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COVID-19, war in Ukraine, environmental crisis a sustainability ‘wake-up’ call: UN

COVID-19, war in Ukraine, environmental crisis a sustainability ‘wake-up’ call: UN

The following are remarks by Amina Mohamed, UN Deputy Secretary-General for the “Sustainable and Development” session, during the ex-Commonwealth Heads of State meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers in Kigali on 23 June:

I am delighted to be here and to contribute to this important Commonwealth gathering, along with so many friends and colleagues, at this crucial moment in our world. The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, adopted nearly seven years ago, evolved from the belief that sustainable and inclusive development – ​​the theme of today’s session – is the only sustainable development. We are almost halfway to the 2030 Agenda.

To be sure of each, we have made progress. But, I think it’s fair to say that this is not the “half-world” we envisioned in 2015. We did not foresee the COVID-19 health pandemic and its dire social and economic repercussions, or the war in Ukraine. These two acute crises add to the devastation wrought by the ongoing triple environmental crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – and to the reality that we weren’t doing what we needed to do long before the pandemic hit. was needed.

These crises are wake-up calls, reminding us that we must work together in our completely globalized and interdependent world. Disease crosses borders, conflict in one region contributes to hunger in another, and environmental degradation and unsustainable consumption patterns threaten the lives and livelihoods of all.

Inequality has deepened, both within and between countries. Women and youth have disproportionately faced the social and economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, education and employment opportunities have been lost, domestic violence and the burden of care have increased.

We are also facing a “great finance divide”. While developed countries were able to borrow at ultra-low interest rates for their recovery, most developing countries could not afford to do so. These countries are facing increasingly high borrowing costs and have had to cut their education and health budgets and other Sustainable Development Goal investments.

And I don’t need to tell you in this room that the effects of climate change are not felt equally all over the world. Four key climate change indicators set new records in 2021 with devastating consequences for small island developing states and other vulnerable countries.

In this work, there is much to be done, and I know the Commonwealth will take a leadership role. The Commonwealth is a powerful example of the promise and potential of multilateralism – bringing to life the ideal of power through cooperation. You are defined by your diversity.

Small states in the Commonwealth face myriad challenges, but they are also natural leaders in sustainable development and in the existential fight against climate change, providing ethical leadership and implementing innovative approaches to adaptation.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an example of organization in realizing the opportunities the blue economy offers and shows that cooperation is the right approach to better management of our oceans for economic growth, better livelihoods and the health of ocean ecosystems.

The international community should also come forward. We need to commit to a 1.5°C world, reach net-zero by 2050 and cut global emissions by 45 percent this decade. Emerging economies will need an estimated $4 trillion per year in additional investment by 2030 if they are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and invest in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. It is more important than ever to meet official development assistance (ODA) commitments.

The rapid transition to decarbonized energy systems is also important. By 2025, we should provide electricity to 500 million more people and access to clean cooking solutions to 1 billion people. We must rapidly and comprehensively improve energy efficiency. To advance the energy transition, the Secretary-General has advocated shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to supporting vulnerable people and tripling global investment for renewable energy. It can’t wait.

The United Nations Development System is working hand in hand with several Commonwealth countries to advance sustainable and inclusive development. For example, in Mozambique, the United Nations contributed to the new 20-year national development strategy in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including the business sector and young people. The United Nations Country Team in the Pacific helped seven Commonwealth countries develop ambitious national paths to sustainable food systems. And the UN country team in Malawi has implemented a joint program to promote integrated social security with a focus on food security and leaving no one behind.

In addition, I am pleased to say that the United Nations General Assembly is working to develop a multidimensional vulnerability index. This type of index can provide a more equitable platform for vulnerable countries, especially small island states, to access much-needed concessional finance based on their weaknesses, rather than indices of little relevance to real needs. I urge you to actively participate in the General Assembly debate on the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index when it is presented for consideration later this year.

A notable one in 3 youth aged 15 to 29 lives in the Commonwealth. With their high energy, open mind and technical know-how, they will be our engines of change. I appreciate your extensive efforts to ensure that they are actively supported in their development and empowered to shape a sustainable and inclusive future.

The Secretary-General’s proposals on our common agenda include a transformed education system, a high-ambition coalition to promote green and digital-economy jobs, and efforts to remove barriers to young people’s political participation. I urge you all to be actively involved in realizing these proposals – especially in preparation for the Transforming Education Summit this September. Young people inspire the work of the United Nations, and I know they inspire and animate your work in the Commonwealth as well. We should support them.

In all this important work, I thank you for all that the Commonwealth is doing to advance sustainable and inclusive growth. The United Nations is committed to this cooperation with the Commonwealth. I wish you the best of luck in your deliberations.


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COVID-19, war in Ukraine, environmental crisis a sustainability ‘wake-up’ call: UN

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