Regional Director’s remarks at 2019 Global Festival of Action

May 6, 2019

Madam State Secretary,

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the 2019 Edition of the Global Festival of Action.

Thank you for joining us on our journey to make the Sustainable Development Goals everyone’s goals by moving from raising awareness, to driving commitment, and then action.

There are over 1,500 change makers gathered here today. You embody the vision of the Goals.

Change requires urgency. Determination. Commitment. But it also requires partners - and partnerships.

Public and private. For-profit and not-for-profit. Digital and analog. Government and non-governmental organizations and institutions.

When governments, local authorities, international organizations, civil society, private sector, and the media work and communicate together, the SDGs are within reach.

This is why this festival is important for UNDP, and for everyone who is invested in the SDGs.

Attention and action is needed now more than ever. The assessment of the United Nations is that the current pace of progress in some areas is insufficient to fully meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But trends can be broken: when societies mobilize around common goals; when political commitment and leadership for the achievement of clear targets are in place; when innovations move quickly from theory to practice; and when people have a say in and contribute to the implementation of agreed policies.

Around the world, governments are ‘walking the talk’ in terms of aligning national plans, budgets, and policies with the SDGs.

The question now is how to ensure that this progress is sustained, and obstacles to further progress are overcome.

Let me touch upon four of the key challenges and opportunities.

First, Inequalities are rising across the board. Inequality fuels exclusion, insecurity, instability, forced displacement, de-democratization, and sharply increases people’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

UN data shows for example:

-       without inequalities in health, education and income, the world would have achieved 22 per cent more progress in human development;

-       profound inequalities persist in access to land and other productive resources, as well as finance;

-       in regions where life expectancy is increasing, the gap between the countries with the highest and lowest life expectancy is still more than a decade.

The forms of inequalities vary, but are generally connected with sex, age, ethnicity, and geographical residence of the individual. A woman belonging to an ethnic minority and who lives in a remote area is much more likely to be marginalised and ‘left behind’.

This woman and other people in similar circumstances should be the focus of our attention, political commitment, policy orientation, and support.

Through the 2019 Human Development Report, UNDP will this year provide a comprehensive global analysis of inequality using new data and innovative methods to go beyond income to consider the many other types of inequality that affect well-being, as well as the complex interactions between them.

This afternoon there will be a special session dedicated to this issue which is at the core of the Agenda 2030.

Second, climate change, which is the single greatest challenge humanity is facing today.

If we do not take urgent action, climate change will irreversibly change life on earth.

Climate change-induced land degradation, harvest losses, air pollution and increasing water scarcity, are leading to even more poverty and inequality around the world.

Climate action also provides unrivalled opportunities to unlock massive economic and social benefits that can help achieve the SDGs.

Bold changes could trigger US$26 trillion in economic benefits by 2030, create over 65 million new jobs and avoid 700,000 premature deaths.

Drastic and urgent shifts must be made to renewable energy. Future energy demands must be curbed through energy efficiency solutions.

Developed countries must honor their financial pledges under the Paris Agreement, including the US$100 billion per year by 2020 pledge.

No country will be able to sustain growth or ensure the well-being of its people if it does not proactively manage risks posed by climate change.

In other words, tackling climate change must be central to all our efforts to reduce poverty and sustain development.

My third point refers to education.

Even in countries where SDG targets for universal primary education have already been achieved and literacy rates are high, access to quality education remains a challenge for the most marginalized communities.

Rapidly transforming economies associated with less stable employment relationships and ageing societies will need new thinking and policy approaches.

Collective efforts will need to focus on:

·      early childhood education as the key foundation for children’s development;

·      continuing education for young people through access to higher, and technical and vocational education and training;

·      creating more and better learning opportunities for low-skilled adults, to help them upgrade and adjust their skills to meet modern job market requirements, including through functional literacy; and

·      reinventing social welfare systems to meet the needs of ageing populations.

Fourth, peaceful, just and inclusive societies are typically pre-conditions for addressing the issues I just highlighted.

These, however, are ever more ambitious goals if the other challenges and complexities which are impeding SDG achievement are not addressed.

In many countries around the world, current trends include the risk of conflicts and lack of personal safety, inadequate institutional capacity for service delivery, and human rights increasingly coming under pressure.

Changing these trends and achieving sustainable development requires further global and regional efforts.

SDG 16 is crucial because it helps consolidate national as well as regional efforts around sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,

When I look around this room, I have optimism that we are able to work together, and that when we reach that critical 10 year countdown to SDG achievement next year we will have awakened the world to the promise of this agenda, engaged millions of people and partners around the world, and secured the political will and financial resources at all levels to make this dream a reality.

Thank you.