Sustainable Development Goals ‘further out of reach’: UN chief

Sustainable Development Goals ‘further out of reach’: UN chief
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an event called “SDG Moment 2022” at United Nations headquarters, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 19 September 2022

Sustainable Development Goals ‘further out of reach’: UN chief

Sustainable Development Goals ‘further out of reach’: UN chief
  • ‘This is a definitive moment. The world has a long to-do list’: Antonio Guterres

LONDON: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged world leaders to get back on track with the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said the world had been beset by a series of “perils” in recent years, but warned that focusing on immediate crises was pushing the SDGs “further out of reach.”

He said: “In the face of such perils, it is tempting to put our long-term development priorities to one side, to leave them for a sunny day.

“But development cannot wait. The education of our children cannot wait. Dignified jobs cannot wait. Full equality for women and girls cannot wait. This is a definitive moment. The world has a long to-do list. 

“But all of you here today — and those tuning in from around the world — give me immense hope that we can put our hands on the wheel of progress and steer a new course.”

Set up in 2015, the 17 SDGs aim to provide affordable clean energy and build a more equitable future by 2030.

Despite being halfway to the deadline, the president of the 77th session of the UNGA, Csaba Korosi, warned that “by most markers” the global community is “failing” its goals.

“I accept that we had COVID-19, but the pandemic was a postcard from the future, a bleak future of interlocking global crises, and one that we want to avoid and that we can avoid. We must now regain the speed lost to the pandemic and to our inaction,” said Korosi.

“Solutions are at hand, transitions must happen — to name a few, a transition to a renewable, carbon-free energy base and to green, inclusive and circular economies.

“We need initiatives from civil society, the voice and passion of youth, support of the private sector but, most importantly, you, member states, to deliver on promises made.

“The 17 SDGs must be the to-do-list of all leaders in this room. We are the people who can get this done.”

As well as momentum, the pandemic also threw the financing of the SDGs into disarray, with a $1.2 trillion increase in the funding gap, which had already stood at $2.5 trillion, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Korosi said the “critical issue” of financing had not been overlooked by those spearheading the program, adding that it was for this reason that a high-level meeting on financing for development would occur alongside the SDG Summit next September.

Mia Motley, prime minister of Barbados, urged young people to hold international organizations’ and states’ “feet to the fire” to progress efforts that COVID-19 derailed.

“This world is at a critical junction in the affairs of man,” Motley told the UNGA. “Are we so arrogant as to believe that there will be no failed societies and no extinct species when history shows us otherwise?

“I ask us to speak to the citizens of the world in this battle to remind leaders, remind parents, teachers, to remind each other, they are necessary to join the army to fight against poverty … and provide education.”