Secretary-General launches 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report

New York: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [Monday] launched the 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report as the Economic and Social Council began a three-day ministerial segment of its High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, with two related panel discussions on stakeholder roles and emerging challenges.

Addressing the Council via videoconference from Oslo alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, Mr. Ban said that while setting goals had worked, both as a guide and a benchmark, looking ahead, more must be done to reach those who were most vulnerable. “We cannot allow hard won gains to be reversed,” he said. “I am confident we can deliver on our shared responsibility” to eliminate poverty, create a better world and leave no one behind,” he said.

With that in mind, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson underlined how the proposed post-2015 sustainable development goals were aiming high. The international community, however, could not work in silos and an integrated vision of implementation was essential. “Our legacy to our children and grandchildren will depend in no small part on whether the agenda we adopt at the September Summit is ambitious and transformative and whether we live up to it,” he said. “We need more than a toolbox of policy measures.”

Indeed, Prime Minister Solberg said, simply establishing goals would not lift people out of poverty unless there was political resolve to meet the targets. “We must move beyond a sector mind-set,” she said, stressing that goals must be accompanied by coherent strategies and political will.

On a similar note, President Kagame said achieving development goals required resource mobilization and support from both world leaders and citizens. Partnerships between Governments and the private sector must also be strengthened and the international community must continue to work together, driven by the fact that millions were still under threat from poverty, disease, conflict and ignorance. The Millennium Goals had been a springboard to achieve even greater ambitions, he said, adding that “we have already learned what is possible”.

Elaborating on that point, Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, said that, fundamentally, the Millennium Goals challenge had always been of a moral nature, not an economic one. Heading into a new era with ever more complex issues, including a possible environmental catastrophe, the problems were still solvable, but the question now was whether the world would care enough to solve them. “There’s nothing we can’t do if we try,” he said.

In a similar vein, Oh Joon, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Forum would contribute to the process that would chart the way for the next 15 years and beyond. “If we get it right now, we will get it right for generations to come,” he said. “We will go down in history as the generation that left no one behind and secured a better future for its children and their children.”

Also making statements during the opening segment were General Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda) and Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance. Rapporteurs Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica), Paul Seger (Switzerland) and Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), also spoke, providing highlights of messages from the Forum’s discussions held during the week of 29 June 2015.

The morning panel on “A transformative integrated agenda: How can Governments, societies and the United Nations rise to the challenge?” was moderated by Scott Vaughan, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development, and former Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The panel featured: Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission; Salifou Dembélé, Minister for Youth, Professional Training and Employment of Burkina Faso; and Lisel Alamilla, Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Belize. The lead discussant was Joseph Severe, Union des Amis Socio Culturels d’Action en Développement in Haiti.

In the afternoon, the Council held a panel on “Thinking ahead: Emerging issues that will matter in the future”, featuring keynote speaker Kazuyuki Nakane, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan. Moderated by Irene Khan, Director-General, International Development Law Organization, the panel featured: Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany; Abdul Hamid Zakri, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Member of the United Nations Secretary General's Scientific Advisory Board; and Alfred Kammer, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Lead discussants were Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Risnawati Utami of the Christian Blind Mission in Indonesia.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 7 July.

Opening Remarks

OH JOON, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the High-level Political Forum would contribute to the process that would chart the way for the next 15 years and beyond. “If we get it right now, we will get it right for generations to come,” he said. “We will go down in history as the generation that left no one behind and secured a better future for its children and their children.” As such, it was essential to be aware of the context in which the Forum was taking place. Rapporteurs would describe the main message of the coming five days, with a three-day ministerial High-level Political Forum and the Annual Ministerial Review, including national presentations from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines and Zambia.

An integrated agenda would require an integrated vision, he said, particularly at the conceptual level of policymaking. The Economic and Social Council could provide the leadership to mobilize the whole United Nations system, rallying each part of it. In addition, all stakeholders — the private sector, civil society, parliaments, academia and philanthropy — must play their expected roles in delivering the post-2015 development agenda. “Let’s strengthen the platforms for engagement with all of them throughout the system,” he said. “We are on the verge of creating an exceptional deed. Let us get it right.”

SAM KUTESA (Uganda), President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, said that the Forum was taking place at a critical juncture. The international community was in the final stages of creating an ambitious, inclusive and transformative post-2015 sustainable development agenda. “We should redouble efforts to bring negotiations over the post-2015 development agenda to a successful close, hopefully by the end of this month,” he said, with concrete deliverables to support the implementation of the new agenda. Scaled up resources would be needed, as would the global partnership for development.

He urged all States to work constructively to finalize the outcomes of the Addis Ababa meeting without delay. With regards to the forthcoming Conference of Parties meeting in Paris (COP21) meeting on climate change, expectations were high that States would adopt a meaningful agenda on that issue. It was crucial to put the world on a safer and more equitable pathway. The new agenda must be incorporated into national development plans, he said, adding that the theme of the Forum offered an opportunity to create an inclusive agenda at all levels.

The Forum would play a vital role in ensuring that the new agenda was understood and communicated by all actors, he said. It would also be a key component of the post-2015 development agenda’s implementation architecture. Over the course of the Assembly session, a series of high-level events and debates had been held, including on gender equality, ways to strengthen cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations, and a meeting on climate change just last week. “Let us spare no effort in working towards this new era of sustainable development,” he concluded.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General JAN ELIASSON asked what the world would look like when, in 2030, the Organization hosted a Summit to take stock of the agreement reached 15 years earlier. “Will the participants be proud of the road travelled?” he asked, and would they see 2015 as a turning point when the path shifted towards a future where men, women and children around the world were given a chance to live lives in dignity on a safe planet? “Our legacy to our children and grandchildren will depend in no small part on whether the agenda we adopt at the September Summit is ambitious and transformative and whether we live up to it,” he said.

The proposed goals aimed high. They recognized the importance of peace and the crucial role of institutions, he said. Its litmus test would be implementation, he said, adding that the new agenda had a strong basis to build upon in the Millennium Development Goals. The international community could not work in silos. Focusing on one goal, without considering its link to others, was not optimal. An integrated vision of implementation was therefore needed. “We need more than a toolbox of policy measures,” he said, stressing the need to rethink the way policies were made and implemented.

It was critical to institutionalize the participatory, cross-cutting approaches that had characterized work on the post-2015 development agenda, he said. That agenda would also require building national capacities and mobilizing finance and technology on a new, larger scale. The Forum was a platform to promote and review implementation of the new agenda, he said, adding that it must be able to track progress and accelerate changes in people’s lives. But change must not be confined to that new forum. Positioned under the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly, the Forum could help renew the United Nations system instil new ways of working and building on the work of each platform. To do all that, the international community must be both visionary and practical. “We should utilize the evident enthusiasm and resolute commitment we see around us to make change happen,” he said in that regard.

VLADIMIR CUK, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance, said the increasing contributions of persons with disabilities to the Forum had been ground-breaking. The post-2015 framework must include their interests and must include ways to monitor progress made. The Forum must ensure the implementation of the new agenda, strengthening existing commitments, including the Convention on Persons with Disabilities. He recommended several steps over the next 15 years, including that one Forum session would be dedicated to persons with disabilities. The new framework must be people-centred, with persons with disabilities recognized as both participants and partners. “We, the people of the United Nations, are ready to build a better world,” he said.

* Extract from the meeting summary:  access the full discussion summary.