- World leaders at UNGA face the reality of lagging progress towards SDGs by 2030, including poverty eradication, education, gender equality, and climate action, adopted ambitiously in 2015.
- UN Secretary-General Guterres calls for bold action to bridge global inequality, but specifics are lacking.
- A UN report reveals only 15 per cent of specific SDG targets are on track, with some deteriorating.
World leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly 2023 (UNGA) are confronting the stark reality that progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is lagging and, in some cases, regressing.
The United Nations adopted the SDGs, including eradicating extreme poverty, ensuring quality education for all children, achieving gender equality, and addressing climate change, in 2015 with great ambition.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “bold and transformative action” to fulfill these commitments and close the growing global inequality gap. While leaders have committed to accelerating action, specific plans remain limited.
Jill Biden asks world leaders to invest in children
According to a UN report, only 15 per cent of the 140 specific targets required to achieve the 17 SDGs are on track, and many need to move in the right direction.
If current trends persist, 575 million people will still live in extreme poverty by 2030, and it will take 286 years to achieve gender equality.
Guterres called for a “global rescue plan” for the SDGs and urged governments, activists, businesses, scientists, academics, and young people to collaborate on concrete proposals.
First Lady Jill Biden voiced support for the SDGs, albeit acknowledging the challenges ahead. She urged leaders to invest in children, emphasizing their role in building a peaceful world. Guterres highlighted the “SDG stimulus” proposal, focusing on debt reduction, increased financing for development, and contingency financing for needy countries.
While there is some hope, the translation of administrative promises and UNGA momentum into tangible progress remains to be determined.
Achieving these ambitious goals requires collective and transformative action on a global scale.
UNGA and celebrities’ appearance
UNGA is no stranger to celebrity appearances, from K-pop sensations BTS to tennis legend Roger Federer. This year, the summit will become the Royal Rumble as Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, join the diplomatic stage to champion the Earthshot climate effort.
While there may not be any turnbuckle slams, expect a week of intense verbal sparring as global leaders tackle many pressing crises.
Heads of state and government from over 145 countries are expected to gather by the river’s edge, with prominent figures like Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, US President Joe Biden, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy kicking off the event.
Zelenskyy’s presence is especially significant as it marks his first in-person appearance at the United Nations since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In contrast, the leaders of the permanent U.N. Security Council members—France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia—have opted to send representatives, with no plans for Vladimir Putin to attend.
Media reports show that Emmanuel Macron, who usually attends, cited King Charles III’s upcoming visit, while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, attending for the first time, quoted a busy schedule. Their respective ministers will also represent influential countries like India and Mexico.
Zelensky to hold talks with President Biden
Despite the absences, a substantial gathering of leaders is anticipated, with 140 heads of state and government set to participate. Additionally, six vice presidents, four deputy prime ministers, over 30 ministers of state, and chiefs of delegations will address the assembly on behalf of their nations.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will make his inaugural in-person appearance at the annual summit. He previously addressed the General Assembly via video. Furthermore, Zelensky will also hold talks with President Biden in Washington later this week.
As the 78th session commences, no single prevailing crisis will overshadow the General Debate, as the issues mentioned earlier remain unresolved.
The high-level gathering will occur amidst an ongoing conflict, emerging political challenges in West Africa and Latin America, the persisting pandemic, economic uncertainties, escalating inequality, and recent natural disasters, including destructive earthquakes, floods, and fires.