Sustainable Development goals are ‘the future’ Malala tells major UN event, urging countries to get on track
New York: The Global Goals represent the future for millions of girls who want education, women who fight for equality, and youth fighting for clean air, UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai said on Friday, at a side event of the General Assembly, challenging Member States, “when are you planning to do the work”?
“When I last spoke here, I was just about to enter university…optimistic about what was ahead: university life, making new friends and access to an incredible education”, she told the inaugural SDG Moment event, intended to renew the effort to meet the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the coming decade. “This June, I graduated in the midst of a reeling world — one many of us could not have predicted”.
The young Nobel Laureate recalled that five years ago Member States signed on to the SDGs, but, “so far, you have not kept up with your work”, she declared.
While acknowledging that COVID-19 has been “a striking setback to our collective goals” she stressed, “it cannot be an excuse”.
“On education alone, 20 million more girls may never go back to the classroom when this crisis ends [and] the global education funding gap has already increased to 200 billion dollars per year”, she flagged.
Setting new norms
The young advocate signaled that moving forward, things should not return to the way they were.
“When will you commit the necessary funding to give every child 12 years of quality education? When will you prioritize peace and protect refugees? When will you pass policies to cut carbon emissions?”.
Underlining the need for “a profound commitment to the way the world should be – a place where every girl can learn and lead, a place where we put people and our planet ahead of profits, a place where leaders keep their promises”, Ms. Yousafzai requested that those gathered “set the norms” of a new sustainable, healthy, educated and equitable era.
Set sights high: Guterres
Meanwhile, Secretary-General António Guterres noted that in embarking on a Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030, we must “strike out for a world of dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet”.
“We must look beyond the current crisis and set our sights high…to show that transformation is possible and is happening right now”, he said.
A world ‘shaken to the core’
The UN chief painted a vivid picture of a world “shaken to the core” – by the COVID-19 pandemic “pushing us towards the worst recession in decades”, causing widespread disruption, rising hunger, skyrocketing debt, plunging fiscal resources and threatening children’s education.
Even before the virus, inequalities were growing, he pointed out, noting that globalization benefits had failed to reach “millions upon millions of destitute people” as greenhouse gases soared to record levels.
“We need a path that brings health to all, revives economies, brings people in from the margins of society and builds long-term resilience, sustainability, opportunity and peace”, outlined the UN chief.
The path ahead
He said the pandemic has undercut the very fragilities that the 2030 Agenda was designed to address – to end poverty and leave no one behind.
“The poor have a special claim on our efforts and energies and must be reached first” by expanding social protections, ensuring universal access to essential services, strengthening education, health systems and internet connectivity and placing women at the centre of decision-making, he detailed.
According to Mr. Guterres, the 2030 Agenda additionally demands transitioning to inclusive, low-carbon, resilient economies that deliver more jobs and a cleaner environment, which will not only reduce the risk of future pandemics but also mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
“In short, the 2030 Agenda provides the guiding light we need to end the pandemic, to respond to its socio-economic impacts and to chart a course for a transformative recovery”, he spelled out.
Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe