United Nations Summit adopts the 2030 Development Agenda
The United Nations held a Development Summit on 25-27 September, attended by many top political leaders. The Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will have a major impact on how development will be dissected and monitored in the UN and at country level in the next 15 years.
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UN Summit adopts the 2030 Development Agenda
The United Nations held a Development Summit on 25-27 September, attended by many top political leaders. The Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will have a major impact on how development will be dissected and monitored in the UN and at country level in the next 15 years. The centrepiece of the 2030 Agenda is the Sustainable Development Goals. This article traces the background to the SDGs, comparing them to the previous MDGs, describes the new technology mechanism and the follow up process for monitoring the Agenda and the SDGs. It makes a brief conclusion on the limits to the SDG approach which must be complemented with systemic analyses of the sustainable development issues.
By Martin Khor
The world’s political leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development during a United Nations Summit on Development held on 25-27 September at the UN headquarters in New York.
The 2030 Agenda is the outcome of two to three years of wide ranging discussions and intense negotiations, mainly held in New York.
The outcome document, whose full name is “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, is contained in a resolution (A/RES/70/1) of the special session of the UN General Assembly, which met as the Summit on 25-27 September.
The Summit itself saw many heads of governments and states making plenary speeches and taking part, with other participants, in roundtables organised around eight themes.
The centrepiece of the 2030 Agenda is a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), accompanied by 169 targets.
The SDGs are meant to be goals for each country to strive for. They are mainly the result of two years of negotiations in a working group on SDGs, following up on a mandate given by the 2012 Sustainable Development Summit in Rio.
Following the working group’s adoption of the SDGs, further negotiations on the SDGs were carried out as part of the preparation of the September 2015 Development Summit, resulting in some changes.
The outcome document, Transforming our world, comprises 35 pages, with about half the pages in the style of a political declaration and the remainder a reproduction of the SDGs.
The SDGs are a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had targets for achieving mainly social goals with a deadline of 2015. The SDGs in turn have targets to achieve by 2030, and thus the term “the 2030 Agenda” that is now attached to the Summit document and the SDGs.
Comparing the SDGs to the MDGs, there are areas of significant improvement. Firstly, the process of formulating the SDGs was far more participatory, involving member states, civil society groups and experts, sitting through two years of several sessions in the SDG working group.
They discussed the format and principles of the SDGs, clusters of issues, and then eventually homed in on specific SDGs, of which there were 17 in the end. Each SDG was accompanied by its own targets, which were then also negotiated. There is thus a sense of ownership and belonging by governments as well as civil society organisations, even though each of them may not be happy and have reservations about various aspects of the SDGs.
In contrast, the MDGs had been formulated by or under the charge of personnel of the United Nations, with governments and civil society not having a role. Thus a major criticism is that the MDGs lacked transparency as to its authorship and process, and lacked ownership among the governments and people in the countries that are to implement them.
Secondly, the SDGs are meant to be universally implemented, meaning that developed countries are also obliged to fulfil the goals. This is different from the MDGs, which were meant for developing countries to implement. Thus, a goal like ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (Goal 12) should be taken as seriously (or even more so) in the developed countries, which have many examples of unsustainable technologies, products and lifestyles.
Thirdly, the SDGs are much more balanced in terms of the categories of issues that are included. The developing countries in particular, championed by the Group of 77 and China, had insisted that there be a fair balance in the SDGs to be adopted among the three components of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.
Under the auspices of the African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa, African countries devised a Common African Position at the beginning of the SDG discussions which called for structural transformation and industrial development.
Many developing countries, and many experts and NGOs, had criticised the MDGs for being almost solely focused on the social dimension, such as tackling hunger, poverty, health and education. This had inadvertently turned the MDG exercise into an aid agenda: donors would provide external resources if the recipient country was willing to increase its spending on social sectors.
Perhaps this was a legacy of the times when the MDGs were created: structural adjustment programmes had caused many developing countries to cut back on social spending and to go into recessionary or low-growth conditions as financial resources were diverted to external debt repayment. The MDGs were seen as a kind of international safety net to help the poor survive.
By the time the SDGs were being conceptualised, many developing country delegates at their own meetings and at the working group, were insisting that the SDGs needed to boost the economic capacity of the developing countries, so that they can generate their own growth and have the resources to make their social development programmes sustainable.
At the same time there was an acceptance that the environmental pillar had also been neglected and with the worsening of the environmental crises, it was also important to include many environmental goals.
And all this, without neglecting or downgrading the social dimension which had been the centrepiece of the MDGs. Moreover besides poverty and hunger and health, there are new pressing socio-economic issues, especially inequality, that need to be given priority.
The result is that the SDGs have economic, social and environmental goals. There are many goals that contain more than one dimension. The mainly economic goals include promoting economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (Goal 8), build resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation (Goal 9) and reduce inequality within and between countries (Goal 10).
