United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for political will and bold action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Public appetite for transformative change is growing, he said in his opening remarks at the SDG Moment 2020. “But one critical ingredient is still missing: political will. Without it, neither public appetite nor stakeholder action will be sufficient.”
The SDG Moment, a high-level event to galvanize global efforts toward the SDGs, will be convened by the UN secretary-general annually till 2030 to match the Decade of Action for the SDGs.
“The science is clear. The people are clear. This is no time to procrastinate. The decisions taken over the next few months and years will have enormous impact on where we will be by 2030,” Guterres said.
He called for action in three crucial areas: finance, COVID-19 recovery, and ambition.
Right now, developing countries face the dual challenges of funding the pandemic response and avoiding a major debt crisis, he said. “For the SDGs to stand a chance, we must address the immediate, medium- and longer-term financing challenges that developing countries face.”
He encouraged world leaders, who will meet later this month on financing for development on the sidelines of the General Assembly General Debate, to consider policy options, including boosting the resources available to international financial institutions and extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to at least the end of 2021.
Inclusive and green COVID-19 recovery plans, done right, can help countries to transition to a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable economy, he said. “As we spend huge amounts of money to recover from the coronavirus, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition.”
“That means ensuring that taxpayers’ money is used for a resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery. It means ending fossil fuel subsidies, making polluters pay for their pollution and ensuring that no new coal-fired power plants are built. And it means reducing inequalities and placing women, who have been among the worst affected by job losses and increased care burdens, at the center of recovery plans,” said Guterres.
He called for ambition and solidarity to provide the 35 billion extra U.S. dollars needed so that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are available to everyone, fast; ambition to cut carbon emissions by half in the next decade, paving the way to carbon neutrality by 2050; and ambition to protect biodiversity, achieve gender equality, end poverty and hunger and fulfill the promise of the SDGs.
“In the midst of the greatest international crisis of their time, the founders of the United Nations raised their eyes above the horizon and planned a better, safer future. The COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest challenge faced by us since the founding of the United Nations has brought us low,” he said.
“But we will not be beaten. We, too, must look beyond the current crisis and set our sights high, as we strike out for a world of dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet. Together, let us make this a decade of action, a decade of ambition, a decade of transformation, a decade of hope and peace,” he added.