The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opened its General Debate, which is convening under the theme ‘The UN at 70: A new commitment to action.' Speakers welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with many praising the focus on poverty eradication and inequality.
Many speakers also addressed UN reform and peace and security, including discussion of Syria and the refugee crisis.
28 September 2015: The 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opened its General Debate, which is convening under the theme ‘The UN at 70: A new commitment to action.’ Speakers welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with many praising the focus on poverty eradication and inequality. Many speakers also addressed UN reform and peace and security, including discussion of Syria and the refugee crisis.
“Our aim is clear. Our mission is possible. And our destination is in our sights: an end to extreme poverty by 2030; a life of peace and dignity for all,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his opening address. He described the adoption of the 2030 Agenda as a “towering achievement.” UNGA 70 President, Mogens Lykketoft, Denmark, called for “an extraordinary effort to break…vicious circles” and implement the 2030 Agenda “by recognizing the strong linkages between development, peace and security and respect for human rights.” He said specific actions in each of these areas will be the central focus of UNGA 70 and his Presidency.
On financing, Ban said this “will be a key test,” and welcomed the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). Ban saluted the countries that have met official development assistance (ODA) commitments, and urged others to follow their example. Muhammadu Buhari, President, Nigeria, said the Goals’ objectives of eradicating poverty and reducing inequality must be met within the framework of a revitalized global partnership, supported by policies and actions outlined in the AAAA. Vital reforms are necessary to deliver a transformative 2030 Agenda, said Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister, Ethiopia, calling for the UN to be “fit for the post-2015 era.” Uhuru Kenyatta, President, Kenya, emphasized the importance of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) and appropriate means of implementation (MOI), including follow-up and review mechanisms, to implement development commitments, saying his country has enacted a Kenya External Resources Policy. He recommended building the capacity of national statistical offices to capture data required for such accountability processes. Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President, Mozambique, said mobilization of resources, appropriate technology transfer, aid without political conditions, strengthened cooperation and respect for national priorities are necessary for implementation. Several countries called for developed countries to meet ODA commitments. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister, Denmark, said the support of all actors, including the public and private sectors and civil society, is necessary to finance and implement the SDGs, calling for finding “new innovative ways of engaging these actors.”
Many speakers stressed the importance of focusing on implementation, including Xi Jingping, President, China, and Park Geun-hye, President, Republic of Korea. Ban said, “what counts now is translating these promises on paper into real change.” A few speakers shared how their countries have begun implementation processes. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President, Egypt, informed that Egypt has launched a sustainable development strategy, ‘Egypt’s Vision in 2030,’ which is aligned with the Agenda. Nigeria said the Goals’ objectives of eradicating poverty and reducing inequality are at the center of its new agenda. Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, President, Paraguay, said his country aims to reduce poverty through policies fostering employment, housing, access to education and health services and inclusive growth. Dilma Rousseff, President, Brazil, highlighted her country’s efforts to eradicate poverty and promote social inclusion in a democratic environment. Robert Mugabe, President, Zimbabwe, said the 2030 Agenda is “in tandem” with Africa’s Agenda 2063. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive, Afghanistan, said his government has strong political will to achieve remaining Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets and implement the SDGs.
Mozambique called on national governments to incorporate the Agenda into their plans, including with clear definitions of indicators and targets for monitoring and evaluation. Rafael Correa Delgado, President, Ecuador, said common goals should not just be those “seeking the bare minimum, but seeking social maximums,” including the right to live with dignity and in harmony with human beings of different cultures. Michelle Bachelet Jeria, President, Chile, said an agenda of change at the international level is necessary for promoting more inclusive and sustainable societies at the national level.
Jacob Zuma, President, South Africa, as well as Egypt and Mozambique welcomed the 2030 Agenda’s recognition of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and capabilities. Raúl Castro Ruz, President, Cuba, called for special and differentiated treatment for small island developing States (SIDS) and African countries suffering from desertification. Paraguay proposed special and differentiated treatment for landlocked countries.
