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UN chief calls for 'global rescue plan' to meet SDGs

By ZHAO HUANXIN at the United Nations | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-19 10:11
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JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

Halfway to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), progress is lagging badly — and in some cases going in reverse, so the United Nations chief has called for a "global rescue plan" and at least $500 billion annual extra funding from wealthy nations to help regain the lost momentum.

"The SDGs aren't just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "Yet today, only 15 percent of the targets are on track."

The UN chief made the remarks at the beginning of the two-day SDG Summit on Monday at UN headquarters in New York, where world leaders also gathered for the annual UN General Assembly high-level week.

In 2015, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at the heart of which are the 17 SDGs, including ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

But progress has stalled or even reversed amid the climate crisis, the economic downturn, conflicts and the lingering impact of COVID-19, and more specifically, the number of people living in extreme poverty is higher than it was four years ago, and gender equality is some 300 years away, according to a statement from the UN.

"The SDGs need a global rescue plan," Guterres told world leaders in the General Assembly hall, adding that they made "a promise to build a world of health, progress and opportunity for all — a promise to leave no one behind, and a promise to pay for it."

He called for action to reduce hunger, faster transition to renewable energy, wider spread of the benefits and opportunities of digitalization, better education for as many children and youth as possible, decent work and social protection, and stopping the war on nature.

The UN chief said he was "deeply encouraged" by the wide-ranging draft political declaration that was adopted on Monday, especially its commitment to improving developing countries' access to the fuel required for SDG progress: finance.

The declaration, adopted by consensus Monday, urges immediate action to deliver an SDG stimulus proposed by the UN secretary-general, which calls for a massive increase in financing for the achievement of the SDGs to the tune of $500 billion each year.

"It includes the endorsement of the need to reform the international financial architecture that I consider outdated, dysfunctional and unfair," Guterres said. "This can be a game-changer in accelerating SDG progress."

In the declaration, the UN member states emphasize that eradicating poverty, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge, and reaffirm that climate change is one of the "greatest challenges of our time".

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis, in his opening remarks, also called on world leaders to rededicate to the SDGs, and to reinvigorate progress across the entirety of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"With concerted, ambitious action, it is still possible that, by 2030, we could lift 124 million additional people out of poverty and ensure that some 113 million fewer people are malnourished," he said.

Such achievements would also generate gains across the other goals related to health, nutrition and education, so adequate investment in the SDGs is a win-win for all, with cross-cutting and knock-on benefits reverberating across the globe, he added.

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