By Rodney Reynolds
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – The United Nations formally launched on July 11 its global campaign to help ensure the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at achieving social, economic and environmental advancement for over 7.0 billion people worldwide.
But the lingering question before the 10-day High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on SDGs was whether or not the international community will reach its targets, including the elimination of poverty and economic inequalities by 2030, as envisaged by world leaders in September 2015?
Reiterating the primary theme of the SDG Forum – “Ensuring that no one is left behind” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the successful implementation of SDGs will depend on its inclusiveness.
UN Besides the United Nations, he called for the active participation of governments, business communities, youth, women, indigenous peoples, the academic community, civil society and philanthropic organizations, in helping realize the Goals.
“We must put people and the planet at the centre of what we do -- underpinned by human rights,” he said, even as he singled out the role of youth who will stand the test of time as the SDGs reach their targeted date reaching out to the year 2030.
The world today is home to the largest generation of youth in its history, with 90% of young people living in developing countries and with estimates suggesting that labour markets will need to add 600 million new jobs by 2026 to accommodate changing global demographics, according to the United Nations.
Ban said: “Empowering young people through skills development strengthens their capacity to help address the many challenges facing society, including poverty, injustice and violent conflict”.
There is no better investment, he declared, than helping young persons to develop their abilities. Successful skills programmes link young people with opportunities to gain experience and jobs.
The fact that the implementation of SDGs will be a long term process underlines the special significance of young people.
Speaking on Youth Skills Day on July 15, Sri Lankan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rohan Perera said: “We are focused on the implementation of the 2030 agenda, bringing aspects of youth skills development, and reducing youth unemployment into the national sustainable development frameworks.”
In Sri Lanka, he said: “We make all endeavours to include youth and their skills-building with a view to ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’ in our quest for sustainable development.”
As a result, Sri Lanka has initiated a process themed ‘Planning for an Inclusive Transformation’, which is the foundation for evolving the ‘National Sustainable Development Roadmap’.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Forum July 18: “We have 15 years to end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition, preventable deaths of newborns and children under five, as well as to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases.”
“We have 15 years to achieve universal health care coverage and free primary and secondary education, as well as to end discrimination against women and girls.”
“And we have 15 years to transition to a low-carbon economy and change unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.”
The road, however, is a long way ahead.
At a civil society event, sponsored by Japan and South Korea, several representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) pondered the crucial role of governments in implementing SDGs.
Both Japan and Korea are expected to enhance cooperation between their governments and civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly on SDG 16 (on governance) and SDG 17 (on partnerships).
The participating NGOs at the civil society event included the Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, the Japan Youth Platform for Sustainability, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), and Save the Children Japan.
Sujung Nam of the Korea Policy Center emphasized the role of Korean CSOs in helping implement SDGs. She pointed out that Korean CSOs are focused on three issues: social development, economic development and environmental development.
The question remains as to how the respective governments can help, specifically with increased Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Highlighting the role of youth, Tadashi Nagai of SGI presented the results of a straw poll on “SDGs and Youth in Japan and South Korea”. According to the survey, conducted among 350 students in June-July, half of the young respondents “don’t know” about SDGs: 41 percent in Japan and 57 percent in Korea.
But the percentage of youth who were aware (“very well”) of SDGs was only 8.0 percent in Korea and 29 percent in Japan. And more than half of the respondents – 57 percent in Japan and 85 percent in Korea – did not recognize the differences between SDGs and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015.
Asked what policies and actions are needed for “leaving no one behind”, the responses included: empathy with others; dialogue with minorities; education; attracting attention from civil society; ownership; think globally, act locally; and global citizenship.
Meanwhile, according to the UN Foundation, the current socio-economic problems, facing mostly the developing world, are reflected in a rash of “staggering statistics”: one in 8 people still live in extreme poverty; nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger; an estimated 5.9 million children die before they reach age 5; more than one in four girls marry before their 18th birthday; 1.1 billion people live without electricity; and over 2.0 billion people suffer from water scarcity.
“We have to hit the ground running,” said Ambassador Oh Joon of South Korea, currently President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), urging member states to track their progress in periodic ”national reviews” over the next 14 years.
The title of the meeting, High Level Political Forum, he noted, should be changed to something more appropriate: ‘SDG Review Conference’.
For starters, he pointed out, 22 countries, both from the developed and developing world, have voluntarily submitted their national reviews of SDGs before the Forum last week.
According to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), mobilizing efforts by the 22 countries include South Korea’s gender-oriented project titled ‘The Better for Girls Initiative’, which focuses on girls‘ education and health.
Norway has adopted a Norwegian Action Plan for Biodiversity in 2016 and Uganda has initiated a number of social programmes such as the Youth Livelihood Programme, Community Tree Planting Project and the Women Entrepreneurship Programme
The 22 countries, which highlighted their efforts to integrate the Goals with their sustainable development plans, include: China, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, Uganda and Venezuela. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf/inputs [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 July 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Image credit: UN