UN Secretary-General Analyzes Long-Term Impacts of Urbanization, Other Trends
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The UN Secretary-General's report on the ‘Long-term impact of current trends in the economic, social and environmental areas on the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals’ seeks to inform the ECOSOC High-level Segment that will take place on 19 June, immediately following the HLPF.

The report analyzes trends related to demographic changes, urbanization, climate change, conflict and protracted crises, and frontier technologies, and outlines potential future implications of these trends for the realization of the SDGs.

June 2019: The UN Secretary-General issued a report that analyzes trends related to demographic changes, urbanization, climate change, conflict and protracted crises, and frontier technologies, and their potential implications for realizing the SDGs. The report was prepared in advance of the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) 2019 High-level Segment.

The ECOSOC High-level Segment (HLS) serves as the culmination of the 2018-2019 cycle of ECOSOC meetings, and is expected to allow UN Member States to broaden their discussion of the 2030 Agenda. The Segment will conclude on 19 July, immediately following the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) that will convene from 9-18 July 2019. The concept note for the HLS is summarized here.

The report titled, ‘Long-term impact of current trends in the economic, social and environmental areas on the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (E/2019/66), was released to inform this Segment, as requested in UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 72/305. By that resolution, the Assembly decided that the final day of the ECOSOC High-level Segment would focus on future trends and scenarios related to the Council’s theme, and the long-term impact of current trends in “the economic, social and environmental areas” on the realization of the SDGs. The ECOSOC theme for 2019 is ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’

On demographic changes, the Secretary-General’s report indicates that more than half of the anticipated growth between 2019 and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa, with a predicted addition of 1.3 billion people by 2050. The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries will make it harder for them to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, combat hunger and malnutrition, expand and update education and health systems, improve the provision of basic services, and ensure that no one is left behind. It also reports that between 2015 and 2050, the top net receivers of international migrants will be Australia, Canada, Germany, the Russian Federation and the US, with more than 100,000 migrants annually.

On urbanization, the report estimates that 68% of the world population is expected to live in cities by 2050, compared to 55% today, and by 2030 there could be 43 megacities, most of them in developing regions. It also notes that while cities contribute to nearly 80% of the world’s GDP, they are also major contributors to climate change, accounting for 71-76% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) from global final energy use. The report calls for: well-managed urbanization, informed by an understanding of population trends over the long run; reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and air pollution; and supporting the development of disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies related to natural and human-made hazards.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C will be exceedingly difficult without societal transformation and rapid GHG reduction measures.

On climate change, the report says primary energy supply is projected to grow by 50-70% between 2010 and 2050, fossil fuels are expected to remain in prominent use in the world energy system, and as a result, energy use is expected to continue to be the main cause of GHG emissions. It also finds that extreme climate-related disasters have doubled since early 1990, with an average of 213 events every year between 1990 and 2016. The report calls for large-scale investment in developing countries to build resilient infrastructure, expand safety nets and adopt new climate-smart technologies,. It adds that pathways to limiting warming to 1.5°C will be exceedingly difficult to achieve without societal transformation and rapid implementation of ambitious GHG reduction measures.

On conflict and fragile countries, the report indicates that half of the 836 million people estimated to live in extreme poverty today live in fragile contexts, and this percentage is expected to rise to 80% by 2030. The report also notes a deterioration of global peace, saying state-based conflicts have increased by 60% since 2010, while conflicts between non-state actors have risen by 125%. Also per the report, the worsening impacts of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could see over 140 million people move within national borders by 2050. The report outlines the need to consider ways to build the capacity of poor people, empower them through community organizations and promote greater participation in decision-making, social inclusion and gender equality. The absence of such elements, it says, is often an underlying cause of conflict.

On technologies, the report notes that millions of people use technologies from the pre-industrial era, and thus lack access to modern education and health systems. It outlines the need for national development strategies that pursue both basic infrastructure developments and human capital accumulation to bridge the technology and development divides. In addition, policies must ensure that technologies are compatible with the goal of leaving no one behind. The report calls for investments in research and technological innovations in energy, agriculture, industry, transportation, construction and other sectors, together with cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary cooperation.

The Secretary-General’s report calls for revisiting approaches to planning and policy-making in various sectors. It calls on countries to design policies that take account of the interests of all policy communities, minimize conflicts, and maximize synergies. [Publication: Long-term impact of current trends in the economic, social and environmental areas on the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General]


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