UN Deputy Secretary-General Call to Realign Plans, Adapt New Approaches for Realizing 2030 Agenda
17 July 2018


17 July 2018


2018 High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development


UN Deputy Secretary-General Call to Realign Plans, Adapt New Approaches for Realizing 2030 Agenda


Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the opening of the ministerial segment of the 2018 High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, in New York on 16 July:

Welcome to the 2018 High‑Level Political Forum.  Almost three years have passed since world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development], a road map for peaceful and prosperous societies on a healthy planet.

The HLPF [High‑Level Political Forum] is our annual opportunity to take stock of implementation efforts responding to that road map.  The six goals in focus this year are an engine for driving inclusive and sustainable growth.  Above all the HLPF is an opportunity to respond to two central questions:  first, are we on track to achieve our Goals by 2030?  And second, what do we need do differently over the coming years to deliver better results?

Over the next three days, you will be reflecting on these questions — drawing on messages from last week’s deliberations, engaging in the increasingly enriching voluntary national reviews and listening to a diverse set of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) stakeholders.

On the positive side, it is already clear that we are seeing evidence of progress in some areas — such as maternal and child mortality, tackling childhood marriage, expanding access to electricity, addressing global unemployment and cutting the rate of forest loss around the globe.  But, it is equally clear that in other areas, we are either moving too slowly, or losing momentum.  I saw these challenges first‑hand in South Sudan, Niger and Chad.

For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 — fundamentally undermining our commitment to leaving no one behind.  Poverty is becoming increasingly urban, with most of the world’s extreme poor projected to live in urban settings by 2035.  Young people remain three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.  Access to water is improving, but basic sanitation remains off track.

The rate of progress on access to energy, including renewable energy, is not fast enough to meet our target.  We need to also double our efforts on energy efficiency.  250 million more people in Africa have no access to clean fuels for cooking compared to 2015.  We are seeing alarming decline in biodiversity, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.  And we know that reducing biodiversity loss and stopping land degradation will require more than increasing protected areas and forest coverage.

At the same time, we have not yet managed to unlock and direct the scale of the resources needed towards the financing of the sustainable development agenda.  Indeed, ODA [official development assistance] commitments of 0.7 per cent of gross national income remain unmet by many countries.  Therefore, even the call to leverage private finance using ODA would remain hollow if it remains unmet.

We have 12 years to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  That’s just 4,551 days left, or just over 3,000 working days if you insist on taking weekends off.  The clock is ticking, but the transformation towards resilient and sustainable societies is not only still possible — it is an absolute imperative.

The SDGs have already had a major impact on the thinking and actions of a wide range of stakeholders across the world.  Governments have adapted plans and policies with the 2030 Agenda as their guiding light.  New multi‑stakeholder initiatives have emerged.  New institutions have been established.  Cities, local and regional authorities and some private sector actors — actors with immense influence on peoples’ everyday lives — are increasingly taking ownership of the Goals.

But to move forward, at the speed and scale required, we need much deeper and much wider action.  Just over one month ago, Member States approved an ambitious reform of the United Nations development system, to ensure that the United Nations can offer Governments the right response and new tools to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda.

This repositioning of the United Nations development system at all levels will ensure better integration and coordination of United Nations entities and our partners.  It will also reinforce our collective responsibility to be transparent and accountable for results in the lives of all people.  We will work with our partners to see a similarly deep embedding of SDG action across the ecosystem of SDG actors — at the local, national, regional and global levels.



We must avoid an SDG‑light approach, one that pays only lip service to the 2030 Agenda’s call for transformation.  That means truly realigning our plans, budgets, laws, business processes and personal decisions with the core emphasis of the 2030 Agenda on inclusion and sustainability.  It means recognizing that even though 109 countries have national policies on sustainable consumption and production, more needs to be done to change existing patterns of behaviour and established practices.

