By Giulia Fabbris
The second SDG Summit was held in New York in the middle of September and marked the halfway point to the deadline set for achieving the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. It focused on the promise of inclusion, resilience and sustainability expressed in the SDGs, particularly during international crises. Additionally, the heads of State and Government discussed the position of their own Country concerning the Goals. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals contained in the 2030 Agenda, represent the will of the 193 signing countries to reach the objectives that have been set up and which involve the whole society. SDGs not only are universal, because they relate to problems that exist in every nation, but also are interconnected, as they have to be taken into consideration altogether.
Among the 17 objectives, there are defeating poverty, reaching a high-quality level of education and fighting against climate change: these are all current issues that must be taken into account in order to build a peaceful society that respects and promotes human rights. Whether States are free to decide their approaches to accomplish the different objectives, they have to be annually evaluated in order to examine the consistency of the path followed with the purpose of the Agenda.
The 2023 Summit played an important role because of the times we are living in, which has been through profound changes since the last meeting in 2019. Today’s society is facing issues such as destructive wars, frequent human rights violations, new infectious illnesses, an increased level of poverty and global warming. All these obstacles not only accentuate the divide between different segments of the population but also make it difficult to achieve the goals imposed through the Agenda.
During the two-day meeting a Political Declaration was adopted, highlighting the devotion of the States to pursue sustainable development, with the ultimate purpose of establishing a safer future for the next generations in a more inclusive society. It highlighted the fact that specific Countries, such as least-developed States, small developing islands and middle-income Nations, request stronger international support because they might find themselves in conflict and post-conflict situations which only accentuate their already existing lower degree of development. The Declaration has acknowledged the fact that numerous steps have been taken towards progress, particularly after the spread of COVID-19: because of the pandemic, technology was deployed in a multitude of areas in which it hadn’t been used before, accelerating the process of digitalization. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, as the achievement of the 17 Goals must be accomplished in the next seven years and there are still shortcomings that prevent it.
The UN Secretary-General has launched a proposal to accomplish the SDGs more rapidly, involving three spheres of action: debt distress, long-term financing and funds for Countries who need them. A Fund was created with the scope of helping States that were experiencing serious crises and it extended social benefits for more than 175 million people. Looking at the data provided by the UN regarding the achievement of SDGs, in some sectors the results are rewarding, whereas in others they’re somewhat disappointing.
Regarding the right to quality education (Goal 4), in 2021, about 87% of the population had access to primary education, even if this percentage has grown by just 9% during the past 20 years. Regarding Goal 16, which monitors peace, justice and strong institutions, in 2021 42.6% of States had institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles regarding human rights standards: in just 20 years the percentage has grown by almost 30%, even though not even half of the countries respect these standards. Furthermore, in 2020 around 54% of people could use safely managed sanitation services, a percentage doubled compared to the 2000s.
UN Member States shall collaborate to provide help to those who suffer most because of inequalities. For this reason, the adoption of the Declaration represented a crucial step, as Member States have come together and adopted a resolution regardless of their different views. Despite the resolution only giving general suggestions, without providing any compulsory measures, it is the responsibility of each State to take adequate actions to meet the SDGs.
At the closing of the Summit, UN Secretary-General Guterres stressed the need to act quickly in order to implement what was discussed and, particularly, he emphasized the need for developed countries to meet their development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. He referred to the measures to be taken as “hope work” and demanded that what was presented through the Declaration must become a reality, to reach the desired level of development. The final intervention by the President of the General Assembly Francis, enhanced the necessity to start acting as soon as possible because procrastination will severely impact the accomplishment of the SDGs.