Many speakers welcomed the agenda’s focus on inequality, including Chile, who said inequality is the main challenge for her country and the Latin American region. Kenya urged increased efforts by the international community to ensure that no one and no country is left behind in implementing the SDGs. Barack Obama, President, US, supported eradicating extreme poverty and erasing barriers to opportunity through “ a sustained commitment to our people.”
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President, Uganda, welcomed the Goals’ concept of universal prosperity, which he said will assist in prioritizing scarce resources. Evo Morales, President, Bolivia, called for countries to adopt a “living well” philosophy in solidarity and complementarity with one another and with Mother Earth, which he said is the key to sustainable development and social justice.
China called for “open, innovative and inclusive development that benefits all,” noting that development is meaningful only when it is inclusive and sustainable. King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, Jordan, also supported sustainable inclusive development, especially for young people.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, President, Kazakhstan, proposed the creation of a 2045 Global Strategic Initiative Plan to launch a new global development trend based on fair conditions with all nations having equal access to world infrastructure, resources and markets and to maintain accountability for human development. He also proposed transforming the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) into a Global Development Council tasked with becoming a global economic regulator and promoting worldwide economic growth.
Many speakers addressed peace and security. Kenya underscored the urgency of addressing SDG 16 on peace and security. Nigeria proposed peace as the seventh “essential element” of the SDGs. Observing that “peace, justice and development are closely linked,” King Willem-Alexander, Netherlands, said the concepts are essential to achieve lasting progress, including on the SDGs. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar, underscored the importance of peace and stability to achieving development, social justice and the SDGs.
Noting that “conflict remains the biggest threat to development,” Denmark identified peace and security as a priority for the UN. Bolivia said social justice is key to achieving peace. Andrzej Duda, President, Poland, highlighted several SDGs that will contribute to the preservation of peace, including “the defense of democracy, sustainable economic growth, leveling of social inequalities, broader access to education, long-term mitigation of impacts of climate change, among others. ”
Ecuador regretted the omission of the concept of “free human mobility” in the SDGs.
Promoting equal rights and opportunities for women should have more focus in the 2030 Agenda, said Netherlands. Denmark described women as key drivers of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and called for gender equality and human rights for all. South Africa welcomed the stand-alone goal on gender equality. Zimbabwe said gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical to achieving the Agenda. Simonetta Sommaruga, President, Switzerland, supported greater involvement of women in peace and security. Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, President, Portugal, prioritized combatting violence against women.
Education is key to sustainable development, said the Republic of Korea, highlighting the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and the adoption of the Incheon Declaration, which sets global education goals for 2030. Describing education and scientific research as a universal public good, Paraguay suggested that developed countries increase financing for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
On oceans, the Netherlands supported the “longtime plea by small island states for a far more active global approach to climate change and marine pollution.” Portugal highlighted oceans as a critical issue for his country and described ‘Blue Week,’ an international event hosted by Portugal that discussed the global challenges of responsibly managing oceans. He also welcomed the publication of the first Global Ocean Assessment Report. Chile said the second Our Oceans Conference is expected to result in commitments to reduce pollution of the seas, combat illegal fishing and protect the diversity of marine resources.
Several speakers shared efforts to address deforestation, often in conjunction with their climate change efforts. Brazil said her country has reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 82%. Chile said her country will recuperate and reforest 200,000 acres of forests. The Republic of Korea highlighted her country’s forestation efforts, including through the designation of green belt zones.
Nigeria identified degradation, desertification and land erosion as contributing to biodiversity loss in his country, and said Nigeria would propose a regional approach to combat these environmental challenges through the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
Many speakers also addressed climate change, including their aims for the Paris Climate Change Conference and sharing their national contributions and approaches. Vladimir Putin, President, Russian Federation, said the world needs “a completely different approach” to tackling climate change and environmental issues, and proposed convening a special forum under the UN for a comprehensive consideration of issues related to natural resource depletion, habitat destruction and climate change, saying that Russia is ready to co-sponsor such a forum.
The 70th General Debate will run until 3 October. [UN Press Release, 28 September] [UN Press Release, 27 September] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNGA President Statement] [DESA Press Release] [UN Press Release on Bolivia Statement] [UN Press Release on Latin American Statements] [General Debate Website]