians most directly affected by cholera. My Special Envoy for Haiti is guiding the implementation, which is already under way; however, obtaining adequate funding to support the new approach remains a key challenge.

Effects of crime on development 

Crime continues to erode growth and development outcomes as well as peace and security prospects for countries of all income levels. In the context of providing sustainable financing for development in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the United Nations has intensified its strategic approach, whereby crime prevention is considered a fundamental determinant of sustainable development. This includes building the capacity of Member States to combat illicit financial flows, prevent corruption and strengthen anti-money-laundering efforts. 

Natural disasters 

Over the past decade, economic losses resulting from natural disasters have reached nearly $1.4 trillion, hindering economic growth and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Investment in resilient communities and green infrastructure for schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, water and sanitation, energy, transport systems and housing is an imperative more critical than ever before, as is investment in effective, multi-hazard early warning mechanisms. This is an important aspect of my prevention-oriented reform agenda.


The global focus since 1992 has been to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. However, in a ground-breaking decision in January 2017, the United Nations Forum on Forests set a target to increase global forest area by 3 per cent by 2030. The United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 (General Assembly resolution 71/285) provides a global framework for actions at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests and to halt deforestation and degradation. It features a set of six global forest goals and 26 associated targets to be reached by 2030, all of which are voluntary. The global forest goals and targets support the objectives of the international arrangement on forests and aim to contribute to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and other international forest-related commitments. 

Crime affects all aspects of development and forest management is no exception. The work of the United Nations in addressing wildlife and forest crime focuses not only on strengthening the law enforcement, criminal justice and legislative capacity of Member States but also on improving the livelihoods of vulnerable rural groups, such as local communities relying on natural resources and ecosystem services.

Empowering vulnerable social groups 

With its central commitment to ensure dignity for all, the 2030 Agenda recognizes the contemporary global risks of rising inequality, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It also recognizes that people who are vulnerable must be empowered, including all women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.

In response to dramatically rising numbers of people in search of safety or opportunity, the General Assembly convened a high-level plenary meeting on 19 September 2016 to address large movements of refugees and migrants, at which it adopted the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants (resolution 71/1). The Declaration sets out steps towards adopting two major compacts in 2018: 

  • A global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration; 
  • A global compact to more equitably share the responsibility for hosting and supporting refugees. 

At the same meeting, my predecessor launched the “Together” campaign, a coalition of Member States, civil society organizations and the private sector that aims to strengthen social cohesion, counter xenophobia and promote positive narratives about refugees and migrants.

As global populations are growing older, the Organization is creating a forum for dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of ageing. Strong stakeholder input around disability-inclusive development also led to the effective integration of important commitments in the New Urban Agenda, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The number of young people is also growing, and the United Nations is broadening its strategy to more effectively account for the role of youth, including young women and men, in peacebuilding and humanitarian action, as well as to ensure identification of cross-pillar linkages.

My High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment identified purchasing goods and services from women-owned businesses as one of the primary drivers of progress. Corporations and Governments are also targeting companies owned by women in their procurement practices, while the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, covering 31 organizations and bodies, has prioritized purchasing from women-owned businesses.