The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its General Debate on the theme ‘The UN at 70: A new commitment to action.' Speakers on 29 September 2015 welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting their potential to transform the world.
Speakers also focused on global security concerns, including refugees and the role of the UN Security Council.
29 September 2015: The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its General Debate on the theme ‘The UN at 70: A new commitment to action.’ Speakers on 29 September 2015 welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting their potential to transform the world. Speakers also focused on global security concerns, including refugees and the role of the UN Security Council.
Many speakers emphasized the importance of turning commitments into concrete actions, including: James Alix Michel, President, the Seychelles; Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Tonga; and Ernest Bai Koroma, President, Sierra Leone. It is “up to us to implement this ambitious agenda,” said Sauli Niinistö, President, Finland, emphasizing the need to “get everybody on board” to make 2030 Agenda commitments a reality. Julie Bishop, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia, called for maintaining the “remarkable spirit of cooperation displayed” in the negotiation process, during implementation.
Several speakers stressed collective action and partnerships for implementation. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister, Thailand, said implementation will require joint ownership and collective efforts across all sectors, with change beginning from within. Paul Kagame, President, Rwanda, underscored the importance of all countries working together and acknowledging mutual interdependence to reach the SDGs, stressing recognition of equality as a critical first step. Danilo Medina Sánchez, President, Dominican Republic, supported partnerships with the private sector and civil society to achieve sustainable development. Finland observed that the “private sector and civil society are in a key position to take the Agenda forward, together with Governments,” and individuals also have a role to play.
Others addressed means of implementation (MOI). Elbegdorf Tsakhia, President, Mongolia, said robust, inclusive and open mechanisms will advance SDG implementation. Arthur Peter Mutharika, President, Malawi, said a global partnership for effective development cooperation is critical for implementing programmes in developing countries. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President, Tanzania, hoped for reliable MOI and follow-up on the SDGs, nothing that failure to have such mechanisms was responsible for shortfalls in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On Financing for Development (FfD), Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President, Zambia, underscored the importance of FfD in achieving Agenda 2030, including new sources of finance and improving tax administration systems, and called for support for Africa’s infrastructure development.
Australia highlighted the Agenda’s recognition that official development assistance (ODA) is only one source of FfD, and highlighted the quality of assistance and partnerships for development. Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah, Prime Minister, Kuwait, said the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development will continue to support loans and development programmes for sustainable development.
National efforts have already begun in some countries, speakers noted. Emomali Rahmon, President, Tajikistan, said his country has adopted a roadmap for achieving sustainable development, including its water component. Sierra Leone said his country’s development framework and Agenda for Prosperity are tailored to the 2030 Agenda. Mongolia urged every country to adopt national laws and policies to implement the SDGs.
Many speakers welcomed the Agenda’s emphasis on poverty eradication and described their country’s efforts. Hage Geingob, President, Namibia, said his country has declared “all-out war” on poverty. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, underscored the importance of prioritizing poverty alleviation.
Tackling inequalities is a key starting point for addressing global challenges and achieving the 2030 Agenda, particularly for Latin America, said Danilo Medina Sánchez, President, Dominican Republic, emphasizing that inequality exacerbates poverty. He called for transforming productive structures, breaking old patterns and moving together toward a model that benefits everyone. Struggles around the world reflect “struggles for inclusion in the better achievements of humanity,” including on development, education, health and security, said Sierra Leone. He said the SDGs can help “build a fairer, safer and better world for those excluded.” Sierra Leone added that making the UN more democratic, participatory and fair is a prerequisite for achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Numerous speakers stressed the relationship between peace and sustainable development, including: Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Colombia; Nicolás Maduro Moros, President, Venezuela; and Seychelles. Tonga and Australia supported SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies, emphasizing the role of human rights, good governance and accountability, rule of law, and open and inclusive institutions in achieving development goals.
Kuwait stressed the relationship between security and sustainable development. Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister, Italy, proposed an international task force led by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to rebuild historic sites that he said can be deployed in the framework of peacekeeping.
Many African countries called for African representation on the UN Security Council. Zambia said SDG 10 on reducing inequality among countries “will not be achieved without eradicating the inequality among countries in the Security Council.”
Education is key to human and national development, said Mongolia. Observing his country has achieved 97% enrollment in primary education, King Mswati III, Swaziland, underscored the importance of addressing quality education at secondary and tertiary levels. Malawi welcomed SDG 4 on education, particularly for youth and girls, and stressed the need to focus on higher education.