It means investing more in the prevention of crises and delivering support to the world’s most vulnerable countries to enable them to build resilience and to move to the next phase of development.  And it means expanding strategic partnerships with civil society, the private sector, academia and young people.  To truly embrace and deliver the SDGs, we must place the advancement of gender equality at the forefront of everything that we do.

We must revolutionize our methods for acquiring reliable, timely, open and disaggregated data to inform our actions and to confidently chart our investment path forward.  Finally, we must begin to put our money where our spoken word is — taking tangible actions to redirect major investment towards the SDGs.

In a little over one year, Heads of State and Government will gather for the first major HLPF under the General Assembly.  Let us resolve to use the time available to dig deeper and adapt new approaches and tools to SDG implementation.

Let us resolve to build on the lessons emerging from this year’s voluntary national review and to make the necessary steps over the coming year so that we can demonstrate that the 2030 Agenda has generated genuine positive momentum for change in the lives of people and the health of our planet.  Let us work urgently in unity towards the world we must see in 2030 where all 17 of our promises to people will achieve a more peaceful and prosperous home for all.


Sustainable energy ‘golden thread’ linking 2030 agenda with pledge to leave no one behind, especially rural women


Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the SE4ALL side event Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 — Leaving No One Behind, in New York on 16 July:

I am pleased to be with you today to discuss the immensely important topic of “Moving SDG 7 forward”.  The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] declares that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is the greatest global challenge.

Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is critical to meet this objective.  It is also essential for addressing climate change, which is indispensable for sustainable development.  Put simply, sustainable energy is the golden thread that links most of the SDGs and the pledge to leave no one behind.

Access to cleaner energy benefits people’s health — especially women and girls — by reducing risks from indoor and outdoor air pollution and by enabling access to clean water and refrigeration.  And modern energy services for all means improved medical facilities, especially in rural areas, enabling the safe storage of medicines and vaccines.

Access to modern energy services can also enhance the quality of education.  Globally, over 291 million children attend primary schools without any electricity.  This means they have no electric lights, no refrigerators, no fans, no computers, no printers.

Of course, this energy must be sustainable.  Accelerating progress on SDG 7 also means accelerating renewable energy and energy efficiency to combat climate change.  Two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector.  All these interlinkages show how important SDG 7 is for the achievement of all the SDGs and the Paris Agreement [on climate change].

However, we are not moving fast enough.  As seen in the latest SDGs Progress Report, we are making gains in energy efficiency, but not at the pace needed to double energy productivity by 2030.  On renewable energy, we are seeing rapid progress in the power sector, but far less in transportation, industry and heating.

Energy access is a similar story.  Globally, some 1 billion people still lack access to electricity.  The numbers on access to clean cooking are even more sobering.  In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 860 million people lack access to clean cooking fuels and technologies.  That’s 275 million more people than in 2010.

The consequences are devastating.  According to new data from the World Health Organization (WHO), some 4 million people die every year because of indoor air pollution.

And it bears repeating that the hardest hit are women and girls in rural areas living without modern energy services.  In poor households, women and girls are largely responsible for collection of fuel for cooking and heating and for manually processing grains and other foods.  Fuel collection can take up as much as six hours each day.  Women and girls are disproportionately affected by long-term health problems caused by household air pollution and carrying heavy fuel loads.

I have just returned from leading a joint mission of the United Nations and African Union, together with Sweden, to South Sudan, Niger and Chad where these impacts were clear.  In South Sudan, women in protection of civilian sites were at greater risk of being attacked and raped when they travelled outside the camps, and increasingly for longer distances, to access water and wood.  In Chad and Niger, lack of access to electricity is stark.  In Niger, only 5 per cent of the rural population has access and less than 2 per cent of the population has the possibility of clean cooking solutions.  We saw the impacts of these numbers when visiting with women in Bol region in Chad and Maradi in Niger, who are taking up new roles — whether as fisherwomen or farmers — to feed their families, but where electricity could mean more hours available for income generating activities, better health services, and study time for children’s advancement.

