The celebration of the first SDG Moment sets into motion the decade of action for the achievement of Agenda 2030
By Maria Victoria Espada – The celebration of the SDG Moment 2020 on the 18th of September in New York City raised the curtain on the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The first SDG Moment also signified the launch of decade of action initiative, conceived to redouble efforts directed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. From here on out, every SDG Moment will be celebrated annually, with the objective of providing a snapshot of the implementation of the SDG at a worldwide level.
A setback caused by the pandemic
In his opening message, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, noted that the pandemic has pushed the world into its deepest socioeconomic recession in decades, with the most vulnerable people being the most adversely affected. After years of progress, poverty and hunger have started to increase again, countries debts have skyrocketed and inequalities at all levels, between countries and within countries, have multiplied, demonstrating the disparity in the supposed benefits of globalisation. In order to achieve a solid recovery after COVID-19, Guterres indicated that more and better investment will be needed in social protection, universal access to basic services, health systems, education and digital connectivity, putting women at the centre of decision-making, transitioning to greener economies and creating more quality employment. “The decisions taken in the next two to three years will have a huge impact on our situation in 2030“, he warned.
The first SDG Moment also relied on the participation of Malala Yousafzai, Messenger of Peace to the UN, who pointed out that “the pandemic is a setback for the SDG, but it cannot be an excuse for its failure,” and called upon the governments and Member States of the UN to “prioritise people and the planet over economic benefits“. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Finland and Co-President of the Security Council, also present, emphasised the need to comprehensively address the problems and challenges arising from the pandemic, to avoid resurgences, and to “renew the global commitment to a more inclusive, innovative and resilient multilateralism“.
A third of the way to 2030, progress is uneven between the SDG and their achievement could be threatened by the devastating effects of the pandemic, as shown in the The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020. While most indicators show slow progress, some are progressing according to estimates and others are clearly in decline, as can be seen in the animated presentation by Ola Rosling, President and Co-Founder of the Gapminder Foundation. For Rosling, the slow progress of the SDG is due to the lack of importance given to the interconnection between different targets for the same objective and, in turn, between the different objectives, which makes it difficult to make widespread progress.
Furthermore, the absence of accurate, reliable and appropriate data prevents the identification of the most vulnerable and needy groups and, therefore, makes it difficult to target policies and resources towards them.
The regional progress of the SDG was also analysed by the UN regional commissions from the angles of poverty and inequality, climate change and gender inequality. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on the region, countries will need to adopt inclusive and financially sustainable health systems, revert the increase in informal employment and the inequalities in salary, focus their efforts on fighting poverty and reducing the digital divide, and implement social protection and job creation programmes, the latter targeting especially young people. Common to all regions will be the necessity to increase investment in renewable energy and the transition to a circular economy. Finally, combating gender-based violence and empowering women should remain policy priorities in all regions.
Increasing worldwide investment
Also participating in the first SDG Moment were representatives of the Member States of the UN, international agencies, civil society, local authorities and the private sector, who agreed on the need to redirect and increase world-wide investment in SDGs to also achieve, a solid recovery from the pandemic. Cross-cutting issues such as finance, governance, partnerships between different actors, availability of data and access to technology must be present in all political actions to achieve sustainable development for people and the planet.
Finally, a good deal of political will and international commitment to the objectives of solidarity and multilateralism will be crucial to guarantee the achievement of Agenda 2030.
To amplify its impact, the first SDG Moment was complemented with a mass media transmission (of 30 minutes duration) entitled “Nations United,” which features interviews with distinguished icons, activists and thinkers, archival stories and data visualisations, and elevates the vision of Agenda 2030 and the SDG. Moreover, the virtual operational area of the SDG during the high-level week provided further opportunities for governments and other stakeholders to identify solutions to accelerate the implementation of the objectives of Agenda 2030.