The UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its 70th annual general debate, with speakers addressing their country's priorities for the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as issues related to peace and security, UN reform and the importance of responding to humanitarian crises around the world.
30 September 2015: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its 70th annual general debate, with speakers addressing their country’s priorities for the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as issues related to peace and security, UN reform and the importance of responding to humanitarian crises around the world.
Many speakers welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, with several supporting its recognition of the complexity of today’s challenges, including Rosen Plevneliev, President, Bulgaria, and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Brunei Darussalam. Valeriu Strelet, Prime Minister, Moldova, described the Agenda as “the key to an old issue” that the UN has debated for years – the essence of sustainable development and how to put it in practice.
“Every goal is important and deserves priority attention” said Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister, Samoa, emphasizing that the overriding objective should be achieving all goals; some goals should not be achieved at the expense of others.
Several speakers called for immediate action to turn the Agenda into reality. Moldova called for “everyone [to put] their shoulders to the wheel” to reach the targets and create a better world. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President, Croatia, hoped for the 2030 Agenda to “materialize swiftly and adamantly into actions and accomplishments.” Raimonds Vÿjonis, President, Latvia, called for building focused, action-oriented policies and making “real changes” to end poverty, build equality and prosperity for all and achieve the SDGs. He stressed the importance of the involvement and accountability of all stakeholders at all levels to the success of the Goals.
Choummaly Sayasone, President, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), called for enhancing political will, mutual assistance and cooperation under the UN to comprehensively address challenges.
The Marshall Islands said now is a powerful window to merge national planning improvements and develop architecture to measure progress and pinpoint gaps. He said the Marshall Islands’ post-2023 national trust fund has the potential for focusing efforts towards specific goals and benchmarks but requires a stronger support system.
Several others highlighted ways in which their national actions and priorities align with the 2030 Agenda, including Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President, Togo. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister, Pakistan, said his country has already initiated action on national goals and is creating a mechanism for monitoring and implementing the Goals and targets. Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister, Sweden, said his country is taking concrete measures to maintain political support at the highest level for Agenda 2030. Moldova informed that his country intends to focus on promoting the green economy and increasing the ratio of domestic renewable energy consumption.
Baron Divavesi Waqa, President, Nauru, urged going beyond capacity building to institution building in the implementation of Agenda 2030, stressing that most implementation will occur at national and local levels. Brunei Darussalam called for fulfilling national and collective responsibilities to realize the Agenda.
Describing the Buddhist ethos in Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, President, Sri Lanka, called for self-discipline and equity at personal, community, national and global levels to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister, Fiji, also supported inclusive sustainable development.
Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Bangladesh, called for scaling up resource mobilization, including public, private, international and domestic sources. She underscored the importance of transfer of environmentally sound technology to developing countries and capacity building. Bangaldesh and Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, Prime Minister, Vanuatu, called for countries to fulfill official development assistance (ODA) commitments.
Nauru said aid should be predictable and sustainable, and not yielded as a weapon to advance partisan political ends. Togo called for financial support that is more constructive and has fewer restrictions, saying that certain Goals, such as those connected to sexual and reproductive health, should not be conditions for granting resources.
Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister, Pakistan, underscored the importance of mobilizing collective political will and resources to ensure implementation. Prince Moulay Rachid, Crown Prince, Morocco, called for financing and monitoring the new targets. In particular, he recommended prioritizing international cooperation on Africa to help the region unlock its potential, calling on the UN and international and regional financial institutions to develop an action plan for Africa’s economic transformation and to provide resources to finance it.
José Manuel García Margallo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Spain, informed that Spain has initiated funding for a Sustainable Development Objectives Fund, which will be open for contributions from all countries and the private sector. Sweden said his country will continue to allocate 1% of its gross national income (GNI) to ODA.
On tax issues, Lionel Zinsou, Prime Minister, Benin, said the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) offers new opportunities to address tax evasion and illicit financial flows. Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, President, Panama, suggested adding the issue of financial transparency and sharing information on tax matters to the UN agenda.
Tomislav Nikolić, President, Serbia, emphasized the eradication, or at least alleviation, of poverty as critical, observing that other aims, such as education, are insufficient without first addressing poverty.
The relationship between peace and security and sustainable development continued to be the focus of many speakers, including Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister, Malta; Bangladesh; Benin; and Togo. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister, Turkey, highlighted the link between sustainable economic development and global stability, recommending inclusive economic growth where no one, including women and the most vulnerable, are left behind. Respecting the rule of law and partnerships is the first condition for development, said Charles Michel, Prime Minister, Belgium.
Peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of dignity in one’s life, achievement of equality and the respect of one’s humanity, reflected John Dramani Mahama, President, Ghana. Croatia stressed the importance of justice, human rights, rule of law and good governance in achieving security and, in turn, sustainable development. Noting there are “few straight lines towards the final goal,” she said the complexity of achieving the 2030 Agenda will require the meticulous work of connecting big and small dots to ensure that no one is left behind. Several other speakers also highlighted the importance of human rights in achieving sustainable development, including Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Norway, and Miro Cerar, Prime Minister, Slovenia.
A few speakers underscored the importance of cooperation and solidarity in making progress on the Agenda. Sweden stressed the importance of international solidarity as a foundation for shared peace and prosperity, saying international cooperation is the only way to transform such solidarity into transformational change. Bangladesh highlighted the role of regional cooperation in both fostering sustainable development and achieving peaceful and stable societies. She also emphasized the importance of cooperation on migration, to harness its full potential as an enabler of development.
