UNITED NATIONS, Sep 18 (APP): The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the future for millions of girls who want education, women who struggle for equality, and youth fighting for clean air, UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai said on Friday, at a side event of the General Assembly, urging countries to get on track.
“When I last spoke here, I was just about to enter university…optimistic about what was ahead: university life, making new friends and access to an incredible education,” she told the inaugural SDG Moment event, intended to renew the effort to meet the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the coming decade. “This June, I graduated in the midst of a reeling world — one many of us could not have predicted.”
The young Nobel Laureate recalled that five years ago member states signed on to the SDGs, but, “so far, you have not kept up with your work”, she declared.
While acknowledging that COVID-19 had been “a striking setback to our collective goals” she stressed, “it cannot be an excuse.”
“On education alone, 20 million more girls may never go back to the classroom when this crisis ends [and] the global education funding gap has already increased to 200 billion dollars per year,” she flagged.
The young advocate signaled that moving forward, things should not return to the way they were.
“When will you commit the necessary funding to give every child 12 years of quality education? When will you prioritize peace and protect refugees? When will you pass policies to cut carbon emissions?”
Underlining the need for “a profound commitment to the way the world should be – a place where every girl can learn and lead, a place where we put people and our planet ahead of profits, a place where leaders keep their promises,” Malala requested that those gathered “set the norms” of a new sustainable, healthy, educated and equitable era.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that in embarking on a Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030, “we must strike out for a world of dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet.
“We must look beyond the current crisis and set our sights high…to show that transformation is possible and is happening right now,” he said.
The UN chief painted a vivid picture of a world “shaken to the core” – by the COVID-19 pandemic “pushing us towards the worst recession in decades”, causing widespread disruption, rising hunger, skyrocketing debt, plunging fiscal resources and threatening children’s education.
Even before the virus, inequalities were growing, he pointed out, noting that globalization benefits had failed to reach “millions upon millions of destitute people” as greenhouse gases soared to record levels.
“We need a path that brings health to all, revives economies, brings people in from the margins of society and builds long-term resilience, sustainability, opportunity and peace,” outlined the UN chief.
He said the pandemic has undercut the very fragilities that the 2030 Agenda was designed to address – to end poverty and leave no one behind.
“The poor have a special claim on our efforts and energies and must be reached first” by expanding social protections, ensuring universal access to essential services, strengthening education, health systems and internet connectivity and placing women at the centre of decision-making, he detailed.
According to Guterres, the 2030 Agenda additionally demanded transitioning to inclusive, low-carbon, resilient economies that deliver more jobs and a cleaner environment, which will not only reduce the risk of future pandemics but also mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
“In short, the 2030 Agenda provides the guiding light we need to end the pandemic, to respond to its socio-economic impacts and to chart a course for a transformative recovery”, he spelled out.
Underscoring that there was “no time to procrastinate”, the UN chief highlighted the three crucial areas of finance, COVID-19 recovery and greater ambition, moving forward.
On finance, he stressed the importance of addressing the immediate, medium and longer-term challenges faced by developing countries and pointed to an upcoming UN financing meeting on September 29 as “an opportunity to get behind the most significant policy options”, such as extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to at least the end of 2021.
Turning to COVID-19 recovery, Guterres asserted that plans must be inclusive and green to help countries transition to a more equitable and sustainable economy, including by using taxpayer’s money for a resilient recovery, ending fossil fuel subsidies and placing women at the centre of building back.
On the third priority, the UN chief argued that the world needed “ambition and solidarity” to provide the billions of dollars needed to deliver COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to everyone; cut carbon emissions in half; and protect biodiversity, achieve gender equality and fulfill the SDGs’ promises.
“When the public appetite for change is matched with political will and smart policy choices, rapid progress is unstoppable”, the Secretary-General said. “This annual SDG Moment is our opportunity to demonstrate that, as one united family of nations, we have what it takes to eradicate poverty and hunger, tackle climate change, deliver gender equality and achieve all 17 global goals.”
President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir noted that the world needed “collaboration, cooperation and dialogue”, saying it was the kind of crux moment, for which the UN was built.
“Halting the spread of COVID-19 and regaining progress against the SDGs must be our collective priority”, he said, arguing that countries in special situations should be prioritized.
“It will not be easy, but the SDGs themselves provide us the very blueprint needed to recover, better.”
The head of the UN Development Fund (UNDP) Achim Steiner said for the first time in 30 years, the march of progress in human development was expected to go sharply into reverse, maintaining that social protection solutions were key to protect communities worldwide.
“Building people’s resilience against vulnerability, risk and deprivation, and helping them to get on their feet if they falter, defines social protection in the 21st century,” he said.