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UN chief urges countries to rescue SDGs from failing

UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has called on all countries to do everything within their power to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from failing with only eight years to its deadline, 2030.

Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

Guterres made the appeal on Thursday, February 10, 2022, in New York while speaking at a General Assembly’s thematic consultation follow-up to his report “Our Common Agenda’’.

The meeting was convened by President of the UN General Assembly, dedicated to galvanising action towards implementing the ground-breaking blueprint, known as Our Common Agenda, launched in 2021 by the secretary-general.

“The well-being of people around the world, the health of our planet, and the survival of future generations depend on our willingness to come together around a commitment to collective problem-solving and action.

“We don’t have a moment to lose,’’ the secretary general said.

He urged those attending the first of five thematic consultations at UN Headquarters, the first devoted to Accelerating and Scaling up the SDGs, to “make progress on the substance and the search for consensus, as much as possible in 2022”.

With only eight years until 2030, and with COVID-19 driving the world further off track, the UN chief said that the report’s recommendations aim to get the world “back on track” towards achieving the SDGs.

“Each proposal will promote progress across other goals, and indeed our broader pursuit of peace and human rights.”

It calls for a New Global Deal to share power, wealth and opportunities more broadly at the international level, and allow developing countries to focus their resources on sustainable, inclusive development.

“The New Global Deal will rebalance power and financial resources, enabling developing countries to invest in the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs,” he said.

Noting that “there is no one-size-fits-all social contract,” Guterres reminded that Our Common Agenda proposes an intergovernmental World Social Summit in 2025 to “coordinate action and create momentum on a global scale” towards reaching the goals, while taking stock of efforts to renew the social contract.

“The ending of poverty in all its forms everywhere is not just the objective of SDG one, but the primary objective of the 2030 Agenda itself,” he stated.

“Poverty is not only the absence of income”, he said, advocating for a global economy that works for all, including safeguarding public health, reforming the world’s financial system, and protecting the environment.

The UN chief highlighted three issues “at the heart of our commitment” to leave no one behind, that require urgent action.

First, he described the current learning crisis as “a disaster first and foremost for the world’s young people…[with] very serious implications for the future of our societies”.

Without functioning education systems, he said that the world would not be able to meet the needs of labour markets, advance gender equality and human rights, or strengthen democratic institutions.

To address this, a Transforming Education Summit will be held in September to reignite a collective commitment to education and lifelong learning as a pre-eminent public good; mobilise action to recover lost progress; and promote a reimagining of education and innovation.

The Deputy Secretary-General will lead Summit preparations and Guterres will be appointing a Special Adviser in the coming weeks.

Turning to young people, Guterres highlighted the power of youth engagement and the importance of their voices across the UN system and beyond, recalling his proposal to establish an Office on Youth.

“The creation of a dedicated capacity focusing on young people…would have a meaning that goes far beyond its institutional significance” by making the entire UN system “accountable in delivering for and with young people,” he explained.

Not only would it signal a cultural transformation, but also send a strong message that young people are “a driving force” within the organisation.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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