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‘It’s crunch time’ to reach the SDGs, Mohammed tells Global Citizen Festival

“Come rain or shine, we’re here because we are committed to our planet”, said Amina Mohammed, addressing the Global Citizen Festival, against the backdrop of the UN General Assembly High Level Week, taking place down the road.

All to play for at halftime

She highlighted the race to reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), end the climate crisis, and push for real gender equality.

“What happens today is a reflection of leaders meeting all week, promises made seven years ago, and today we’re recommitting to what the great Al Pacino said, tell it like it is: it’s halftime, and we’re down…but we’re not out!”

She asked the crowd assembled in the green heart of Manhattan if they felt like they were changing the world: “Well at the United Nations, we’re joining you, we are mobilizing people around the world.”

Global Citizen’s main mission is to end extreme poverty, through goals that align fully with the UN and the SDGs.

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At the Festival, global leaders pledged $240 million for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), promised to protect a further 900,000 hectares of land in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and secured promises from nine members of the US Congress, and the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, Kier Starmer, to follow through on national climate commitments.

Struggling to keep promises

The Deputy Secretary-General acknowledged that many around the world are hurting both in “mind and body”, with wars raging, and the planet not just warming – but boiling.

“Leaders are really struggling to use their power to keep the promises of the Global Goals and they risk breaking that promise to billions of people”, she said.

The good news is with seven years remaining to 2030, the game can still be won in the second half, but “we can’t win unless we stop our world from heating up.”

Bridge the divide

“We need leaders to bridge the digital divide – because we can’t win if billions of people especially girls are left offline and left behind.”

She said if women and girls are left on the sidelines of the collective effort, that means half the team isn’t even on the field.

“So New Yorkers, it’s crunch time. But crunch time is when champions are made”, she said.

“Let’s unite and fight together – inch by inch – to keep the promise of achieving the Global Goals by 2030.”

New global action pledge to end TB by 2030

The document lays out ambitious new targets for the next five years that include reaching 90 per cent of people with TB prevention and care services, providing social benefit packages to those who have the disease, and licensing at least one new vaccine.

TB is the second leading infectious killer worldwide after COVID-19, with some 1.6 million deaths in 2021 alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The only available vaccine  is more than a century old.

Defeating a killer

“Why, after all the progress we have made – from sending man to the moon, to bringing the world to our fingertips – have we been unable to defeat a preventable and curable disease that kills over 4,400 people a day?” said the President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis.

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TB has afflicted humanity for millennia, going by several names including the white plague and consumption.  

It is caused by bacteria and mainly affects the lungs, and treatment is with antibiotics.  A WHO council established to facilitate the development and equitable use of new vaccines met for the first time this week.

A personal commitment

Stamping out the TB epidemic is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the roadmap for a more just and green global future by the end of the decade.

Five years ago, countries set the target of delivering TB treatment to 40 million people, reaching 34 million. They also aimed to provide 30 million with preventive treatment but fell short by half.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called for action to tackle the main drivers of TB – poverty, undernutrition, lack of access to healthcare, the prevalence of HIV infections, diabetes, mental health, and smoking.

Stigma surrounding the disease also needs to be reduced so that people can get help without fear of discrimination, she added, while governments must ensure universal health coverage that includes TB screening, prevention and treatment.  

Ms. Mohammed also shared her own reason for supporting the global fight.

“My commitment is my personal story: losing my father to TB at 50, 37 years ago this week,” she said.  “Today we have the tools to diagnose, treat, and what we need right now is a vaccine. Let’s end TB now. It is possible.”

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Stigma fuels death

Mongolian author Handaa Rea, who has survived the disease, urged world leaders to “treat TB not only medically but also socially.”

She has written about her own experience of TB-related stigma, discrimination that she said is prevalent in many developing countries, resulting in “hundreds of thousands of people” delaying seeking treatment.

The consequences of stigma are “more enhanced” for women and girls who are held to higher standards of health, well-being and beauty, she added.

“When society says things like ‘she’s too skinny, because she has TB, she’s unworthy of marriage because she has or had TB, or she continues to have TB because she’s irresponsible,’ we as a society are bullying TB patients one step closer to death – a death that is fully preventable. And this has to stop,” she said.

