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Push at UN for reform to meet elusive development goals

United Nations, United States | September 19, 2023, Tuesday @ 13:28 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 2427
Push at UN for reform to meet elusive development goals

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the opening session of the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit on September 18, 2023 ahead of the 78th UN General Assembly. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

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(AFP) - Developing countries on Monday urged a shake-up in the global order to help the world's poorest, at a United Nations summit on ambitious anti-poverty promises that remain far off track.

Hoping to show a focus on more than the war in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the development summit on the eve of the annual General Assembly, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to take center-stage.

In 2015, UN member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, 17 targets to transform the world by 2030 including by completely ending extreme poverty and making sure not a single of the planet's eight billion people goes hungry.

Guterres called for a "global rescue plan" on the targets, as he acknowledged that only about 15 percent were on track to be met and that metrics on some were heading in reverse.

"The SDGs aren't just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere," Guterres told the summit.

"In our world of plenty, hunger is a shocking stain on humanity, and an epic human rights violation.

"It is an indictment of every one of us that millions of people are starving in this day and age."

Addressing the summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, "Ultimately, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depends on the fundamental reform of global social, economic and political relations."

- Ambitions sidetracked --

In a declaration adopted by consensus Monday, UN member-states reaffirmed their commitment to the goals and to eradicating extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $2.15 a day.

The nations agreed to "act with urgency" to implement the "plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, leaving no one behind," the declaration said.

But efforts to devote money and attention to the goals have been repeatedly set back, including by the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other tumult, worsening climate catastrophes and sharp increases in the cost of living.

The declaration also backed in general terms reform of international financial institutions, weeks after a G20 summit in New Delhi focused on increasing representation in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, told the summit that the issue went deeper.

"The calls for international reform of the financial system really are not just about governance, but they are for us about longer money, cheaper money, and being able to use it for the purposes for which we need to reduce all of our inequalities and achieve the elements of the SDGs," she said.

- Poorest 'counting' on momentum -

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, addressing the summit, said that Paris was increasing its development assistance despite an era of tight budgets, with special attention on climate.

"We need to demonstrate an electroshock of solidarity," she said.

The United States, which has pumped $43 billion in military aid into Ukraine to help defend against Russian invasion, has hoped to show it is also interested in development.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, called the declaration on Monday "historic."

"This is an important step, but it must be followed by accelerated action," she said.

"All member-states must continue to drive progress forward. The world's most vulnerable are counting on us, and we must leave no one behind."

But one senior European diplomat warned the gap was growing between the developing and developed worlds.

One goal for the summit is "making sure that that rift doesn't grow further," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

© Agence France-Presse

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