UN SG says now is the time for leadership

UN SG says now is the time for leadership

Speaking at the closing of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals, in New York on 19 September, UN Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres said that the world needs to make the most of this Summit’s momentum to spur progress in the months ahead. He underlined that it can be done through seven key areas, while emphasizing that above all, “now is the time for leadership”. 

 The SG said that first of all, countries need to transform their support of the SDG Stimulus into real investments in developing countries. “We need to reach at least $500 billion per year for sustainable development, including through multilateral development banks and other mechanisms. To carry forward this initiative, I am calling for the formation of a Leaders Group to deliver a set of clear steps that enable the $500 billion to start flowing before the end of 2024,” he said.

The SG then said it is important to translate the commitments made at this Summit into concrete policies, budgets, investment portfolios and action and shift the focus of Voluntary National Reviews to advance accountability and catalog progress made against this week’s commitments.   

The third point focused on strengthening support for action across the six key SDG transitions highlighted, namely food, energy, digitalization, education, social protection and jobs, and biodiversity. “The UN development system will take this work to the next level in the months ahead, and we will measure progress at the High-Level Political Forum next July,” he said.

 Following this, the SG said countries should start planning now for massive increases in investments in social protection. “We must bring to life the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection to cover one billion additional people by 2025 and four billion by 2030,” he underscored.

“As the political declaration makes clear, it’s high time for developed countries to meet their Official Development Assistance target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. As you plan your spending priorities for next year’s budget cycle, make it happen,” the SG said concerning the fifth area. . 

On the sixth area, he said that next month’s meeting of the IMF and World Bank must not be “business as usual.”  In addition to recapitalization, we need to see an urgent additional re-channeling of $100 billion in un-used Special Drawing Rights. Government delegations should also arrive with specific proposals to massively leverage private funding in support of developing countries.” 

 He said that this should include proposals around innovative financing mechanisms like blended public and private finance and the use of debt swaps called for in the political declaration.  

“More broadly, we need to improve global debt mechanisms overall including by speeding up procedures, enabling immediate debt suspensions and restructuring debt on longer and affordable terms for countries in urgent need.  And in line with the political declaration, we need to reform the global financial architecture, with concrete proposals developed in time for next year’s Summit of the Future and the next Financing for Development Conference in 2025,” the SG mentioned. 

The seventh and last area was to arrive at COP28 next month with concrete plans and proposals to avoid the worst effects of climate change, keep global promises to provide essential support, and help developing countries achieve a just and equitable transition to renewable energy. “In particular, this will be the moment to operationalize the new loss and damage fund at COP28 — as well as the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund called for at COP15.”

He underlined that ending “our senseless war on nature must move from words to action this year.”  “The development to-do list is not just homework. This is hope work. And action is the price of hope.  We have a rescue plan before us, in the political declaration. 

 Now is the time to lift the declaration’s words off the page, and invest in development at scale like never before.  Now is the time to go back to your countries and get to work on the policies, budgets and investments needed to achieve the SDGs. Above all, now is the time for leadership,” the SG said.  

Meanwhile, Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UNGA

said that discussions over the last two days have sharpened our understanding of the challenges, as well as the available opportunities to ignite our renewed commitment to achieving the SDGs.

“As I reflect on the discussions over the past days, one thing is clear: We need to ACT. We need ambition. We need collaboration. We need to be timely,” he said.

“In terms of ambition, I welcome new commitments that have been announced, as well as dynamic new modalities for cooperation. It is recognized that we must use the latest in data, science, and technology to create innovative solutions, and these tools must be available to all,” he said, adding that ambition alone is not enough and it must be backed and butressed by action.

He said the world needs to mobilize the necessary financial resources, ensuring that they are accessible, timely, and on reasonable terms, especially for countries that are already in debt distress and those experiencing multidimensional vulnerabilities.

“In that respect, we need to ensure that the international financial system serves all countries, responding to today’s needs and flexible enough to respond to tomorrow’s challenges. And we must ensure that our public institutions are supporting effective policies and accelerating progress toward the SDGs,” the President said. 

Underlining that in terms of collaboration, “participants echoed – over and over – that individual ambition on its own will only get us so far,” he said that all stakeholders need to actively contribute to achieving the SDGs, including the active involvement of affected local communities.

“In the corporate and business sector, they say time is money – and I am sure that there is no one in this hall who is not familiar with the adage attributed to Edward Young that procrastination is the thief of time. Let us therefore commit that the outcomes reached at this SDG Summit will be implemented in a timely manner, lest they be overtaken by event,” the President said

 He also said that with seven years remaining in SDGs implementation, “time is simply not on our side – and we must embrace therefore a timely plan of action.” “With each day, new issues are arising – whether it be another intense climate disaster, increasing food insecurity, or global health emergency. It will be impossible for us to keep up with future challenges if we have not found ways to ingrain sustainable development in all its forms into the policies and practices today,” he added.

“Let us carry these conversations forward throughout the remainder of the High-Level Week, particularly in discussions around Financing for Development and the three health-related meetings. As I stated at the opening yesterday – and I repeat once again here today – we have made a commitment to the peoples of this world to work toward delivering the SDGs by 2030,” he said.

“As I have also repeatedly said, for me my every morning starts with a reminder of the preamble to the UN Charter – We the Peoples. The peoples do not want our excuses. What they want is decisive action and meaningful progress. So let us step up, rise to the occasion, and do our utmost best for the sake of the Peoples of the United Nations. Let us deliver – for them – on our word and our commitments,” he highlighted.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dasho (Dr.) Tandi Dorji is leading Bhutan’s delegation for the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78). The Foreign Minister will address the General Debate on 26 September 2023. The theme of the General Debate of UNGA78 is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”

In addition, the Foreign Minister will participate in several high-level intergovernmental meetings and side events, where the Minister will highlight issues of priority to RGoB and reaffirm Bhutan’s commitment to multilateralism. Bilateral meetings with senior officials from governments, United Nations and other international organisations will also be undertaken. Foreign Minister will host a dinner for and interact with the Bhutanese community in the United States on 22 September 2023. 

Established in 1945, the General Assembly is the main policy making organ of the UN and provides a unique forum for  multilateral discussion covering a wide spectrum of international issues on peace, security and development among others.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu