12 September 2017
UNGA Takes Stock of 71st Session SDG Efforts
Photo by IISD/ENB
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During an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly, participants discussed SDG implementation, including efforts undertaken by the UN development system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others.

UN Member States expressed their strong appreciation for UNGA President Peter Thomson’s actions to advance SDG implementation during UNGA’s 71st session.

8 September 2017: Participants reflected on the state of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation during an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) convened by UNGA President Peter Thomson. The event also discussed challenges that need to be tackled to advance the Goals’ implementation.

Representatives of governments, UN entities, international financial institutions, civil society and the private sector attended the event titled, ‘Taking Stock of SDG Actions,’ which took place on 8 September 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Attendees focused on efforts undertaken by the UN development system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others on the SDGs.

Thomson wrote to “every” Head of State and Government and the heads of over 4,000 universities during his tenure, encouraging them to incorporate the SDGs into curricula.

Delivering opening remarks, Thomson said he wrote to “every” Head of State and Government during his tenure, encouraging them to incorporate the SDGs into national school curricula. He added that he made a similar request to the heads of over 4,000 universities. He said “an army of innovators are at their keyboards” and in their labs ready to unleash their ideas and new technologies to support the SDGs. Despite these efforts, he observed that progress on individual SDGs is at best uneven and popular awareness of the SDGs at individual and community levels across the world remains far too low. Thomson urged Member States to support the UN Secretary-General’s efforts and look “beyond the pain of short-term changes” to embrace the systemic shift needed for SDGs’ achievement.

Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, said the Paris Agreement on climate change is essential to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adding that the two are not two different agendas but are encapsulated in the same agenda. She stressed that stakeholders, including governments, must drive implementation of the SDGs at a much faster rate and at much larger scale. She further emphasized the importance of increasing focus on the poorest, most vulnerable, furthest behind and hardest.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said young people are the “secret weapon” for implementing the 2030 Agenda. To unlock their power, she recommended: institutionalizing youth participation; involving youth in the drafting and presentation of the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs); disaggregating data on age to accurately capture the youth demographic; and investing in youth. She announced that her office, in collaboration with other UN agencies, intends to create a Global Youth Index on SDGs, which will highlight progress and challenges.

Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, said, via video-message, stakeholders and the private sector are the “pathways and platforms” to achieve the SDGs.

Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, praised Thomson’s continuity on SDG implementation during the change of UN leadership. He suggested that Thomson’s tenure provides an invitation to reimagine what the UNGA President’s office can represent for the UN and the larger international system.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank, observed that, unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs have been at the forefront of the World Bank’s agenda from the beginning. Mohieldin noted that only half of the countries involved in the World Bank Country Partnerships Frameworks have included the SDGs in their frameworks in a prominent way and invited integrating the SDGs in national budgetary priorities.

Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the UN system is still encountering challenges in acknowledging that the 2030 Agenda’s shared vision of humanity has a higher importance than UN entities’ siloed, vetted interests.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Chair, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC), urged maintaining momentum for the SDGs, cautioning against losing what the world has already invested in them. She said the donor community is using official development assistance (ODA) for urgent needs rather than taking a long-term, holistic approach to aid for the SDGs. She said the DAC should reform its work to align it with the SDGs and suggested the Committee could play a leadership role in coordinating the private sector to start funds and bonds on the overall SDG agenda.

Tao Zhang, IMF, observed that the SDGs provide a good reason for countries to speed up the reforms necessary for preserving global economic stability, which is one of the IMF’s main focuses of IMF’s.

Muhammed Musa, CEO, BRAC Bangladesh, said estimation of costs for the SDGs needs to be revisited. He recommended inviting governments to find ways to deliver differently, at lower costs.

Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America, said resources will go only to the areas that are measured and where there is accountability. Within this context, she said Oxfam has created the ‘Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index.’

Many countries, including Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, and Tajikistan, expressed their strong appreciation for the UNGA President’s efforts and successes. Singapore stressed that, during his tenure, Thomson not only “passed the probe with flying colors,” but also set the bar very high for future UNGA Presidents with regards to championing SDG implementation. [UN Press Release] [UNGA President Remarks] [UN Deputy Secretary-General Remarks] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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