Increased access to clean, affordable and modern energy is the key to changing these statistics.  It can reduce unpaid domestic work and enable women’s economic empowerment.  And the means are there.  We heard from our Special Representative on Energy for All, who joined my mission, how 70 per cent of the world’s electricity needs could be provided by solar power in the Sahel alone.

The challenges are daunting, but there are many reasons for optimism.  Many countries are making progress across all measures of access, efficiency and renewable energy.  The question is not “what to do?”, but what are Kenya, or Bangladesh or Chile doing that we can learn from and replicate.

Let us look at the lessons that can be learned.  The most successful countries have robust policy frameworks with investment climates that attract both domestic and international investment.  They set clear targets for themselves, and these are championed from the very top of Government.  Many of those whose progress leads the way have shifted to more integrated planning.  They are addressing the SDGs as well as their energy and climate needs through their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

However, too few countries are focused on the vast improvement in energy efficiency that is both needed and possible.  This is not just a priority for the industrialized world, but for all countries whose cities of the future are not yet built.

For SDG 7 and the Paris Agreement to be achieved, we need to intensify our efforts.  Moving forward, we have a number of opportunities.  The first in-depth review of SDG 7 at this year’s High-Level Political Forum [on Sustainable Development] provides a critical occasion for taking stock and for catalysing ambitious action.

The Voluntary National Reviews of the 2030 Agenda provide relevant insights.  Nationally Determined Contributions can harness clean energy solutions to drive progress towards the Paris Agreement.  And, in September next year, the Secretary-General will convene a Climate Change Summit in New York to galvanize climate action and enhance ambition.  Affordable and clean energy will play a key role.

Here at the United Nations, we will continue to strengthen our efforts to support Member States in support of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  And Sustainable Energy for All will continue to provide a critical platform for all stakeholders to come together to engage, learn and, most importantly, act.

SDG 7 is within reach, but only if we all take immediate action to scale up our efforts.  I count on you all to pave the way for more leadership and innovative action.  We have no time to lose.  I wish you a productive meeting.


Sustainable Development Goals ‘can’t happen without you’


Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Local and Regional Governments Forum, in New York on 16 July:

I am so pleased to take part in this first‑ever Local and Regional Governments Forum at the High‑Level Political Forum.  I thank the Global Task Force for Local and Regional Governments, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN‑Habitat [United Nations Human Settlements Programme] and the Local2030 network for your work.  I am delighted to see so many distinguished leaders and experts from local and regional governments around the world with us today.

I am here for a simple reason.  We need you.  We need the driving force and creative energy of local and regional governments.  The Sustainable Development Goals can’t happen without you.  We need your leadership, your expertise and your strong voice.  This Forum is about supporting you and empowering you in this great global mission.  It is the beginning of a new and ground‑breaking Local2030 partnership between the United Nations system and local and regional governments.

I know that the Global Task Force, together with the United Nations system, has worked tirelessly over the last year to develop an ambitious Local2030 agenda that will help reframe how the world implements the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] at the local level.

Today, you will discuss the challenges and opportunities for SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] implementation at the local government level.  But, of course, I know you are here to do much more than talk about it.  You are walking the talk — turning words into action.

Tomorrow you will announce new commitments to unlock bottlenecks and forge new solutions in large cities, remote towns and at‑risk communities.  We are extremely excited about it — and I thank you for your leadership.

As we look ahead together, I would like to stress two points.  First, quite simply, we at the global level cannot overemphasize the importance of the local.  More than 4 billion people live in urban areas today.  This number will reach 6 billion by 2050.  In developing countries, the urban population will double, and the area covered by cities could triple by 2030.  Much of this growth will occur in informal settlements.

By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, most of them in developing regions.  But some of the fastest urban growth will take place in cities with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, many of them in Asia and Africa.  This means that Sustainable Development Goal action is not only for the largest of megacities.  Smaller towns with high‑growth rates are also key to SDG implementation.

