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UN bids for leadership role in ‘age of sustainable development’

Report says only UN can implement Sustainable Development Goals that will guide global agenda till 2050

General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic. Pic: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Sophie Yeo

The United Nations is uniquely suited to push forward a new age of sustainability, according to a new report by a leading panel of UN officials.

It says national governments must come together to design and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2012.

These will take over from the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.

Member States agreed to adopt SDGs at Rio+20 in a document entitled The Future We Want. The goals, they said, would “be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development.”

The goals will last until at least 2050, with a stage of urgent implementation from 2015 to 2030. Together, they will direct action towards a sustainable approach in economic, social and environmental development.

UN at the centre

The report was presented by a panel led by the economist Jeffrey Sachs on Monday. At the launch, Vuk Jeremic, the President of the General Assembly, said that sustainable development was the overriding challenge of the 21st century.

He said that the UN “must be the vital centre of the sustainable effort, one that draws on every stakeholder: private businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities and research centres, international financial institutions, and the UN organs themselves.”

The report says that “The challenge of setting and implementing SDGs will constitute the largest and most ambitious global development agenda ever undertaken.”

But, it adds, “Nothing less is needed in view of the seriousness and urgency of the challenges facing humanity.”

But while the powerful member states and international financial institutions are crucial to the success of the project, “only the UN has the capacity to lead it,” it says.

This is because the goals will deal with global issues that only the UN has the political legitimacy to address, and will require worldwide expertise across multiple disciplines.

A million voices

The paper coincides with another report from the UN, released yesterday and entitled A Million Voices: The World We Want. This aimed to capture a sense of global priorities in addressing global development, in order to help Member States to craft the SDGs.

“Our work to define a post-2015 development agenda will help us to recalibrate our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and chart a course to a world of prosperity, peace, sustainability, equity and dignity for all,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a press conference in New York.

Both reports aim to address why the current global situation requires a whole new set of goals, rather than merely extending the Millennium Development Goals by another 15 years.

But the first report states that, while the world should not lose sight of its Rio+20 commitments, a new framework was required to ensure that these were achieved sustainably, rather than merely bringing about achievements that would quickly be lost in an era of social instability.

The latest report adds that the new goals need to respond to the new challenges posed by population dynamics and environmental degradation that have worsened since the initial goals were crafted in 2000.

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