On inequality, Turkey said it has placed inclusiveness and overcoming inequality at the top of the Group of 20’s (G-20) agenda for this year, during Turkey’s presidency. Vanuatu called on developed countries to address growing inequality. Togo expected to prioritize social and economic inclusion to strengthen its citizens’ well-being and enable their participation in the development agenda. Ghana stated that it is time for greater inclusivity in the UN.
“We need a change in mindset and behavior that is only possible through education,” including on respect for the planet, declared Croatia. She called for educating children, working harder at achieving global citizenship and building on the UN idea of a global classroom, such as the Global Education Initiative. Others who addressed education include: Norway, who identified education and health as fundamental for inclusive growth and jobs; and the Marshall Islands, who highlighted the importance of progress on education, including building on traditional knowledge and culture.
Many speakers supported gender equality and women’s empowerment, including Ikililou Dhoinine, President, the Comoros; Slovenia; and Sri Lanka. Bulgaria called for the participation of women in all aspects of political and social life. Vanuatu supported women and girls’ advancement and their active participation in national leadership. Panama called on countries to defend and promote the rights and freedoms of women and combat femicide, trafficking and all violence against women, whom he said suffered most from poverty, displacement and inequality of opportunities.
Programs and policies to address gender inequality are not permanent solutions “regardless of how successful they may be,” cautioned Ghana, emphasizing the need to address “the vast inequality between men and women that so many traditions have inculcated,” especially through universal basic education and gender parity in education. Observing that “ability to get an education and having access to education is not the same as getting an education,” he urged a focus on ensuring girls complete secondary school, describing Ghana’s campaign to end child marriage and keep girls in school.
Youth can be the driving force of development but frustration in youth can lead to conflict, cautioned Sri Lanka. He recommended transforming youth into a skilled workforce as a key component of the post-2015 development agenda.
Many speakers welcomed SDG 14 on oceans and seas, including Sweden and the Comoros. Gilles Tonelli, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Monaco, said the Agenda’s focus on oceans and seas strengthens the implementation of the “ocean’s constitution,” the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Vanuatu recommended an implementation framework to assess, benchmark and drive progress on the Goal.
Monaco expressed support for triennial UN Oceans and Seas Conferences beginning in 2017 to measure progress and identify implementation gaps to ensure full implementation and achievement of SDG 14 by 2030. Fiji and Vanuatu also supported the proposal, with Fiji saying his country will host the 2017 Triennial Oceans and Seas Global Conference.
Naruru explained that “the ocean is the source of almost all development possibilities,” for his country. He urged eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and working to ensure that fishing income accrues to the rightful resource owners. Fisheries are critical for both development and international food security, observed the Marshall Islands. He expressed his country’s commitment to the Nauru Agreement, the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) and high seas closures, emphasizing that distant fishing nations should not benefit from his country’s resources, especially when the Marshalls Islands is expected to achieve development progress.
Monaco also expressed his country’s support for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Oceanographic Commissions’ ‘2015 Ocean and Climate Platform.’ He reiterated Monaco’s proposal to protect marine mammals from increasing human-related threats, calling for its inclusion in the UNGA’s omnibus resolution on oceans.
Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President, Togo, informed that his country, with the support of the African Union (AU), will host a summit in 2016 on maritime security, to address the economic security and environmental challenges connected with seas and oceans.
Several speakers addressed biodiversity conservation, forest management and land issues, including Sweden and Benin. The Comoros supported efforts on achieving sustainable forest management, ending biodiversity loss, combating desertification and land degradation, and preserving oceans. Equatorial Guinea highlighted the importance of the Amazon and Congo Basins as the two “lungs” of the earth for biodiversity conservation, adding that these forested areas could contribute to efforts to address climate change. Bangladesh underscored the importance of a strong commitment to protect and preserve the planet, biodiversity and address climate change to achieve the 2030 Agenda and put the world on a safer, greener, more prosperous path.
Noting multiple threats to bee populations, Slovenia highlighted the importance of bees for sustainable food production and biodiversity and proposed ‘World Bee Day’ to raise awareness on this important role of bees.
Ghana addressed the shortage of power in Africa, noting that power outages slow growth and affect economic and social life. He called for all nations to “achieve energy sufficiency in a manner that is sustainable and does not further worsen the fragile environment of our planet.”
On technology, Vanuatu identified information and communications technology (ICT) as a key tool for implementing the SDGs in Vanuatu. He urged the UN to assist developing countries, particularly small island developing States (SIDS) and the least developed countries (LDCs), to develop technological capacity.
Vanuatu and Monaco welcomed the launch of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM), which Monaco said “translates the spirit of collaboration between all development actors working for developing countries” and conveys the international community’s will to strengthen developing country capacity.
Latvia highlighted the potential role of technology in achieving development and the SDGs, underscoring the importance of balancing freedom of expression and open innovation with national security concerns.
On trade, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, President, Dijbouti, called for establishing a credible multilateral trade systems that addresses the specific needs of Africa and LDCs, describing the deadlock on the Doha Round of negotiations as a source of concern.
Many countries urged action on climate change, particularly speakers from SIDS.
The General Debate runs until 3 October. [General Debate Statements, 30 September] [UN Press Release on Africa Statements] [UN Press Release on SIDS’ Statements] [UN Press Release on Brunei and Lao PDR]