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Declaration on the SDG summit: UN members call for more speed

The United Nations wants to push sustainability goals through reforming international finance. Protesters demand binding goals.

UN General Assembly in New York.

United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19th Photo: Susan Walsh/ap

BERLIN taz | The fight against poverty and hunger and for social and economic rights is not spared from geopolitical tensions. In advance of the meeting of UN Sustainability Summit in New York A group of ten states around Russia announced that they would not sign a final declaration on the sustainability goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. The reason is the sanctions against Russia because of the war in Ukraine. But on Monday they agreed to a joint statement.

All 193 UN member states once again committed to the extensive goals they set themselves in 2015. They want to “urgently step up” their efforts to achieve this and present national action plans. The latest UN status report gives the states a poor report in the implementation of the goals. There is little progress on most of the goals, while implementation of around a third is stagnating or there are even regressions.

The Covid pandemic, climate disasters and wars, as well as the economic impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine have wiped out progress since 2015, the report says. Already the first two goals – elimination of extreme poverty and from hunger – are far from being achieved by 2030. On the contrary, there are even more people affected by it.

In the run-up to the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres tried to put the goals back on the global agenda. “The SDGs are not just a list of goals. They embody the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere,” he said on Monday. In a CNN interview, he lamented the volatile political situation: “The Cold War was more predictable.”

UN wants to overhaul global financial architecture

At the same time, some states in the Global South pushed through long-standing demands, such as a reform of the international financial structure. The G20 group of states has already decided to reform the major global development banks. The UN is now also calling for lending to be made more flexible and cheaper for developing countries in the future, and more money should be available.

Additionally, the UN wants Guterres’ proposed SDG “stimulus” of at least $500 billion annually to come “in a timely manner” as another source of funding for developing countries.

The states also called for “an urgent voluntary redistribution of special drawing rights to the countries most in need.” The IMF has paid out $650 billion in money created from nothing to states to deal with the Covid pandemic. The payout was based on the respective economic output, which is why Germany alone received roughly as much as the whole of Africa.

In the joint statement, the UN repeated calls for procedures to restructure and suspend interest payments for vulnerable states. Many heavily indebted countries in the Global South are in crisis. They spend large amounts of their national budget on debt servicing.

Protesters demand binding goals

In many countries there is no agreement between creditors for extensive debt relief or even state insolvency proceedings; China in particular often stands in the way. Private creditors usually don’t take part either. At the same time, debt restructuring and further loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are linked to strict austerity measures that run counter to the SDG goals, for example in the area of ​​social security.

The previous procedures for restructuring debts have not yet been effective, commented Kristina Rehbein from the NGO erlassjahr.de. “What is needed is constitutional procedures under the auspices of the UN that also take into account the interests of the debtor states and their populations.” The SDG summit in New York could have served for coalitions of such constitutional procedures.

During the UN meeting, tens of thousands demonstrated in New York for a more ambitious climate policy and called for the global phase-out of fossil fuels and binding sustainability goals.

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