Slow progress prompts calls for more efforts to fulfil sustainable development goals

The deputy-secretary general of the United Nations has demanded urgent action to meet the organisation’s sustainable development goals, as efforts to reach four fifths of the goals are behind schedule.

Addressing the opening of the 2024 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, Amina Mohammed (pic) called for “transformative actions and bold policies” to address pressing global challenges such as poverty, food insecurity and climate change.

Mohammed told delegates assembled at the UN Headquarters in New York: “Although the greatest challenges before us are daunting, together we can overcome them, achieve the peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future that all people not only need but deserve.”

She later continued: “This forum is our chance to carry this momentum forward and double down on acceleration efforts as we look ahead to 2030 with six years to go.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, created 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which served as a universal call to action, to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 SDGs are integrated – they recognise that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. The SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls.

However, progress towards such SDGs is well behind schedule as only one fifth of the global goals is on track, a statistic Amina Mohammad described as a “deeply sobering fact.”

She said: “This should be unacceptable for all of us. But it is also fixable, if we summon the commitment, the ideas, the solutions and the investments that drive our progress so far.”

There is some good news with certain countries leading the way on climate action by reducing emissions and increasing renewable energy production. Nature-based solutions, community-based forest management, sustainable agriculture initiatives and the conservation of iconic species are also contributing to global efforts to halt and reserve biodiversity loss as well as to reduce environmental degradation.

Elsewhere there are also examples of expanding social protection, through improvements in health and education, especially for women and children.

Countries are harnessing technology to expand basic services to all and to promote pathways for digital transformations that keep pace with global developments in research and innovation.

However, poverty remains the defining challenge of our time, Mohammad declared.

“Food insecurity has reached alarmingly high levels,” she said. “Humanitarian crises and displacement are growing, duelled by rising levels of conflict. Women and girls continue to face discrimination and disadvantage. It is evident that the impacts of climate change are intensifying, whilst action and financing for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage are not keeping pace.”

She added: “Countries are desperate for an economic and financial system today that responds to our crises and can adapt to emerging risks. Reform of the international financial architecture is critical – especially for developing countries which are not receiving the level of support that they need at the scale and with a sense of urgency.”