UN urges action on sustainable development to create pathways for global ‘transformation’


General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft addresses the opening plenary segment of the Assembly’s High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The President of the United Nations General Assembly today called on the international community to take action on the new UN sustainable development agenda in order to begin a transformation for the benefit of all people and the planet, or risk failure that will be felt for generations to come.

“The choice is yours,” said General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft as he opened the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at UN Headquarters in New York, which takes place as world leaders are also gathering ahead of tomorrow’s signing of the Paris climate accord.

“You, the global political, business and civil society leaders can kick-start [Sustainable Development Goals] SDG implementation. You can catalyse ambitious and immediate actions at all levels. You know how to make this transformation happen,” he added.

Mr. Lykketoft reminded participants that a little more than six months ago, many of them had gathered in the same hall to embrace the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It was a moment of genuine hope in a world beset by crises – hope that was built on in Paris through an incredible breakthrough on climate change,” he said.

The General Assembly President said that together, the two agreements deliver a clear message to the world: that a transformation has begun which will ensure both shared prosperity and the vitality of our planet.

Since making those commitments, world events have underlined even further the need for urgent action, Mr. Lykketoft emphasized.

Violent extremists have destroyed the lives of thousands around the world, while violent conflicts are threatening the lives of millions. In addition, an inadequate response to a global humanitarian and refugee crisis is undermining human rights, global solidarity and the concept of leaving no one behind, he said.

For their part, the agreements, taken together, provide world leaders with a “solid framework” to address the root causes of such crises, the General Assembly President said.

“But this will only happen if they are implemented with urgency; if we build on the foundations laid by the MDGs and if we manage the opportunities before us for the benefit of all,” he stressed.

Over the course of the day, he said that participants would examine five key areas: how countries are responding to the SDGs; how to move money and markets to support the SDGs; how to transition from partnerships for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to partnerships for the SDGs; and how climate action can help deliver on the entire SDGs, and vice-versa.

“Action now can create pathways out of our current crises and begin the transformation that our world desperately needs – a transformation that is good for people and planet; one that creates opportunities for citizens and business; one that advances peace and prosperity,” Mr. Lykketoft said. “But if we fail, the consequences will be felt for generations – centuries.”

Along those lines, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, underscored that the fact that today’s event was being held on the eve of the signing of the Paris Agreement was an important signal.


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