Environmental goals include sustainable cities; sustainable consumption and production patterns; climate change; oceans and seas; land, forests and desertification. Social goals include ending poverty; hunger, food security and nutrition; health; education; gender equity; water and sanitation and energy. There is also Goal 16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all; and accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, a goal that was intensely negotiated.
Finally, there is the issue of the means of implementation and the partnership for development, two inter-related overarching issues that were all-important to the developing countries. They argued that without financial resources and technology (the means of implementation) and without an enabling international environment that is friendly to development and developing countries (the global partnership), it would be difficult or impossible for them to achieve the SDGs.
If one believes that the SDGs surpasses the MDGs in terms of ambition, the means of implementation and global partnership for development should also surpass those achieved under the MDGs.
This issue was perhaps the most controversial and hotly debated. Eventually, Goal 17 was adopted: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.”
Though the title of Goal 17 may be comprehensive, the targets under the goal are far too general and do not contain new specific targets (such as the need for regulating the global financial system), and in some ways is backwards compared to the MDGs Goal 8 on global partnership. Perhaps this is a sign or a result of the waning of multilateral North-South cooperation of the past few years. Hopefully some of this can be rectified in the exercise of formulating indicators for the targets, which is now taking place.
A New Technology Facilitation Mechanism Launched
Although in general the “means of implementation” are disappointing, there is one significant area of progress in the Declaration (The 2030 Agenda) outside of the SDGs, in the launching of a Technology Facilitation Mechanism to support the Sustainable Development Goals. (This Mechanism had actually been earlier established by the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa earlier in 2015).
The Technology Facilitation Mechanism will be based on a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Member States, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community, UN entities and other stakeholders and will be composed of a United Nations inter-agency task team on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, a collaborative multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals and an online platform.
The UN inter-agency task team will promote coordination within the UN system on science, technology and innovation-related matters, and will work with 10 representatives from civil society, the private sector and the scientific community to prepare the meetings of the multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in the development and operationalization of the online platform, including preparing proposals for the modalities for the forum and the online platform.
The online platform will establish a mapping of, and serve as a gateway for, information on existing science, technology and innovation initiatives, mechanisms and programmes, within and beyond the United Nations. The online platform will facilitate access to information, knowledge and experience, as well as best practices and lessons learned, on science, technology and innovation facilitation initiatives and policies. The online platform will also facilitate the dissemination of relevant open access scientific publications generated worldwide.
The multi-stakeholder forum will be convened once a year, to discuss science, technology and innovation cooperation around thematic areas for the implementation of the SDGs. The forum will provide a venue for facilitating interaction, reviews, and recommendations.
The Follow Up Process
The 2030 Agenda also contains a section on follow up mechanisms to monitor and review the progress of the SDGs and the Agenda.
At national level, countries are called upon to develop ambitious national responses to the overall implementation of this Agenda to support the transition to the SDGs and build on existing planning instruments, such as national development and sustainable development strategies. They shoud also conduct reviews of progress at the national and subnational levels which are country-led and country-driven. Such reviews should draw on contributions from indigenous peoples, civil society, the private sector and parliaments.
At regional level, regional and subregional commissions are encouraged to contribute, and the UN regional commissions are encouraged to continue supporting countries in their region.
At the global level, the high-level political forum (for sustainable development) will have a central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes, working with the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and others. It will facilitate sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, and provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations for follow-up. It will promote system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies. It should ensure that the Agenda remains relevant and ambitious and should focus on the assessment of progress, achievements and challenges faced by developed and developing countries as well as new and emerging issues.
This follow up process will be assisted by a Secretary General’s annual progress report on the SDGs and the Global Sustainable Development Report.
The high-level political forum shall carry out regular reviews that are voluntary. They shall be State-led, involving ministerial and other relevant high-level participants. They shall provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders.
Thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs will also take place at the high-level political forum, supported by reviews by the ECOSOC functional commissions and other intergovernmental bodies and forums which should reflect the integrated nature of the Goals as well as the interlinkages between them.
The Declaration also welcomed the Addis Ababa Action Agenda’s follow-up and review for the financing for development outcomes as well as all the means of implementation of the SDGs which is integrated with the follow-up and review framework of this Agenda. The conclusions of the annual ECOSOC forum on financing for development will be fed into the overall follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda in the high-level political forum.
Meeting every four years under the auspices of the General Assembly, the high-level political forum will provide high-level political guidance on the Agenda and its implementation, identify progress and emerging challenges and mobilize further actions to accelerate implementation. The next high-level political forum under the auspices of the General Assembly will be held in 2019.
The Secretary-General was also asked to prepare a report during the 70th session of the General Assembly which outlines critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level.
Some Concluding Thoughts
All in all, the 2030 Agenda adopted by the UN Summit is comprehensive and ambitious in scope. It provides framework with recognisable goals and quantitative targets for individual countries and their publics to aim for. The preamble to the Declaration states: “The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda…. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet….
“The inter-linkages and integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realized. If we realize our ambitions across the full extent of the Agenda, the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better.”