On a recent mission to the Sahel region, I saw first‑hand the great need for support to local governments in at‑risk countries to develop and implement SDG strategies.  These local governments lacked adequate systems to assess data regarding basic services and quality of life, making it difficult to invest strategically.  The financing that may be there at the global level is not reaching local governments most in need.

Yet these local governments are on the front lines of the world’s most daunting challenges — from climate‑related drought to human‑inflicted conflicts.  They require support from the national and international levels, as well as from the private sector and civil society.

This leads me to my second point.  We need to transform the way the United Nations system works and supports local governments to help you own and lead on SDG implementation via the Local2030 strategy.  Secretary‑General António Guterres is undertaking a process of reform of the United Nations development system that will revitalize the way the United Nations works on the ground, facilitating the creation of stronger partnerships between the United Nations system and governments, business and civil society.  We are working to ensure that this twenty‑first century United Nations system includes a new and innovative strategy to support and build the capacity of local governments.

Today, you will share your experience and the work you are advancing in your cities and towns.  You will discuss the bottlenecks you face.  These proceedings will also greatly inform our work.  We are taking close note of your voices and experiences and will incorporate them into the new Local2030 strategy.  We know that this strategy must include new tools, including a protocol for local level official and community data for the SDGs.  It must include innovative investment funds and a Local2030 facility for local governments — as well as more robust Local2030 expertise in the United Nations system in the new generation country teams and regional economic commissions.

So we are in active listening mode today.  I look forward to the outcomes of this meeting and your recommendations, ideas and solutions for the comprehensive and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels of Government.  Thank you for this opportunity.


Local, regional leadership on front lines of sustainable development


Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to Local 2030 and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, in New York on 16 July:

Welcome, and it is a great pleasure to be here with you.  I thank the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, United Cities and Local Governments and the Local2030 network for your kind invitation.  It is wonderful to see so many inspiring civic leaders.

This year’s High-Level Political Forum [on Sustainable Development, held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council] is highlighting local action for one simple reason:  We need you.

Local and regional governments are on the front lines of sustainable development and the fight against climate change.  Your communities and cities are key to realizing the vision of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development], our global blueprint for stable, prosperous societies on a healthy planet, and to implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Last week’s first thematic review of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities underlined your crucial role in achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Today’s Local and Regional Governments’ Forum and tomorrow’s Local2030 event on new solutions and commitments for local implementation of the SDGs will build on this momentum.

Your voices have been heard, loud and clear.  I thank you for your efforts and assure you that the entire United Nations system is working to develop the Local2030 strategy which will guide our critical partnership with you.

Eighty per cent of global gross domestic product is produced in cities.  But despite this wealth, urban income inequality remains high.  Some city residents live in extreme poverty.  And by 2050, the top 1 per cent around the world could earn close to 28 per cent of global income.

Such high levels of inequality will have serious consequences and are an enormous challenge.  Cities can accelerate sustainable solutions — but inequality can also magnify problems.  That is why it is so important to make sure that everyone benefits from sustainable development and to fulfil the central pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind.

Local governments around the world are already developing, implementing and monitoring ambitious and inclusive SDG action plans.  Our host city, New York, has led by example, by presenting its voluntary local review at the High-Level Political Forum.  We hope this will be an inspiration and invite you to submit your own local reviews.

Mexico City has developed an online data collection tool to track progress on the SDGs, helping local government agencies to better understand the impact of their plans and programmes.  The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is planning to create a post-car city, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.  Older diesel cars will be banned, while there will be dedicated lanes for electric trams.  In the Philippines, Cauayan City has launched a range of activities to address all dimensions of the SDGs — from health programmes that have successfully reduced maternal and neonatal deaths to a solar street lighting project.

But while there are many success stories, we also need to consider the obstacles that are preventing cities and urban areas from realizing the SDGs. I see three major issues.

The first is finance.  Cities and other settlements face significant financial challenges.  To put us on track towards a more sustainable future, we need to invest some $4.5 trillion to $5.4 trillion annually in low-emission and climate-resilient infrastructure in urban areas.  Yet many local governments continue to face difficulties accessing finance and have limited capacities to raise their own revenues.

