Youth and climate stand out at UN forum on sustainable development. Pictured here: Youth Strike for Climate Action protest in Bath, United Kingdom on May 24, 2019. Photo: Ben Warick-Champion/Shutterstock
Nations across the world now have an “unprecedented opportunity to talk to each other and learn from each other”, Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC), said at the opening of the annual High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) taking place in New York, 9-18 July 2019.
The HLPF is reviewing progress so far in six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s Agenda 2030. The hearings feature reports from national delegates but also testimony from civil society organisations. However, what can be said in the sessions is constrained by a two-minute time limited, leading to rapid-fire prepared statements.
Alongside successes and failures, work in progress and much more that needs to be done, delegates and observers have noted two things. Several young delegates have spoken passionately about the issues that concern them. What’s more, they have been heard and applauded.
And among those issues, SDG 13 is on everyone’s mind: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequality, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies – all are gravely impacted and hindered by the global climate crisis.
No sustainable development goal can be adequately addressed without taking into account the climate emergency that to a greater or lesser extent is transforming lives and livelihoods around the world.
In his opening remarks to the Forum proceedings, Liu Zhenmin, chief of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that, “The most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most – including countries in special situations and in conflict and post-conflict settings. The global response thus far has not been ambitious enough.”
The plan is to accelerate progress, to find more resources, and to create stronger partnerships between governments, corporate interests, and civil society organizations in order to get closer to the ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda.
Inevitably, the process recalls the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) of 2003 and 2005, when enormous hopes were raised around building information and communication societies that are people-centred, inclusive and equitable.
That, too, is work in progress. In all cases, as Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, writes in her book Climate Justice (2018) on sale in the UN Bookshop:
“We need a different way of living together, and it has to start now. It requires us to begin to sow the seeds of human solidarity and develop a global spirit of compassion.”