However, the structural limitations of an SDG goals-and-targets approach should also be recognised. It provides the goals and concrete targets in ways that help governments, international organisations and the public to focus on what the issues are and what are objectives and the outcomes that are aimed at. However by themselves the SDGs do not provide an analysis of the causes of the problems, the obstacles that need to be overcome, and the road map or maps needed for the solutions.
Moreover, a major adverse event, like another global financial or economic crisis, may throw the process of fulfilling the SDGs off track or perhaps into a chaos. Countries embroiled in a fall of export revenue, a balance of payments and debt crisis, and sharp reduction in government revenue, cannot be expected to stay on track with the SDG targets. However the SDG framework, including indicators (when they are ready), would still be useful in monitoring performance, including if it is negative.
Therefore we should make good use of the pragmatic usefulness of the SDGs and the Agenda 2030 that frames them, but not exaggerate their utility and role. The SDG approach must be complemented with the old-fashioned and all-important analyses, of what are the structural and systemic issues and challenges of development and of each component (be it mainly in the economic, social or environmental), how to overcome the problems, and the possible options and roadmaps. Reality is complex and qualitative analysis (backed up of course with data) is required, and therefore the SDGs should not displace the complex task of analysis by an overly simplistic approach to development. On the other hand, analysis of a complex problem can be supported by having priority goals and clear targets and indicators. Thus, the SDG approach should be accompanied by and not replace or downgrade the need for rigorous analysis. Together, the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development will be more meaningful and stand a better chance of getting the world on track to tackle the manifold crises afflicting humanity and the Earth.
Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
SDGs – a Course Correction?
The SDGs are a step forward from the old MDGs in addressing systemic causes of poverty and inequality. However the most transformative goals and targets could be neglected in implementation through selectivity, simplification and national adaptation. This analysis is by a renowned expert on development policy analysis who is Professor of International Affairs at The New School, and was for many years director of the UNDP Human Development Reports.
By Sakiko Fukuda-Parr
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 at the UN General Assembly was met with some harsh words. Viewed largely as ‘bloated’ and lacking in coherence, commentators suggested SDGs should more appropriately stand for ‘Silly Development Goals’ (The Economist1) or ‘Senseless, Dreamy, Garbled’ (William Easterly2).
Yet for those who had been engaged in the 3-year negotiations – or rather battles – that led to the 17 goals and 169 targets, there was a measure of satisfaction with the wide scope and depth of these goals. In large part, this is because the SDGs were a welcome departure from the MDGs. For example, the Center for Economic and Social Rights that lobbied hard for an agenda that would reflect the core principles of human rights – universality, equality and non-discrimination, justice, participation, accountability – cautiously opined “We can declare partial success in every category – which is more than we might have dared hope for in 2010 under the ‘reign’ of the deeply inadequate MDGs”3.
The SDGs are a major departure from the MDGs, reflecting a significant shift in ‘development’ as a project of the international community. They differ not just in the number of goals and targets but in their very purpose, conception and process.
The MDGs were a North-South aid agenda, driven by aid ministers seeking a new rationale for aid in the context of post Cold War geopolitics and neoliberal globalization. They were useful for donors, enabling them to mobilize support for aid budgets around a short list of memorable priorities. The SDGs are universal goals, and set targets for all – not just poor – countries, and are as relevant for the US as for Liberia.
The MDGs created a narrative of development as ending poverty and aid as charity. The SDGs recognize it to be a more complex process, involving economic growth that is also environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. The MDGs were drafted by technocrats in a closed room in the UN. The SDG process was both participatory and political, involving 3 years of broad and open consultations and debates in meetings around the world and over the internet, and complex inter-governmental negotiations in the ‘Open Working Group’ of the General Assembly’.
Broader, more transformative agenda
The SDGs address many of the key shortcomings of the MDGs and promise a more transformative agenda.
While critics of the SDGs bemoan the lost simplicity of the MDGs, it was also their major weakness, and the source of their deeply flawed agenda as I have argued in earlier publications4.
The ‘simple’ list of 8 goals and 21 targets may be memorable, but when they came to dominate the agenda and define policy priorities, simplicity became simplification. It was not just a campaign rhetoric but pretended to be a serious set of priorities with time bound targets. It was supposed to be an agenda for implementation that should lay claim to priority resources. No one would disagree with the importance of what was in the list of 8 goals and 21 targets, but what was critical was what was not there. Some most pressing contemporary challenges were left out: inequality, unemployment and stagnant wages, climate change, financial market volatility, migration, the ineffectiveness of global institutions to manage globalization, to name a few. Focused narrowly on basic needs, in fact there was nothing developmental in the MDGs, understood more expansively as a long term process of structural change in the economy and society.
The outcome focus, with concrete and measurable targets was another claimed virtue of the MDG. But this was another source of weakness as quantification is inherently reductionist. The MDGs created a narrative of development as meeting these basic needs targets. The use of numerical goals decontextualized and reified what are quintessentially context specific and intangible processes of societal change. The goals served to justify target driven strategies that rely on short term fixes, obscuring the need to address the root causes of poverty and unequal development that lie in power structures and social relations whether it is women’s access to land or trade rules that disadvantage developing countries. The vociferous controversies of the 1990s over the liberalization agenda of structural adjustment programmes subsided in the 2000s under all the attention paid to meeting the basic needs.
