World leaders today embraced a sweeping 15-year global plan of action to end poverty, reduce inequalities and protect the environment, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, at the opening of a United Nations special summit.
Titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the agreement on a set of 17 goals and 169 targets would come into effect on 1 January 2016, replacing the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000.
“We have reached a defining moment in human history,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said prior to the unanimous adoption of the post-2015 development framework, describing it as “a promise by leaders to all people everywhere”. The Goals formed an agenda “for people and the planet”, as well as “for shared prosperity, peace and partnership”, he said. It conveyed the urgency of climate action, enshrined gender equality and respect for the rights of all, and pledged to leave “no one behind”.
“The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation,” he said, stressing the need for action from all States. The Agenda also required global partnership involving all stakeholders, including parliaments, local governments, civil society and academia. “No one can succeed working alone.”
Mr. Ban said the Millennium Development Goals had demonstrated the possibilities of working together. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the International Conference on Financing for Development in July, had provided a solid funding framework. The new agenda must build on those foundations.
With the Goals taking effect in 2016, he stressed the need for starting the new era “on the right foot”, urging all Governments to adopt a robust universal climate agreement in Paris in December. Recalling the creation of the United Nations 70 years ago, Mr. Ban said the Agenda would advance the goals of its visionary Charter dedicated to “We the Peoples”.
Uganda and Denmark, which took presidency of the General Assembly during the sixty-ninth and seventieth sessions respectively, served as Co-Chairs of the Summit, held as a high-level plenary of the 193-nation body.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, said the presence of so many leaders testified to the transformative potential of the new Agenda. Much had happened over the past 15 years as the world strove to meet the Millennium Development Goals. More than 1 billion people had been lifted out of poverty; more girls than ever before had gone to school; and more people had access to clean drinking water. Those goals had shown that setting targets worked, but the work was not yet completed.
“Today we begin a new journey,” he said. Since 1978, Denmark had committed to contribute 0.75 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA). Other countries should also meet that goal, although the Agenda was ambitious. The Danish presidency of the Assembly would lead the world towards its sustainable objectives to guarantee that words would be followed by deeds.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda, said today marked the dawn of a new era towards eradicating poverty, transforming economies and protecting the planet. World leaders who gathered here were sending a message to every village and every nation that they were committed to taking steps to change people’s lives. The Agenda carried forward the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals.
The new Goals must be integrated into national and regional strategies and polices. One major challenge facing the developing world was access to long-term financing for infrastructure development. That gap must be closed, and he urged action to ensure the voices of developing countries were heard by multinational institutions while also confirming the fulfilment of ODA and trade agreements.
Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, representing civil society, said that the sceptics couldn’t be blamed when they saw yet another summit declaration. To prove them wrong, implementation of the new Goals must pass four objectives: the ownership test, which made poor and marginalized people the primary decision-makers at every stage; the accountability test, which required Governments to inform their people what had been promised and delivered; the non-discrimination test, which meant that exclusion based on gender, race, descent, religion or other status would not be tolerated; and the coherence test, which gave people broad information for action.
“You cannot claim to support sustainable development when you are reluctant to reduce the consumption of the rich or transfer technology… you cannot lecture about peace while being the largest manufacturer of arms… you cannot launch Sustainable Development Goals and in parallel deny a safe and legal route to refugees,” he said. Following the unanimous adoption of the Agenda, many Heads of State and Government rose in applause. Howeve