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President Higgins calls on world leaders to reaffirm commitment to implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals

Date: Sun 25th Sep, 2022 | 18:35

“As we reach the end of this year’s Global Goals Week, it is vital that Heads of Government and Heads of State across the world reaffirm their commitment to accelerating action on the implementation on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The agreements which were reached in 2015 on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York and on the Paris Agreement at the COP21 conference the same year were moments of the brightest hope for the building of a sustainable future for humanity and for our planet.

We must not allow the shadows which we are living under to defeat what are our best hopes, agreements which have such an intergenerational appeal, particularly among young people.

We are now at a point where world leaders and our global institutions themselves must strongly consider how they can operate in order to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are delivered effectively.

Among the essential steps which we must take as a global community, I think in particular of Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger.

Surely the most important right which any of us must have is the right to be free from starvation. Yet today we find ourselves, once more, in the position of another grave hunger crisis. One of cataclysmic proportions, with a death occurring every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The growing impacts of our changing climate (itself the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 13), together with an unparalleled period of drought, has devastated crops, lost animals, and destroyed livelihoods. These factors are forcing millions of people to leave their homes in search of clean water, food and farmable land, leading to a huge increase in internally displaced persons. The numbers displaced globally have now surpassed the 100 million threshold for the first time since records began.

It is very welcome that people are responding, including at the UN in New York this week, with the immediate humanitarian response which is necessary to save lives on the ground. However, we must be willing to acknowledge that there are structural features, which the most powerful in particular are not recognising or showing willingness to change, which are producing these repeated food insecurities.

If we are to be authentic in our global response to food security, there are changes in staple food production that we must make. There are dependencies which must be broken on suppliers and markets. There is debt relief we must give. There are the regional protections, including grain resources, that we must fund. We must address the reliance on fertilisers. We simply must have a diversity in food production, one that is ecologically responsible. We must recognise the immorality of basic foods being defined as a commodity for speculation in international markets. We are required to restructure trade.

In stark contrast to the agreement that was achieved on the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 is the continuing failure to take responsibility for what connects us all – the oceans of the world. The finalisation of an internationally binding treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas is of urgent importance if we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14’s commitment to conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. I therefore once again urge the UN General Assembly to work to ensure the commitment to finalising a treaty by the end of the year is met.

All of our current global crises are inter-connected. Climate change consequences, desertification, famine, displacement. That connection must be recognised and the requisite structural action taken.

All of these challenges, as well as others we are currently facing - in areas such as Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions - can only be resolved through strong multilateral action.

As this year’s Global Goals Week ends, I call on world leaders to reflect on the meaningful steps which are immediately required to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals upon which we have all agreed are brought to fruition.”


Notes to Editors:

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed in New York in 2015 following a process co-facilitated by Ireland and Kenya. The 17 Goals are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.

Global Goals Week is a shared commitment across civil society, business, academia and the UN system to accelerate action on the SDGs, especially during the UN General Assembly High-level Week. This year’s week has run from 16-25 September.