Yet another so called virtue of the MDGs was their ambition to achieve the 2015 goals in all countries. But this meant neglecting national contexts. They were one size fits all targets to be achieved in each country and against which governments would be held accountable. Ignoring the starting point, they were a biased metric, unfair to countries farthest behind with the largest challenges to meet the 2015 targets.
The SDGs reverse some of these shortcomings and include stronger elements for transformative change. To begin with, they include ‘means of implementation’ as a goal of its own (Goal 17) and as targets for each goal, recognizing the need to change policies and institutions if transformative change is to take place. To illustrate, in the field of health they include targets for important policy choices: (i) target 3b on Research and Development in vaccines and medicines, access to essential medicines, and affirmation of TRIPS flexibilities; (ii) target 3c on health financing; (iii) target 2c to stabilize food commodity markets; (iv) target 1b on pro-poor and gender sensitive development strategies; and (v) target 6b on local community participation in water management.
The adoption of a stand alone goal on inequality (Goal 10) that addresses disparities within and between countries is a significant departure from the MDGs. A sensitive issue for many politicians this is a goal that requires a reversal rather than acceleration of current trends in many countries, and relevant to all countries regardless of the level of income.
Another important reversal is the inclusion of goal 16 for just and inclusive institutions. This speaks not only to institutions of national governance but also global governance, including an explicit reference to “strengthening the participation of developing countries in institutions of global governance” (target 16.8).
Potential pitfalls in implementation: selectivity, simplification and national adaptation
While the SDGs offer a broader agenda that has potential for course correction, will they make a difference? There is a risk that the most transformative goals and targets would be neglected in implementation through selectivity, simplification, and national adaptation.
With 17 goals and 169 targets, which handful will receive policy attention, mobilize effort and resources? Selectivity could lead to neglect of goals and targets that would address structural issues. It is widely believed that the MDGs mobilized action, yet not all goals and targets were the same. Some such as employment and hunger were poor cousins until the 2008 financial crisis and recession hit. Will SDG 10 to reduce inequality within and between countries, or target 5.a to ensure legal right of women to land ownership receive attention?
The carefully negotiated language of the 17 goal agenda emphasizing intangible qualitative objectives of equitable and sustainable development has led to a complex language. The temptation would be to simplify this language and strip away the important qualifiers. Already, a private initiative to publicize the SDGs – Global Goals – has simplified them, shortening the titles and reinterpreting them in the process. Barbara Adams5 points out in her recent Social Watch blog, ‘the concept of “sustainable development” is completely lost’ as words like ‘just’, ‘inclusive’, ‘sustainable’ are removed and replaced by ‘responsible’ and ‘strong’.
Another risk is the process of national adaptation that reduces political pressure on national governments to address the political causes of poverty and inequality. It can then be an invitation to water down the ambition of the SDGs. Implementation of the inequality goal is particularly challenging as it is one of the few goals that requires a major change in course from the trends of the last decade6, including shifts in the economic model that has been promoted over the last decade.
For these Goals to be a ‘course correction’ in reality, the challenge will be to ensure that the hard won gains on politically contentious issues are not lost in implementation. Global goals are a politically negotiated consensus that has no enforcement mechanism built in. Their power lies in the normative value of a call to action. They make a difference when championed by committed indivisuals and organizations. MDG8 on trade, aid and technology was not championed. The onus now falls on civil society groups to leverage the SDGs as course correction.
1 The Economist, March 28, 2015.
2 William Easterly, Foreign Policy, September 28, 2015.
3 CESR blog post “Strong Commitments to Human Rights Survive in Final SDG Text, Despite Sordid Final Compromises”, http://www.cesr.org/article.php?id=1758, accessed December 7, 2015.
4 See Fukuda-Parr, S. (2012). Should global goal setting continue, and how, in the post 2015 era? UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA) Working Paper 117. http://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2012/wp117_2012.pdf; Fukuda-Parr, S., A.E. Yamin, and J. Greenstein (2014). The Power of Numbers: A Critical Review of Millennium Development Goal Targets for Human Development and Human Rights. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. 15:2-3. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19452829.2013.864622.
5 Barbara Adams (2015). Public SDGs or Private GGs? http://www.socialwatch.org/node/17055.
6 Susan Nicolai, Chris Hoy, Tony Berliner, Thomas Aedy (2015). Projecting progress: reaching the SDGs by 2030. http://www.odi.org/publications/9895-sdgs-progress-scorecard-projecting-2030-development-goals.
Sakiko Fukuda-Parr is Professor of International Affairs at The New School, New York. Her recent research focuses on human rights and economic policy, and she has published extensively on critical reviews of MDGs. She is a member of the UN Committee on Development Policy and the UNSD’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines.