On gender equality and women’s empowerment, Namibia noted the importance of empowering women to combat poverty. Mongolia also supported gender quality and women’s empowerment, calling for more women in public service at global and local levels. Malawi expressed his government’s commitment to the He-for-She Campaign to address gender inequalities, end gender-based violence, and promote women’s political participation and economic empowerment, saying these goals are among of his country’s core priority areas. Japan said it places emphasis on policies and measures that impart safety, health and peace of mind for women and uphold their human rights. Zambia called for special attention on gender and women’s empowerment, adding that his government will launch a ‘Boys-to-Men’ project to encourage a non-violent generation. Australia supported achievement of gender equality to achieve sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, noting that Australia has established a Gender Equality Fund to accelerate gender equality support in its Indo-Pacific development programmes. She also called for addressing violence against women and girls.
Small island developing States (SIDS) welcomed recognition of their specific needs in the 2030 Agenda and the FfD outcome (Addis Ababa Action Agenda), stressing the importance of tailored approaches and special and differentiated treatment for SIDS. Tonga emphasized the linkages between the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway, saying this relationship must be maintained during reviews of progress. Seychelles and Tonga recommended considering vulnerabilities in development finance calculations, including replacing the use of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita with a comprehensive assessment that recognizes vulnerabilities and specific and unique national development characteristics. Namibia also noted international financial institutions’ (IFIs) focus on GDP, which he said does not reflect justice and fairness, and ignores inequalities. He explained that Namibia’s economic wealth is “in the hands of the minority population” but the country’s classification as an upper-middle income country denies access to grants and concessional loans to support its development agenda.
Also on middle-income countries (MICs), Thailand said coordinated action among MICs could help to achieve sustainable development, highlighting the ‘Thailand Plus One’ policy for inclusive, region-wide economic and industrial development to ensure that no country is left behind.
Speakers also highlighted other special situations, with Zambia noting the importance of the Vienna Programme of Action for landlocked developing countries (LLDCs). Saint Vincent and the Grenadine, reiterated the call of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for reparatory justice on the transatlantic slave trade, which he said should form part of the conversation on the post-2015 development agenda.
Observing that current global events might render the SDGs irrelevant or unattainable, Nicos Anastasiades, President, Cyprus, recommended focusing efforts on countries and regions in conflict zones to turn those areas into “places where sustainable development is a reality.”
Several speakers, particularly SIDS, welcomed SDG 14 on oceans. Seychelles stressed the importance of this Goals for SIDS and coastal states as well as for actions on the blue economy. He highlighted the importance of global governance of the oceans and seas, calling for continued efforts on combatting piracy and achieving maritime security. Tonga stressed its commitment to conservation and management of oceans and seas and combatting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). He supported efforts toward an instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of resources in ABNJ, and supported the proposed triennial UN Ocean and Seas Conference to drive progress on SDG 14 on oceans and seas.
Water resources are key in achieving sustainable development in Central Asia, declared Tajikistan. He stressed the importance of water resources management to adapt to climate change, economic and population growth and water resource scarcity, noting the accelerated degradation of glaciers in his region as a result of climate change. On the International Decade of Action ‘Water for Life: 2005-2015,’ he highlighted, inter alia, the need for continued cooperation, and proposed declaring a new water decade aimed at promoting the 2030 Agenda.
Namibia welcomed the inclusion of desertification issues in SDG 15, saying poverty will not be eliminated without tackling desertification, land degradation and drought.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President, Estonia, highlighted the smart use of the internet and digital technologies as an essential driver for development and economic growth. Noting that the internet will become the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2016, he called for leaders to prioritize the potential of these technologies in the development agenda.
Speakers also addressed, inter alia: progress on the MDGs and the need to address unfinished business; progress on eliminating HIV/AIDS; and the importance of empowering youth. Tabaré Vázquez, President, Uruguay, drew attention to public health as an essential component of the sovereignty of nations and recommended addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The 70th General Debate will run until 3 October. [General Debate Statements, 29 September] [UN Press Release on African Statements] [UN Press Release on SIDS’ Statements] [UN Press Release on Australia Statement] [UN Press Release on Colombia Statement] [UN Press Release on Kuwait Statement] [UN Press Release on Japan Statement] [UN Press Release on Mongolia Statement] [UN Press Release on Rwanda Statement] [UN Press Release on Tajikistan Statement] [UN Press Release on Thailand Statement] [UN Press Release on Venezuela Statement]