‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

UNICEF/Uddin A family left homeless by cyclone Aila wait for assistance in Koira, Khulna District, Bangladesh.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Pointing to climate change, inequalities and other serious challenges, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a forum on Thursday Development that “the clock is ticking” down, to making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Climate change is ravaging the planet… staggering numbers of children and youth – especially girls and young women – still lack access to basic education and healthcare services, [and] people in many countries are starved of economic opportunities, decent work and social protection measures”, she told the  2019 ECOSOC Partnership Forum, where governments, business representatives and other influencers met to discuss how partnerships can best advance and the 17 (SDGs).

Under the theme, “Partnerships Driving Inclusive Implementation of the SDGs”, the Forum will capture key policy messages to inform the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in in September.

“Our task is immense, but many of the pathways to change are in plain sight”, she asserted, adding that while “success is still possible”, it requires difficult conversations around “the need to fill partnership skillset gaps, tackle financing shortfalls, and address data deficiencies”.

The economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development call for “a fully integrated approach” that engages everyone.

“Partnerships are critical for achieving progress across the full agenda” stressed Ms. Mohammed, calling SDG 17 on partnerships, “the ‘connective tissue’ which will ensure an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable development”.

The deputy UN chief shared four points for discussion, beginning with a commitment between the UN, governments, private sector and civil society to work together in a more coordinated and integrated way.

“The transformation we need requires us to acknowledge that everyone is a development actor,” she argued. “Governments alone cannot achieve the SDGs”.

Secondly, she pointed to the need to prioritize investments in platforms and coalitions that engage a larger ecosystem of partners.

“Investments in cross-cutting, high-return priorities have strong potential to unlock progress across multiple SDGs”, she stated, flaggin a range of areas, from quality education and health services to zero-carbon energy and environmental conservation.

Ms. Mohammad’s third point focused on leadership, innovation and strategic collaborations “at the local level”.

“We must draw on the knowledge and experience of local communities and actors on the ground to ensure that we replicate and scale up the most promising models”, she emphasized.

Ensuring that the process to socialize the SDGs and strengthen ownership is “inclusive, transparent and accountable”, was her final point.

“All stakeholders, big or small should find a place to play their role and make their contribution”, she maintained.

She urged everyone to “reflect honestly about where we are falling short, because those shortcomings are also where the opportunities lie to make a difference”.

“Only with this kind of pragmatic approach will we realize our aspiration of leaving no one behind”, said Ms. Mohammed, with the reminder that promoting equitable access and equal participation by all, including the most marginalized, “is a fundamental ethic of the SDG era”.

Turning to capacity-building for vulnerable groups, she encouraged the forum to apply “a lens of inclusion and empowerment” to ensure that they “are put in the driver’s seat for SDG implementation”.

Recalling that young people, particularly women and entrepreneurs, are at the forefront of SDG progress, the Deputy Secretary-General concluded: “Let’s make sure we listen carefully to their vision and draw inspiration from their determination and commitment to creating a better world”.

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