World leaders affirm commitment for Agenda 2030
At the landmark Sustainable Development Summit held from 25-27 September at the UN in New York, a new agenda for global sustainable development (Agenda 2030) was adopted. In the three days summit over 150 leaders addressed the plenary and there were six interactive dialogues. They committed to work together for a successful implementation of the agenda over the next 15 years. Below is a report by Adriano José Timossi with excerpts of some of the speeches at the UN Summit.
By Adriano José Timossi
The opening of the UN summit on the post-2015 development agenda was preceded by an address by Pope Francis to the General Assembly members on Friday, 25 September. The General Assembly hall was fully occupied, as hundreds of leaders and other government officials, youth, CSO representatives, Nobel peace prize recipients and famous global stars appointed as UN goodwill ambassadors were all gathered together.
Pope Francis said the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that “reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes.
The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises,” the Pope said. “This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned,” he stated.
Pope Francis also spoke vocally on the role played by International Financial Agencies and stressed that they should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.
He stressed the need for preservation of the environment and the challenges posed by climate change. A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the Summit hailing the Agenda 2030 as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world. He said that “it is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms” and “an agenda for the planet, our common home.” The adoption ceremony was presided over by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The 193 members of the UN gave universal approval with loud applause.
Excerpts of leaders’ speeches at the UN Summit for the Adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, who said, “One must care about the world one will not see”. Modi hailed the fact that the goals recognize that economic growth, industrialization, infrastructure, and access to energy provide the foundations of development. He also welcomed the prominence given to environmental goals, especially climate change and sustainable consumption.
Since Independence, his country has pursued the dream of eliminating poverty from India. “We have chosen the path of removing poverty by empowering the poor.”
“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of our collective enterprise,” Modi stated. “When we speak only of climate change, there is a perception of our desire to secure the comforts of our lifestyle. When we speak of climate justice, we demonstrate our sensitivity and resolve to secure the future of the poor from the perils of natural disasters.” The Indian government has dedicated strong support for the development of renewable energy technologies and a national plan for the next seven years is underway.
“In addressing climate change, it is important to focus on solutions that can help us reach our goals. We should forge a global public partnership to harness technology, innovation and finance to put affordable clean and renewable energy within the reach of all. Equally, we must look for changes in our lifestyles that would make us less dependent on energy and more sustainable in our consumption.” He called upon world leaders to transform international partnerships on the strength of solidarity with fellow human beings and also, he said, our enlightened self-interest.
John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana, called upon world leaders to redefine a new paradigm of development while pursuing the SDGs. He said that the current high consumption of wasteful societies we classify as developed cannot be the model for sustainable development.
If the current attraction of the big cities of the so-called developed world, such as shopping malls bursting at the seams with all kinds of consumer goods, glitzy neon lighting and fast food franchises are the standard to be classified as developed, then we will need two more planets, the size of our earth, to maintain and sustain the human race. The world’s resources are not infinite. If we are to attain the objective of a sustainable consumption and production pattern under Goal 12, then it will be necessary for us to review the relations between labour, production and capital.
President Mahama said that the path to sustainable development for his country Ghana and many other African countries has been a difficult one. “We are still in the main, producers of primary commodities, while secondary and tertiary processing is done in the developed world and finished goods exported back to us. If the teeming youth of Africa must find jobs at home and stop attempting to cross the Mediterranean to enter the greener pastures of Europe, then we must review the role Africa plays in world production. A significant portion of processing and value addition must relocate to the continent.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that SDGs reaffirm the basic tenet of Rio+20: it is possible to grow, include and preserve and protect. The innovative agenda will require global solidarity, determination from each one of us, and a commitment to confronting climate change, overcoming poverty and creating opportunities for all. She called for the strengthening of the Climate Convention while fully implementing its provisions and respecting its principles. Our obligations should be ambitious and consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the Brazilian leader said. Brazil will reduce 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and ambition is to reach 43% by 2030 she said, and informing that the baseline for both would be 2005. Brazil also recognizes the important role South-South Cooperation can play in global efforts to combat climate change, she said.
President Xi Jinping of China called upon the international community to take the post-2015 development agenda as a new starting point, and together seek an equitable, open, comprehensive and innovation-driven development path in an effort to achieve common development of all countries.
The Chinese President said that, in these years, we have witnessed both continued growth worldwide and severe impacts of the international financial crisis, and both the sweeping rise of developing countries and the lingering unbalanced development between the North and the South. While elated at the fact that over 1.1 billion people have since shaken off poverty, we cannot but feel deeply worried that still over 800 million people must go to bed everyday with an empty stomach he said.
On the way to implement the new agenda, there is a need to ensure equitable development to make access to development more equal. He stated the need to ensure open development to deliver its benefits to all parties. It is important for all countries to uphold the multilateral trading system, build an open economy and come to share its benefits through mutual consultation and joint collaboration he said. We should respect each other’s choice for development, draw on each other’s experience therein and make our different paths cross at the point of success, thus bringing the rich fruits of development to our peoples.