The ‘final chapter’

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commended the “amazing” energy in the room, where participants frequently chanted “End TB, yes we can!”

He welcomed the political declaration, which was agreed by consensus ahead of the meeting.  It will be presented to the General Assembly, the UN’s most representative organ, comprising all 193 Member States.

“For millennia, our ancestors have suffered and died with tuberculosis, without knowing what it was, what caused it, or how to stop it,” he said.

“Today, we have knowledge and tools they could only have dreamed of.  We have political commitment.  And we have an opportunity that no generation in the history of humanity has had: the opportunity to write the final chapter in the story of TB.” 

Summit of the Future ‘unique opportunity’ to rebuild trust: Guterres

“Your strong engagement during our deliberations today reaffirms that multilateralism is neither dead nor obsolete,” said Dennis Francis in his opening remarks to a preparatory meeting for next year’s Summit of the Future.

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Scheduled for September 2024, it is billed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate multilateralism, address gaps in global governance, and reaffirm existing commitments, including to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Charter. 

Recent global shocks – including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the climate emergency – have tested international institutions, underlining the critical need for unity around shared principles and common goals.

‘A unique opportunity’ 

“The Summit of the Future is a unique opportunity to help rebuild trust and bring outdated multilateral institutions and frameworks into line with today’s world, based on equity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.  

“But it is more than an opportunity,” he added. “It is an essential means of reducing risks and creating a safer and more peaceful world.” 

The Summit has its origins in Our Common Agenda, the Secretary-General’s 2021 report outlining his vision for the future of international cooperation “through an inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism.”  

The report aims to “turbocharge” the push towards the 17 SDGs – the global promise to deliver a more just, equitable and greener future for all people and the planet by 2030. 

Although progress has been derailed by the pandemic and other crises, a “rescue plan” agreed this week aims to get them back on track.

Pact for the Future 

At the Summit, countries are expected to adopt a Pact for the Future that covers five areas: sustainable development and related financing; international peace and security; science, technology, innovation and digital cooperation; youth and future generations; and transforming global governance. 

Mr. Guterres commended their pledge to advance human rights, the empowerment of women and girls, and acceleration towards achieving the SDGs. 

To support the negotiations, he has published 11 policy briefs that build on proposals contained in Our Common Agenda

“The Pact for the Future will be your contract with each other and with your people,” he said.  “It represents your pledge to use all the tools at your disposal at the global level to solve problems – before those problems overwhelm us.”  

Education activist Varaidzo Kativhu addresses the preparatory meeting for the Summit of the Future at UN Headquarters in New York.
UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

Education activist Varaidzo Kativhu addresses the preparatory meeting for the Summit of the Future at UN Headquarters in New York.

‘Start talking to us’: Youth advocate

Varaidzo Kathivu, a girls’ education activist and youth advocate from Zimbabwe, welcomed the Pact’s focus on future generations. 

Over half of the world’s population is under 30, representing the largest generation of young people in history. They need a real seat at the table when it comes to decision-making she declared, sitting next to the UN chief. 

“Please stop talking about us and start talking to us. And not only talking to us but working with us,” she said. 

“We want to be recognized as true and equal partners who have a stake in this just as much as you. We want to help get these Sustainable Development Goals back on track. And we are more than talented, willing and capable.” 



‘Humanity has opened the gates to hell’ warns Guterres as climate coalition demands action

Front and centre was an urgent call to action, to prevent cascading climate disasters through a just and equitable energy transition – before it’s too late.

In his impassioned address on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to politicians, business, activists and civil society leaders, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stark warning about the dire consequences of inaction.

With extreme weather events accelerating, “humanity has opened the gates to hell,” said the Secretary-General, describing distressing scenes of farmers helplessly watching crops washed away by floods, the emergence of virulent disease due to rising temperatures, and the mass exodus of people fleeing historic wildfires.

Race for solutions

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“Our focus here is on climate solutions – and our task is urgent”, he said.

He warned that climate action was being “dwarfed by the scale of the challenge”, with humanity heading towards a 2.8°C temperature rise, increasing danger and instability.

