Hope for the SDGs

Halfway to the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, far from leaving no one behind, we are leaving half the world behind.

Progress on poverty and hunger is stalling and, in some countries, going into reverse.   

Many G-77 members are grappling with an economic hangover from the Covid-19 pandemic, crippling debts, a cost-of-living crisis and sky-high borrowing costs.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world, particularly women and girls, are living without the most basic respect for their human rights. And the lack of jobs is generating enormous frustration among young people.

Climate disasters most countries did little to create are knocking chunks out of their economies and increasing people’s suffering.

Investment in sustainable development and climate action is slipping further out of reach. 

Digital technologies have enormous potential for good — but they are also inflaming inequalities. The International Monetary Fund warns that artificial intelligence could make things even worse.  

And peace — the foundation of sustainable development — is breaking down amid a climate of global impunity.

Around the world — from Sudan to Ukraine, the Middle East and beyond — wars are devastating lives, fueling mass movements of people, disrupting global supply chains and threatening to set entire regions alight.

Righting our troubled world depends on effective global action.

Yet the international system is out of date, out of time and out of step, reflecting a bygone age when many of your countries were still colonized.

The United Nations Security Council is paralyzed by geopolitical divisions. And its composition does not reflect the reality of today’s world. It must be reformed.

And the global financial system, including the Bretton Woods Institutions, has failed to provide a global safety net for developing countries in distress, as it was created after the Second World War in a totally different global economic situation.

Yet, amidst all this gloom, there is hope.

Last year, the SDG Summit issued a strong political declaration — thanks in large part to the advocacy and tenacity of G77 countries.

And this year, we have an opportunity to build on that success.

The Summit of the Future, to be held in New York in September, is a generational opportunity. It aims to reform and revitalize multilateralism so that it works for everyone, everywhere — and meets the challenges of today.

It is a chance to create the conditions for countries to achieve the SDGs. To find consensus on frameworks to address new challenges. And to build a better world for us all.

I have also proposed an SDG Stimulus of $500 billion a year in affordable, long-term finance for sustainable development and climate action in developing countries.

The SDG Stimulus calls for urgent action on debt, including breathing space for countries facing unbearable repayment schedules.

Momentum is building. All countries backed these proposals in the SDG Summit last year. But now we must turn them into reality.

The 21st century cannot replicate the vast inequalities of the twentieth.

Do not let new rules be written by the rich, for the rich. Let us face it: Those that benefit most from the present global governance system are unlikely to lead its reform.  

We have a chance to cultivate a just, peaceful and prosperous future, where no one is left behind. 

But for that, a lot needs to be changed and reformed. Together, let’s unite and fight to make that a reality.  


Excerpts from the UN Secretary-General’s remarks to the Third South Summit-G77 Plus China, 21 January 2024.