We need to ensure all-round development to make the groundwork of development more solid. While striving to eliminate poverty and improve people’s livelihoods, it is important for us to uphold equity and social justice and ensure that everyone has access to opportunities and benefits of development. We need to ensure innovation-driven development to fully tap the development potential. Innovation has brought with it vibrant drivers for development.
The international community is to redouble their collective efforts for the joint implementation of the post-2015 development agenda in the interest of cooperation. He enumerated four main actions: 1) build up the development capacities; 2) improve the international environment for development; 3) update the partnership for development; and 4) strengthen the coordination mechanisms for development.
President Xi listed a series of initiatives including the establishment of a fund for South-South cooperation, with an initial pledge of US$2 billion in support of developing countries’ implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.
Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, called upon world leaders for a renewed global partnership in order to make progress on the Goals. The Algerian Minister remembered that 15 years ago the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted as ambitious targets to create a new world. Those targets created unprecedented mobilization to deal with the challenges of development he said. His country has made important achievements in many of the MDGs, including on eradication of poverty, education and the advancement of women, Minister Lamamra pointed out. As we face a complex period, there is a need to create an environment for common responsibility to achieve a better future for everyone and future generations he said. Algeria calls for strong engagement of the international community to work on the basis of a common conscience and vanquish its selfishness so as to assist future generations and provide a safe future and dignity and prosperity for all he said.
Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former President of Tanzania, expressed concern over the non-completion of the MDGs. The new Agenda had taken on the unfinished business of the MDGs but time and money were needed to achieve it. The lack of financial resources had been the greatest hindrance to enacting the MDGs. Each country must shoulder the cost of achieving the SDGs but developing countries could not do so alone. International funding was needed to complement countries’ own responsibilities. A global partnership was needed to ensure follow-up and review.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said that despite progress made in the last seventy years, the world has not adequately addressed underdevelopment, inequality, increasing poverty and economic exclusion.
On the way to implement the Agenda 2030, the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality is the primary focus of South Africa. The Goals are also aligned to South Africa’s National Development Plan as well as to the African Union’s Agenda 2063. While the 2030 agenda is universal in that the goals apply to both developed and developing countries, there is a clear recognition of the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
He said: “We welcome the commitment to the Global Partnership in the post-2015 development agenda. We call on the Development Partners to upscale Overseas Development Assistance, with binding timetables. We also reiterate that climate financing is new and additional to and cannot be counted as ODA, nor can it be mixed with traditional development finance.”
Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, Vice-President of Indonesia, said that in 2015 we stand witness to a historic juncture in development. The post-2015 development agenda represents our oath to our future generation, that we will strive together to leave them a legacy of a more prosperous world through sustainable development. Inequality amongst and within countries as well as poverty remain as the main global challenges. Besides that, new global challenges have also risen such as energy inequality, infrastructure gap, unsustainable consumption, limitation in production, and climate change.
Based on lessons learned and best practices in achieving MDGs, we need to intensify our efforts and enhance shared responsibilities in accordance with national capabilities as a solid foundation for the new agenda. Here developed countries have to give the examples that others can follow, he said.
There is a need to strengthening global partnership. It is critically important that international commitments be met, including on ODA. This should be coupled with knowledge sharing, technology transfer and wider access to markets including for the Middle Income Countries (MICs) which face many challenges, not least the impacts of the recent global economic turmoil. Development cannot take place in the absence of peace, within the state or between states.
Boni Yayi, President of Benin, and coordinator of the LDCs, called for special attention towards LDC countries in the implementation of the Agenda 2030. He stressed the importance of Means of Implementation. LDCs called for attention of taking the specificities of vulnerable countries in the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015. The LDC group which contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions needs particular attention in order to better prepare to adapt and become resilient to the negative effects of climate change.
Milner Tozaka, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Solomon Islands, an important representative of most vulnerable island countries, gave a concrete example of the impacts of climate change and its close relations with the implementation of the Agenda 2030. He said that small island developing States could not have a discussion on sustainable development without talking about climate change. The climate-related disasters last year had cost more than 9 per cent of his country’s GDP. Only in 2015, his Island has been victim of two cyclones which kept the country under the constant stress of disaster response.
Adriano José Timossi is a Senior Programme Officer of the Global Governance for Development Programme (GGDP) of the South Centre.
UN Celebrates 70th Anniversary
Below is a report by Adriano José Timossi on the outcomes of the General Debate of the General Assembly 70th session and with excerpts of some of the speeches at the UNGA.
By Adriano José Timossi
After a weekend of high diplomatic activity in New York at the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, leaders of the 193 members of the United Nations reconvened again on 28 September to 3 October for their traditional annual General Debate of the 70th session of the General Assembly.