But “the future is not fixed” he added and the Paris Agreement target of limiting temperature rise as close as possible to 1.5°C is still attainable.

“We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all,” he said, addressing the high-level gathering of “first movers and doers”.

Driving force for change

Activists are refusing to be silenced, Indigenous Peoples are rallying to defend their ancestral land, and corporate executives are transforming how they do business. 

The UN chief is calling for a Climate Solidarity Pact that will hold major emitters more to account, and calling on wealthy countries to support emerging economies so they can weather the crisis. 

The Acceleration Agenda calls on governments “to hit fast forward”, he added. 

Anger rising

The Secretary-General spoke of the need for more climate justice, recognizing the anger felt by many of the world’s poorest nations disproportionately affected by a crisis they did not cause. 

“Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry,” he added, explaining that promised finance had not materialized while the costs of borrowing remain sky-high. 

“All parties must operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28,” he urged and reminded the developed countries must meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and double adaptation funding.

Creating early warning systems for everyone by 2027 is a must, too. 

Rebuilding trust

The Acceleration Agenda also calls for businesses and financial institutions to embark on true net zero pathways, with a focus on transparency and credibility in emission reduction plans. 

“Every company that truly means business, must create just transition plans that credibly cut emissions and deliver climate justice,” the Secretary-General said.

He called for action beyond the meeting rooms of New York. 

“We can – and we must turn up the tempo,” he concluded, to loud applause around the room.

Responding to the call, Kenyan President William Ruto, which recently hosted the Africa Climate Summit, spoke about the continent’s huge potential.

With about 30 per cent of the world’s mineral resources and vast biodiversity, it is capable of “green global manufacturing” at scale, given the necessary financial support. 

“Unlike other regions, Africa does not have to choose between satisfying new demand and decarbonizing existing capacities, because our existing capacity is very low,” he explained, adding that the continent can “leapfrog into fully green industrial paradigm”.

Climate justice

Financing and environmental justice were themes running throughout the discussions. 

Lidy Nacpil is Coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, an NGO advocating for the transition to renewable energy.

New agreements are needed to make the shift “without loopholes or excuses”, she said. An international treaty on the non-proliferation of fossil fuels and a global phase-out plan are needed to reach “real zero” by 2050.

“We, the people of the Global South are not asking for aid or assistance. Climate finance is an obligation and a part of reparations for historical and continuing harms and injustices,” she asserted the right “not just to survive, but to build a better home and future for our children.”

No buy out

Developed countries at the Summit said they were prepared to contribute their fair share. President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen, for example, announced an additional €220 million for tackling climate change between 2023 to 2026. 

“€50 million will be used to support programmes and projects related to loss and damage,” he assured. The country will also increase its contribution to the Green Climate Fund by a quarter, for a total of €160 million. 

However, the Austrian president said, “we cannot buy ourselves out of the climate crisis. We must curb emissions at home.” 

His country aims to achieve the ‘net zero’ target by 2040.

Summit goers later held a special session to discuss the thorny but crucial issue of loss and damage.

UN sets out bold solutions to rescue SDG finance

The big objective of the major UN General Assembly meeting is to unlock innovative and practical solutions to close the widening divisions between rich and poor.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs which drives the UN’s effort on SDG financing, notes that although fiscal challenges are mounting, “there is a window of opportunity if we act now.”

Financial divide

Most developing countries suffer from severe debt problems. And one in three countries around the world is now at high risk of suffering a fiscal crisis, according to the UN.

These countries cannot fund progress on the SDGs if they are facing exorbitant borrowing costs and paying more on debt servicing than on health or education. 

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“Developing countries face borrowing costs up to eight times higher than developed countries – a debt trap”, warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “and one in three countries around the world is now at high risk of a fiscal crisis.

“Over 40 per cent of people living in extreme poverty are in countries with severe debt challenges”.  

Held every four years since 2015, This year’s High-level Dialogue takes place at a critical moment, when only around 15 per cent of SDG targets are on track.

Member States noted that while progress has been made across all action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – the roadmap for financing the SDGs – many of its finance commitments remain unmet.  

