United Nations: Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International, preceded PM Modi at the podium in the opening session of the UN summit.
Shetty spoke at the opening plenary session on Friday, calling for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in line with human rights obligations.
“You cannot claim to support sustainable development when you are reluctant to reduce the consumption of the rich or transfer technology,” he said.
“You cannot preach about human rights while using mass surveillance. You cannot lecture about peace while being the world’s largest manufacturers of arms. You cannot allow your corporations to use financial and tax loopholes while railing against corruption,” Shetty declared.
The U.N. Deputy Secretary-General said Wednesday that with 10 years to go to meet ambitious global development targets, governments must accelerate and expand investment in key areas if they are to succeed.
“There have been investments made in jobs, in education, health,” Amina Mohammed told VOA at a side event for a stocktaking session on the goals, which began this week at U.N. headquarters and will continue until July 18. “[But] we aren’t putting those investments in fast enough or in the numbers we need to see.”
Mohammed, a development expert from Nigeria, who as deputy U.N. chief oversees the 17 targets known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said that four years since they were launched, they are not yet on course to be met by the 2030 deadline.
“I would say that there isn’t one that would be on track at this stage,” she said. “But I think that in every sense of it, because they are an integrated whole, that there is a lot of scope for us catching up, and in the next decade really put emphasis on the action that needs to happen and the scale at which it needs to bring collaborations and partnerships together.”
The 17 goals seek to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, while boosting education, jobs, health care and fighting climate change — just to name a few.
The SDGs are not just about lifting up poor countries, prosperous ones also have some catching up to do. Mohammed pointed to the quality of education, healthcare and gender inequalities as areas where developed nations need to do better.
She acknowledged there are “huge challenges ahead,” but she sees the period between now and 2030 as a potential decade of action’ where gaps can be closed and progress accelerated if momentum, investment and cooperation can be sustained and expanded.
Next week, some 80 ministers are expected in New York to share what they have been doing to advance the goals. These meetings are a prelude to a two-day September SDG summit that will take place on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.
Climate change tops list
Mitigating the effects of climate change is at the top of an ambitious To Do list. In addition to the SDG summit, the U.N. will host a climate summit in September.
The progress report on the SDGs out this week warns that if record-high greenhouse gas emissions are not cut now, the effects will be catastrophic and irreversible, affecting the oceans, agriculture and food production, the ecosystem, and could even leave parts of the planet uninhabitable, displacing tens of millions of people as early as 2050. Failure to curb global warming also will be disastrous for achieving the other 16 goals.
But Mohammed is optimistic on this front, noting the involvement of the world’s youth in pressing their governments for climate action. And she dismissed the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord saying that more countries are on board than not.
“The voices have been very loud in that we don’t have time to lose,” Mohammed said. “And we’ve been showing how you can get involved, individually and collectively on the climate agenda.” (VOA)