The theme this year was “The United Nations at 70 – the road ahead for peace, security and human rights”. The session reviewed achievements of the UN in its first 70 years and debated on pressing issues of the global agenda.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his opening statement hailed the important achievement made over the weekend with the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda including 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs. He called world leaders to build on the momentum with a robust agreement on climate change. Facing the threat of the risk of temperatures rising above the 2°C threshold, the UN Secretary General called upon the international community to work in synergy and urged developed countries to meet the agreed goal of $100 billion per year by 2020 on climate financing and also, reminded them on their commitments with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the renewed pledge by developed countries to invest 0.7 per cent of the gross national income in official development assistance (ODA).
The UN Secretary General also spoke on the global humanitarian catastrophe which is taking place with proportions “not seen in one generation”. Today there are over 100 million people requiring immediate humanitarian assistance and 60 million people living outside their homes or their countries. Referring to the trillions in wasteful military spending, he questioned world leaders: “Why is it easier to find the money to destroy people and the planet than it is to protect them?”. While commending Europe for their efforts in providing asylum he also encouraged the old continent to do more. “After the Second World War, it was Europe seeking the world’s assistance,” he recalled in addressing the current refugee and migration crisis.
Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th session of the General Assembly, said that eradicating poverty in all its forms is only possible with a much more complex transformation of the entire global economy, the environment and social structures. “We cannot rely only on the traditional growth model of the past fifteen or the past seventy years,” he said, adding that inequality in income, wealth, access to resources and to quality education and health must be overcome. Each and every person has a legitimate demand for a decent life he said. People in developed countries could not continue to consume and produce in the manner to which they were accustomed.
Developing countries’ leaders reaffirm their strong support for multilateralism and call for a more robust UN that can help to fight global injustice and inequality
Several leaders of the South countries have used the UN General Assembly to denounce the unfairness of the current injustices of the international economic and political system which have contributed to spread poverty, raising inequality and destabilization with peace and development turning into a dream so far not achieved for many people in the developing countries and, ironically, now also a problem of developed country nations despite all their resources. They made a strong call for a new era in which the principles enshrined in the Charter of the UN signed in June 1945 can be truly implemented so that a more equal and inclusive society and a more balanced and peaceful international order can be achieved. Terrorism and climate change were identified as two key emerging threats also largely addressed by the leaders.
One significant event was the raising of the Palestinian flag in front of a large crowd of diplomats, for the first time in the history of the UN Headquarters in New York. An overwhelming majority of world leaders from South and North have expressed their solidarity and support for the establishment of the State of Palestine in peaceful coexistence with Israel and denouncing the expansion of settlements in the occupied territories.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank systems created under an era of global dominance by developed countries and the colonial system were also at the centre of attention of developing country leaders as the economic and financial crisis, which begun in 2008 in the United States, is still an issue and now impacts severely many in the south. The decision making process in economic and financial issues is unbalanced and most of the promised reforms are yet to be implemented. Their policies led to great crises in the south and as result new south led architectures of economic and finance governance are now emerging and will serve as an alternative to north dominated structures as well as to push them for long awaited reforms.
Extracts from South leaders’ speeches in the GA 70th session
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, traditionally the first speaker in the General Debate, congratulated the UN for its achievements over the past 70 years recognizing that there have been progress and setbacks for the organization. “The decolonization process has shown notable evolution, as can be seen from the composition of this Assembly. The UN has broadened its initiatives, incorporating the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, in other words, issues related to the environment, poverty eradication, social development and access to quality services. Matters such as urban challenges and gender and race issues have become a priority”. President Rousseff also recognized that despite achievements the organization “had not had the same success in addressing collective security”. She warned about the proliferation of regional conflicts — “some with destructive potential”.
As the host nation of the Rio 92 and Rio+20 summits, the latter leading to the process which culminated in the sustainable development goals, Ms. Rousseff called for global solidarity, and “determination from each one of us and a commitment to confront climate change, overcome poverty and generate opportunities”. She called upon leaders to strengthen the Climate Convention, while fully implementing its provisions and respecting its principles. “The obligations to be undertaken must be ambitious – including with regard to financial and technological support to developing countries and small islands in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities,” she said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said that seventy years ago, the earlier generation of mankind, with vision and foresight, established the United Nations. This universal and most representative and authoritative international organization has carried mankind’s hope for a new future and ushered in a new era of cooperation. It was a pioneering initiative never undertaken before. Xi Jinping said that “History is a mirror. Only by drawing lessons from history can the world avoid repeating past calamity. We should view history with awe and human conscience. The past cannot be changed, but the future can be shaped”. He made a strong call for equal partnership and mutual understanding among nations. The Cold War mentality should be abandoned.
The Chinese leader also added that “the 2008 international financial crisis has taught us that allowing capital to blindly pursue profit can only create a crisis and that global prosperity cannot be built on the shaky foundation of a market without moral constraints. The growing gap between rich and poor is both unsustainable and unfair. It is important for us to use both the invisible hand and the visible hand to form synergy between market forces and government function and strive to achieve both efficiency and fairness”. China announced the decision to establish a 10-year, US$1 billion China-UN peace and development fund to support the work of the United Nations, to advance multilateral cooperation and contribute more to world peace and development.
Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran and current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of over 100 developing countries established in 1961, acknowledged the role of all the negotiators, the leaders and the heads of state and government of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, China and Iran in achieving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the six world powers that was immediately turned into an international instrument with the ratification of the United Nations Security Council.
The JCPOA sets a strong precedent where, for the first time, two sides, rather than negotiating peace after war, engaged in dialogue and understanding before the eruption of conflict, the Iranian leader said. Referring to the sanctions imposed against his country in the past decades, the leader said that “though, we protest the adoption of unfair resolutions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the imposition of sanctions against the Iranian nation and government as a result of misunderstandings and sometimes overt hostilities of some countries, however, we believe, as an old Iranian saying goes, “the sooner you stop harm, the more benefit you will reap”. Today is the very day that harm is stopped”, Rouhani said.
The Iranian leader also said that the nuclear deal, an example of “victory over war”, should herald a new era with sustainable peace and stability in the region.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, current Chairman of the G77 and China, said that the UN Charter “embodied, through its principles and objectives, the aspirations of the oppressed people world-wide”. President Zuma also acknowledged the role of the UN General Assembly in the past 70 years. “Rooted in the principle of sovereign equality, UNGA is the most representative international institution and organ of the United Nations”. Over the past 70 years, the General Assembly remained central to the provision of support to the disadvantaged, marginalised, occupied, colonised and oppressed peoples of the world, he said, and remembered its role in support of the South African struggle for liberation internationally when it declared apartheid as a crime against humanity.
The South African President called for an independent and impartial Human Rights Council mechanism for the entrenchment of a human rights culture throughout the world. “It should avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, which was beset by politicisation and was caught up in the divide between developed and developing countries,” he said. As a strong voice representing the interests of the African continent in global and regional affairs, President Zuma also emphasised that the “UN Security Council must take into account the views of the African Continent and its sub-regional organisations when dealing with conflicts in Africa in future”.
As the host nation of the climate conference in Durban which led to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, President Zuma stated that South Africa has a special interest and a commitment to the success of the UNFCCC’s Paris conference. However for that to happen, the continent requires the fulfilment of all three parts of the Durban Mandate; namely:
(i) the closing of the current ambition gap in the pre-2020 period through the honouring of existing legal obligations by developed countries and enhanced action,
(ii) the entry into force of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and,
(iii) the adoption of a new agreement for the post-2020 period in Paris that contains all the essential elements, including the means of implementation, loss and damage and response measures.
President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, said that recently Egypt and the world witnessed the inauguration of the New Suez Canal, an achievement that will have a major impact on a number of economic fields, such as transportation, trade and services. It is also a statement of the determination of its people to overcome obstacles. The Middle East and the world at large are confronted with a perilous danger and are in dire need of a model that presents new prospects for our youth, providing them with opportunities for a brighter future. They must be shown that, with diligent work, they can participate in crafting this future. He announced Egypt’s intention to launch, in coordination with the UN, and with wide participation by the youth of all nations, an initiative labeled: “Hope and Action for a New Direction”.
He said the increasing plight of refugees fleeing from destructive armed conflicts reaffirms the need to work towards resolving these conflicts and confronting the scourge of terrorism, a major aggravating factor. It also necessitates creating channels for legal immigration and facilitating transportation as well as linking international migration and development. Egypt hosts ever increasing numbers of refugees. Egypt hopes that solutions to this crisis will be found, whether in the short-run to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of refugees, or in the long-run through overcoming the fundamental causes of this crisis.
President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, currently president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) created by the 33 nations of the region, said that the UN was born from the ashes of WWII to maintain international peace and security. In the 21st century, 70 years after, peace must be all about the presence of justice, dignity and development. Correa quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said that “poverty is the worst form of violence.”
President Correa highlighted that CELAC has declared the region a zone of peace but that outrageous opulence of a few, next to the most intolerable poverty, are also daily bullets against human dignity. The 164 million people in Latin America living in poverty, 68 million of whom remain in extreme poverty, are still waiting for justice, freedom and real democracy, which should not only be reduced to holding elections regularly. Overcoming poverty is the major imperial moral for the planet, and for the first time in the history of mankind, poverty is not the result of lack of resources or natural factors but of unfair and exclusionary systems, the result of perverse structures of power.
The Ecuadorian President also said that it is believed sometimes that environmental services do not have costs but the reality is that it can be very costly. Only by compensating for the consumption of environmental services are we able not to have the need of having financing for development. He also said that conservation in poor countries will not be possible in the absence of clear and direct improvement in the standards of living of their population. As Pope Francis said in his encyclical, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach”. He denounced the environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian Amazon caused by contamination by oil company Texaco (later sold to Chevron). Correa called upon leaders of the world to adopt a binding treaty to sanction companies that violated human rights and damaged the environment.
Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela and the incoming chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that 70 years after the birth of the UN, the people of the planet are still suffering from the scourge of inequality, poverty, looting, exploitation, which are the true causes of all wars we have known.
From the bipolar world of confrontation, we went to an unipolar world of impositions. The time has c