They added that challenging economic prospects amid the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts and intensifying climate change have put financing for the SDGs under increased pressure.

Innovative approaches

According to Mr. Guterres aggressively scaling up SDG financing will require innovative approaches, bold policy decisions, and new sources of funding.  

Member States welcome the UN Secretary-General’s proposal for an SDG Stimulus of at least $500 billion US dollars per year to significantly increase affordable, long-term financing for development.  

They also support his call for deeper and longer-term reforms to the international financial architecture, which currently fails to serve as a safety net for all countries and exacerbates inequalities.

Solutions must be systemic

“It is clear that the systemic problems of financing for sustainable development require a systemic solution: reforms of the global financial architecture,” said the UN chief.

He is also calling for a new Bretton Woods moment, when countries can come together to agree on new global financial architecture that reflects today’s economic realities and power relations.

“Together, we must turn this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity, find joint financing solutions to rebuild global solidarity, and create new momentum for sustainable development and climate action,” Mr. Guterres said.  

Global leaders discuss healthier future for all: Top 5 fast facts

Without health, the world is badly hobbled in its race to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals; the recently opened 78th session of the UN General Assembly aims to change that.

On the docket is a fresh global strategy to prevent, prepare, and respond to future pandemics on the heels of hard lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. International agreements are also in the pipeline to tackle the global tuberculosis epidemic and to promote universal health coverage for all.

“We live in a world of many competing priorities, but we need to keep the attention of world leaders on health as the foundation of sustainable development,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Here are the top five things to know about the UNGA 78’s ministerial-level health meetings:

A man receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a door-to-door vaccine campaign in Rajasthan, India. (file)
© UNICEF/Vinay Panjwani

A man receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a door-to-door vaccine campaign in Rajasthan, India. (file)

1. New pandemic accord goes beyond COVID-19

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, the UN health agency was forging innovative ways to handle global outbreaks of deadly diseases and viruses. Only months before the global coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, WHO was discussing an international strategy. Now a new pandemic accord is before the world at UNGA 78.

As nations across the planet painfully learned, no country was immune to the deadly, fast-spreading virus that pushed healthcare systems to their limits, killed more than 6 million people, and set back development gains by decades.

Looking to the future, the plan is to make the world safer by guarding global disease outbreaks and cementing efficient response plans for current and future generations.

Nations have been negotiating a draft declaration that world leaders are expected to adopt at a high-level meeting on 22 September.

Mothers and their babies wait to see UN-supported health care workers in Bhutan.
© UNICEF/Brown

Mothers and their babies wait to see UN-supported health care workers in Bhutan.

2. Health care for all

Invest in health.

Invest in health.

Many countries with the most advanced medical care systems were caught by surprise by COVID-19 because of their historic lack of investment in primary health care, according to the WHO chief.

On 21 September, ministers will gather at UN Headquarters for a high-level meeting on universal health coverage.

Weaving through a range of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the WHO chief said providing universal health coverage makes sense.

He said strong primary health care (Goal 3) requires long-term investments in health and care workers, and specifically in decent working conditions (Goal 8). Moreover, investing in education (Goal 4) must be matched to jobs and careers, with the right salaries and incentives, he added.


Given that two-thirds of the global health and care workforce are women, he emphasized that investments in the health and care workforce can also advance gender equality (Goal 5).

The draft political declaration expected to be adopted on Thursday aims towards one main result: a healthier population.

3. SDG 3 Health Clinic

While diplomats debate global challenges at UN Headquarters, the UN health agency, WHO, has set up the SDG 3 Health Clinic, no appointments needed.

The Global Scrubs Choir, made up of frontline staff from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, is performing live at the WHO-run SDG 3 Health Clinic during the high-level week at the UN General Assembly’s 78th session.

Visitors can have a seat on a friendship bench and tell clinic staff why mental health is important to them. Health is, after all, not just the absence of disease or infirmity but a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

Fancy some music therapy? The Global Scrubs Choir, comprising frontline staff from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, will be performing daily from 8 am until 8:45 am.

