Amidst a crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes, with COVID-19 destroying lives and livelihoods across the globe, the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly will open with a special high-level event underscoring anew the urgency of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a pathway to a healthier, more equitable and more peaceful world.
The first ‘SDG Moment’ convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres will be held virtually on 18 September, from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m., featuring a “people’s address” by education activist and UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai. The event will bring together representatives of Governments, civil society, local authorities, international organizations and the private sector, along with other relevant stakeholders, with a view to generating a renewed sense of urgency, ambition, accountability and transformative possibility as the world embarks on a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are a blueprint for beating poverty and hunger, confronting the climate crisis, achieving gender equality and much more, within the next ten years,” said the UN Secretary-General. “At a time of great uncertainty, the SDGs show the way forward to a strong recovery from COVID-19 and a better future for all on a safe and healthy planet.”
Five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, progress had been made in some areas, such as improving maternal and child health, expanding access to electricity and increasing women’s representation in government. Yet even these advances were offset elsewhere by growing food insecurity, deterioration of the natural environment, and persistent and pervasive inequalities.
Now, COVID-19 has unleashed an unprecedented crisis, causing the loss of lives and livelihoods and deepening existing inequalities that will make progress on the Goals even more difficult, with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable affected the most.
As societies lock down, and economies slow down, poverty levels are rising for the first time in a generation, erasing almost all the progress made over the past decades. The pandemic is pushing millions more into chronic hunger, and unequal access to remote learning threatens to leave the poorest children behind. Progress towards gender equality has stalled and even reversed in some areas, and violence against women and girls has seen a steep rise during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The damage inflicted by climate change continues to mount, from worsening wildfires, floods and storms, to rising food insecurity and economic loss. COVID-19 has not stopped the climate crisis – carbon emissions are quickly returning to pre-COVID levels, and greenhouse gas concentrations have reached new record highs.
In this moment of crisis, the ‘SDG Moment’ will highlight actions and solutions by UN Member States and other stakeholders that can drive the transformative change needed and steer the world back on track towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious – and they are achievable,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “We can end poverty and hunger. Women and girls can have the same rights and opportunities as men and boys. We can avert the climate crisis. But we must decide to do it now. And we must do it together – in our communities and in solidarity with the global community.”