A week ago, all eyes were on New Delhi as world leaders gathered under India’s presidency for the G20 summit. Now they are focused on New York, where the annual ‘summit of summits’, the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level week, is underway.
While the location has changed, the challenge to the participants remains the same: how to come together — at a time of multiple, overlapping crises – for the common good to solve the world’s greatest challenges.
The task before them has never been more urgent, but the successful Leaders’ Summit and consensus New Delhi Declaration delivered by India recently have given us a timely shot in the arm in our effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Now the leaders must carry that momentum and deliver concrete results at all the key meetings this week – the SDG Summit, as well as the high-level gatherings on subjects ranging from climate ambition and financing for development to pandemic preparedness and tuberculosis.
The SDGs remain our shared blueprint for a more prosperous and peaceful world by 2030. Yet they are badly off track at the halfway point, like a set of diagnostics telling us that the patient is getting sicker. According to the latest SDG Progress Report, as we pass the halfway mark, only 12% of the Goals will be achieved on current trends. A third will see no movement or even regression from the 2015 baseline, while the SDG financing gap remains at $4 trillion a year.
This collective failure is impacting everyone, but the countries of the Global South are paying the highest price for problems they contributed least to creating. The world is hungrier than at any point in nearly two decades; more than 730 million people don’t have enough to eat. Almost half of humanity lives in countries which spend more on debt interest payments than on health or education, while we continue to wage war on the planet and nature is fighting back.
This is why India’s ambitious G20 programme this year, culminating in the timely New Delhi Declaration, has been so valuable. In what can be lauded as an ‘SDG-20’, it showed us the path forward across many fronts towards a healthier, more sustainable future – if we grasp the will to act.
The Declaration endorsed key deliverables, such as the new G20 Action Plan to Accelerate Progress on the SDGs and the High-Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development (LiFE). It made numerous landmark steps, from committing to triple global capacity in renewable energy and raising ambitions in reform of the international financial architecture to supporting the One Health initiative.
We also saw the strongest-ever gender equality language of any G20 leaders’ declaration. This included commitments to advance women-led development, end sexual and gender-based violence, bridge the gender digital divide and promote gender-inclusive climate action.
India’s presidency also rightly raised climate financing to the top of the G20 agenda, including a ‘Green Development Pact’ at the Declaration’s core, while reaffirming the financing commitments made by developed countries that have to date fallen short.
The Declaration embraced other key climate elements, including a globally just energy transition, biodiversity linkages, the blue economy, climate finance, and support for renewable energy. The Declaration calls for nearly $6 trillion to help developing countries implement their NDCs and $4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies, both by 2030, to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in New Delhi while paying tribute to India’s presidency, the G20 countries account for over 85% of global Gross Domestic Product and 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
With the UN climate summit in the United Arab Emirates later this year, the G20 countries are vital to stepping up the financing of green transitions and further emissions reductions we need to keep the target of 1.5C alive.
On the debt front, more than one in three developing nations face severe debt burdens. This is exacerbated by an underfunded, unfair, and dysfunctional global financial architecture. No country should have to choose between fighting poverty and fighting for the health of the planet.
The UN Secretary-General has called for extensive reform of the multilateral development banks – a Bretton Woods 2.0 if you will, to make those banks better and bigger and to maximise their development impact in today’s world. Thanks to India’s presidency, this issue has received even more attention this year, with the New Delhi Declaration also welcoming the UN’s SDG Stimulus plan.
The presidency was unprecedented for another critical reason: the prominence of the Global South. Inviting the African Union into the G20 brings the voices of 1.3 billion people to the top table of global economic decision-making.
It was no coincidence that the invitation was extended this year. India has a rich history of leadership within the Global South and promoting South-South and Triangular Cooperation to solve global development challenges. Indeed, the New Delhi Declaration was possible in large part due to India’s unique position as a trusted global actor and bridge-builder in every direction – between North and South as well as East and West. This gave optimism from the beginning that despite an increasingly divided world, India’s presidency was best placed to deliver success.
We in the UN were privileged to work with India’s G20 secretariat and government ministries throughout as technical partners at various levels. And looking forward, reflecting India’s rapid advancements, the UN Country Team in India is increasingly also focused on codifying and helping share Indian development best practices at the international level, a true two-way partnership.
This week we are joining the ministry of external affairs, the Permanent Mission, Observer Research Foundation and other partners in New York to co-organise a series of important discussions where India’s global leadership and support to South-South cooperation will also be highlighted.
Now we count on all leaders, everywhere, to carry the New Delhi momentum with them and display the ambitious political will to invest in people and planet and put the SDGs back on track. To use the mantra of India’s G20 presidency, we know what to do, it is simply time to do it for the sake of our “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.
This article is authored by Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator, India.