The Global Scrubs Choir from Australia's Royal Melbourne Hospital are performing at the SDG 3 Health Clinic at UN Headquarters.
© Shiyun Sang

The Global Scrubs Choir from Australia’s Royal Melbourne Hospital are performing at the SDG 3 Health Clinic at UN Headquarters.

4. Pushing 30-year-old tuberculosis epidemic into history

A high-level dialogue on 22 September aims to intensify global efforts to finally end a decades-long tuberculosis (TB) epidemic, which remains a significant cause of death worldwide.

The preventable and curable disease disproportionately affects developing countries, and one quarter of the world’s population is infected with the bacterium that causes the illness. In 2021, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB, and approximately 1.6 million people died from it in 2021.

Thirty years after WHO declared it a global emergency, the epidemic still is a critical challenge in all regions and affects every country of the world. Millions of people ill with TB are missing out on quality care each year, including on access to affordable diagnostic tests and treatment, especially in developing countries, according to the UN health agency.

Adopting the draft political declaration means nations would commit to a set of actions to swiftly change that.

Find the programme and list of speakers expected at the high-level meeting here.

Patients at a health centre in Peru are given advice about how to avoid catching TB.

Patients at a health centre in Peru are given advice about how to avoid catching TB.

5. Global Action Plan

WHO established the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Wellbeing for All, also known as “SDG 3 GAP”, in 2019, bringing together 13 multilateral health, development, and humanitarian agencies around the world. Despite rising challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, they made hard-won inroads, taking their success stories to the SDG Summit in a bid to help.

The goal is simple: to help countries speed progress on health-related SDGs. Together, they take joint action and provide more coordinated and aligned support to country-owned and led national plans and strategies.

“In the last few years, we have been experiencing something of a perfect storm: COVID-19, climate change, conflicts and other crises are threatening the progress achieved over the past 20 years,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is part of the global network.

The UN has been supporting a cholera vaccine programme in some of the most vulnerable communities in Haiti.

The UN has been supporting a cholera vaccine programme in some of the most vulnerable communities in Haiti.

“We can sustain and even accelerate progress if we work together to tackle the most acute health challenges and build stronger and more resilient health systems, but it is vital that as we do so we confront the deep and pervasive health inequities between and within countries.”

Check out the Global Action Plan’s 2023 progress report here.

Invest in SDGs ‘like never before’ implores UN chief

He was speaking at the conclusion of the two-day SDG Summit at UN Headquarters, where world leaders adopted a political declaration to ramp up progress to achieve the 17 goals, which are in danger of derailment due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises.

Goals that address hunger, health, biodiversity, strong institutions, pollution, and peaceful societies are all off-track.

Words into action

“Now is the time to lift the declaration’s words off the page, and invest in development at scale like never before,” he said.

The political declaration includes a commitment to financing for developing countries and clear support for an SDG Stimulus of at least $500 billion annually.

The Secretary-General urged countries to make the most of the momentum from the Summit, presenting a “development to-do list” for the way forward.

‘Real investments’

He stressed the need to transform support for the SDG Stimulus “into real investments in developing countries.” In this regard, he called for establishing a Leaders Group that will develop clear steps to get funds flowing before the end of 2024.

Leaders must turn commitments made at the Summit into concrete policies, budgets, investment portfolios and actions. 

Additionally, they should strengthen support for action across six key SDG areas, namely food, energy, digitalization, education, social protection and jobs, and biodiversity. 

He also advised them to “start planning now for massive increases in investments in social protection”, and to “bring to life” a global initiative to ensure an additional four billion people are covered by 2030. 

“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,” he continued. 

No more business as usual 

Meanwhile, the upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank must not be “business as usual”, he warned. 

“In addition to recapitalization, we need to see an urgent additional re-channeling of $100 billion in un-used Special Drawing Rights,” he said.

Special Drawing Rights are an international reserve asset developed by the IMF to supplement the official foreign exchange reserves of its member countries and help provide them with liquidity.

The largest-ever allocation, worth $650 billion, was carried out in August 2021 in response to the economic crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate proposals and plans 

Mr. Guterres pressed Governments attending the meetings to also bring proposals to “massively leverage private funding in support of developing countries.”