My office is working with local government networks, partners across the United Nations system and leaders present here today to find and implement solutions.  We look forward to working with you on developing and implementing a new Local2030 Finance Facility for local governments and innovative municipal investment funds.

The second issue is data.  As mayors and leaders of local and regional governments, you face challenging decisions every day which must be based on detailed, timely and reliable data.  Local leaders must enjoy the benefits of the global data revolution, which can provide new insights on communities and service delivery.

Yet many local and regional governments are struggling to monitor progress on the SDGs.  Through Local2030, local government networks and the United Nations will work with data leaders and representatives of local and regional governments to establish a new protocol for community-scale SDG data and monitoring.

The third issue is climate change, which could have a very serious impact in cities.  We are pleased that United Cities and Local Governments will be working with city leaders and the office of Special Envoy [for Climate Action] Michael Bloomberg to enhance the ambition of city climate action plans and ensure that they are compliant with no more than a 1.5°C increase in global warming.

The United Nations is working closely with our partners to scale urban and local action to bend the emissions curve.  We are also working to support climate resilience in cities, many of which are located on coasts and along rivers, making them extremely vulnerable to climate shocks.  We look forward to seeing strategies that will make climate resilience plans accessible to all, particularly the urban poor.  I thank the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) for leading that effort.

We are also eager to see new commitments from global development banks and private businesses, related to urban infrastructure and supply chains.  As we prepare for the Climate Summit in 2019, we will need national and local leadership on all this work.

Your engagement and commitment to sustainable development is inspiring and encouraging.  More than 240 representatives from local and regional government are here at the High-Level Political Forum, and I urge you to carry this momentum forward and build on it.

This gathering is an important opportunity to share concrete information and strategies to achieve the SDGs, from those on the front lines.  We at the United Nations are the experts in holding meetings.  You are the experts on getting things done at the local level, and we have the utmost respect for that.

We need to learn from you and understand how we can help you to make the 2030 Agenda a reality in your communities and beyond.  I look forward to hearing your views.


World could cut resource use 28 per cent by 2050 through

 sustainable consumption, production


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the flagship European Union side event on the circular economy, in New York on 16 July:

Thank you for your focus today on the circular economy — a key means towards the transition to sustainability, and helping realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Let’s face it — the way we produce and consume is wasteful.  Most of the resources we use today end up in a landfill.  I know that you have actively discussed the challenge today.  Let me just make three very quick points.

First, I believe we have the right narrative:  needs versus wants.  Sustainable consumption and production, a central principle of the circular economy, is embedded in SDG 12.  And I believe there is a growing understanding that such an approach can help inform plans, policies and actions across the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].  Rethinking our actions so we stop throwing away; towards reusing and recycling — turning our waste to wealth.

Indeed, more and more countries are developing national policies to promote sustainable consumption (what we do) and production (how we do it) — at least 108 countries so far.  And 93 per cent of the world’s 250 largest companies are reporting on sustainability.

My second point is that as our global population grows, and economies develop, we must do more.  Much more.  Last year, global material resource use reached nearly 90 billion tonnes and it could more than double by 2050.  We learned how much plastic threatens our oceans.

The International Resource Panel suggests that such policies, actions and investments in previous sustainable consumption practices will benefit the environment and the economy.  By 2050, we could reduce nearly 28 per cent of global resource use and boost world economic activity by 1 per cent.  So we win, not lose.

My third and final point:  We need everyone working together — enabling policy, regulatory and financing frameworks to support citizen awareness, consumer preferences and market forces.  Individual choices can move entire markets, for instance, by actively choosing ethically produced goods, such as products sold under the Fair Trade label.

Thanks to efforts like yours, awareness is growing.  A more sustainable — circular — economy will be indispensable to balance material well-being with environmental stewardship at all levels.  Thank you for your commitment.


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