Similarly, he urged them to arrive at the COP28 UN climate conference in Dubai next month with concrete plans and proposals for avoiding the worst effects of climate change, upholding global promises of support, and helping developing countries to  transition to renewable energy. 

In conclusion, he said “the development to-do list is not just homework.  This is hope work.  And action is the price of hope.” 



Annual cost for reaching the SDGs? More than $5 trillion

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), this represents between $1,179 and $1,383 per person, per year

The study factors in 50 SDG indicators across 90 countries, covering three quarters of the global population. 

For the world’s 48 developing economies, the shortfall is estimated at $337 billion annually, if they are to take the required action on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

When expanded to cover all developing economies, using the median per-capita cost for the 48 in the study, total annual needs ris to between $6.9 trillion and $7.6 trillion. 

Think smart

Although finding this kind of investment will likely be extremely difficult for countries with limited resources, the solution lies in allocating funding in cross-cutting areas, such as education, which also advances gender equality, poverty reduction and innovation – all Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets.

Merely increasing funds won’t guarantee success. Governments, companies, investors and institutions need to strategically allocate their resources,” said Anu Peltola, who heads UNCTAD Statistics. “They don’t have to stretch every dollar to cover every goal.”

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Debt crisis

Analysis by UNCTAD indicates that the world’s wealthiest economies are expected to account for nearly 80 per cent of SDG expenditure between now and 2030. These countries generally face the highest annual per capita costs and the largest financing gaps. 

Small island developing States also face high costs, with required spending on gender equality estimated at $3,724 per person, almost three times the average global requirement. 

And while least developed countries face much lower costs per head, the required spending as a percentage of each nation’s overall economic output (GDP) is significant, reaching 47 per cent for education alone.

The UNCTAD analysis reveals major shortfalls in national spending trends towards sustainability. The biggest gap is in inclusive digitization, at $468 billion a year. Closing this gap would require a 9 per cent increase in annual spending.

Six areas of transformation

Conversely, improving social protection and decent job opportunities require less investment for the world’s 48 developing economies, at $294 billion, which would require a six per cent increase in annual spending.

The analysis focuses on six paths for transformation through sustainable development: social protection and decent jobs, transforming education, food systems, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, energy transition and inclusive digitization.

It covers indicators ranging from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing protected forest cover to guaranteeing universal access to electricity and the internet, promoting literacy, fighting hunger and reducing mortality.

UNCTAD’s report also highlights the need to tackle the global debt crisis. Around 3.3 billion people live in countries that spend more on debt interest payments than on essential public services such as education and health.

UN General Assembly adopts declaration to accelerate SDGs

Mr. Guterres was speaking at the opening of a high-level forum at UN Headquarters where world leaders adopted a political declaration to accelerate action to achieve the 17 goals, which aim to drive economic prosperity and well-being for all people while protecting the environment.

“The SDGs aren’t just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere,” he said. 

Concerted, ambitious action

World leaders adopted the SDGs in 2015, promising to leave no one behind. The goals include ending extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring access to clean water and sanitation, as well as green energy, and providing quality universal education and lifelong learning opportunities.

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis noted that despite commitments, 1.2 billion people were still living in poverty as of 2022, and roughly eight per cent of the global population, or 680 million people, will still be facing hunger by the end of the decade.  The international community cannot accept these numbers, he said.

“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. 

Going backwards 

Each of the 17 goals contains targets, with 169 overall, but the Secretary-General warned that currently only 15 per cent are on track, while many are going in reverse.

The political declaration “can be a game-changer in accelerating SDG progress,” he said.

It includes a commitment to financing for developing countries and clear support for his proposal for an SDG Stimulus of at least $500 billion annually, as well as an effective debt-relief mechanism.

It further calls for changing the business model of multilateral development banks to offer private finance at more affordable rates for developing countries, and endorses reform of the international finance architecture which he has labelled “outdated, dysfunctional and unfair.”

Millions still starving 

The UN chief highlighted the need for action in six critical areas, starting with addressing hunger, which he called “a shocking stain on humanity, and an epic human rights violation.”

“It is an indictment of every one of us that millions of people are starving in this day and age,” he added. 

The Secretary-General said the transition to renewable energy isn’t happening fast enough, while the benefits and opportunities of digitalization are not being spread widely enough.

The 2023 SDG Summit
United Nations

The 2023 SDG Summit

Education cannot wait

At the same time, too many children and young people worldwide are victims of poor quality education, or no education at all, he continued, before shining a spotlight on the need for decent work and social protection.

Finally, he called for an end to the war on nature and “the triple planetary crisis” characterized by climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Ensure gender equality

“Cutting across all of these transitions is the need to ensure full gender equality,” he said. “It’s long past time to end discrimination, ensure a place at every table for women and girls, and to end the scourge of gender-based violence. “ 

Mr. Guterres highlighted UN response to each area, including initiatives to transform global food systems so everyone can have access to a healthy diet. 

Other efforts focus on boosting investment in the renewable energy transition, promoting internet access for all, creating 400 million new “decent jobs”, and extending social protection to over four million people.

Testament to commitment 

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Paula Narváez, was heartened by the adoption of the declaration, calling it a testament to leaders’ unwavering commitment towards implementing the SDGs. 

ECOSOC is at the core of the UN system’s work on all three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – and provides a platform for follow-up and review of the goals. 

The two-day SDG Summit is the centrepiece of the UN General Assembly’s high-level week, the annual gathering of Heads of State and Government, and Ms. Narváez also pointed to two other events on the agenda.  

Seize the moment

 She said the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development will address the need for an international financial architecture that can respond to current needs and emerging challenges.  

 Meanwhile, the Climate Ambition Summit presents an opportunity for decisive progress on climate action and to raise the bar for more timely and targeted efforts.  

 “This week should serve as a turning point to rescue the SDGs,” she said.  “We must not let this moment slip away.” 


UNESCO: 250 million children now out of school

The increase is partly due to the mass exclusion of women and girls from education in Afghanistan but can also be attributed to broader stagnation in education provision worldwide.

The findings undermine UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, which sets the goal of quality education for all by 2030.

Way off track

If countries were on track with their national SDG 4 targets, six million more children would be in pre-school, 58 million more children and adolescents would be in school, and at least 1.7 million more primary school teachers would have been trained, according to the report.

“Education is in a state of emergency,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

“While considerable efforts were made over the past decades to ensure quality education for all, UNESCO data demonstrates that the number of children out of school is now rising.

“States must urgently remobilize if they do not want to sell out the future of millions of children.”

Future ‘in your hands’

One year ago, 141 countries committed at the UN Transforming Education Summit to accelerate progress towards SDG 4. 

Four out of five countries aimed to advance teacher training and professional development, seven out of 10 committed to increasing or improving their investment in education, and one in four committed to increase financial support and school meal provision.

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For countries to achieve their SDG 4 targets, however, millions more children must be enrolled in early childhood education every year until 2030, and the progress in primary completion rates needs to almost triple. 

“These commitments must now be reflected in acts. There is no more time to lose. To achieve SDG 4, a new child needs to be enrolled in school every 2 seconds between now and 2030,” said the Director-General.

“The future of millions of children is in your hands”, she emphasised to Member States.

Insufficient growth

The report highlights that, since 2015, the number of children completing primary education has increased by less than three percentage points to 87 per cent. 

The number completing secondary education, meanwhile, has increased by less than five per cent to just 58 per cent. 

In the 31 low and lower-middle-income countries that measure learning progress at the end of primary school, Viet Nam is the only country where the majority of its children are achieving minimum proficiency in both reading and mathematics. 

Global framework

The Education 2030 Framework for Action calls on countries to set intermediate benchmarks for SDG 4 indicators. In an inclusive approach, countries were assisted in setting benchmarks to achieve by 2025 and 2030 for seven SDG 4 benchmarks on pre-primary education, school attendance, completion and learning, gender equity, learning proficiency, trained teachers, and public expenditure.

Students attending UNESCO's community-based literacy classes are experiencing schooling for the first time in their lives.
© UNESCO/Navid Rahi

Students attending UNESCO’s community-based literacy classes are experiencing schooling for the first time in their lives.

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