How the UN SDG Summit aims to transform the world
The centrepiece of the UN General Assembly’s 2023 high-level week, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, will see world leaders gather in New York on Monday for two intense days of meetings. Their goal: to put the world back on track towards a greener, cleaner, safer, fairer future for all.
The SDG Summit aims to adopt a forward-looking political declaration reaffirming commitment to the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind. Over two days, they will agree on how best to move forward.
Here are five things you need to know:
1. Why is the SDG Summit important?
The global race to protect people and the planet began in 2015 with the adoption of the landmark 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Together, they represent a blueprint to speed economic prosperity and social wellbeing while protecting people and the environment.
Time is of essence. Halfway to the 2030 deadline, the SDGs are in deep trouble. Progress stalled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis is deepening, and goals related to hunger, health, biodiversity, strong institutions, pollution, and peaceful societies are all off track.
The SDG Summit aims to find solutions to change the current negative trajectory.
2. What’s at stake?
Only 15 per cent of about SDG targets are on track. About half are moderately or severely off track, and more than one third 30 per cent have either seen no movement or have regressed below the 2015 starting line.
For instance, on the current trajectory, it will take 286 years to close gender gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws (Goal 5). The global report card on education is equally serious. The impact of years of underinvestment and learning losses mean that by 2030, some 84 million children will be out of school, and 300 million children or young people who attend school will leave unable to read and write (Goal 4).
The lack of SDG progress is universal but developing countries and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of the planet’s collective failure.
Under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, and only about one third of countries will meet the target to halve national poverty levels (Goal 1).
3. What’s the plan to reverse current trends?
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said, “There is no planet B.”
That’s why world leaders are gathering at the SDG Summit. Aiming to galvanize a global drive towards progress, they agree that it’s the time for nations and partners to put turn words into action to turbocharge results on the ground.
That includes calling on all countries and key stakeholders, local authorities, the private sector, foundations, philanthropic organisations, and civil society.
4. What’s the 2023 SDG Summit’s end goal?
Heads of State and Government attending the Summit are expected to adopt a political declaration. Leading up to the event, nations have already laid out the challenges and the way forward in a draft declaration.
“The achievement of the SDGs is in peril; at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, we are alarmed that only 12 per cent of the SDGs are on track and 30 per cent remain unchanged or below the 2015 baseline,” the draft states.
“We remain hopeful, given that our world, its people, and the United Nations have a history of resilience and overcoming challenges.”
Leaders will commit to ramping up efforts – from quashing plastic pollution to bridging the digital divide and harnessing the benefits of artificial intelligence.
“Our actions must match the magnitude and scope of the crises affecting our world,” the leaders said in the draft declaration. “This situation calls for the world to redouble our efforts and deliver a breakthrough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
5. What can you do?
Everyone on earth can pitch in to accelerate change and progress.
Visit the SDG Media Zone from 18 to 22 September to follow the latest events, check in with experts, or meet some SDG advocates who are already making changes on the ground.
Stay tuned to the SDG Circle of Supporters, from royalty to superheroes, who will be issuing a rallying cry to their communities about how to help galvanize support the world needs.
Learn some day-to-day tips from The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the Ocean with four levels of action.
Every September, the UN SDG Action Campaign and partners mobilize millions of people to take action during the Global Week to #Act4SDGs. The goal: 1 billion actions by 2030. In 2022, there were 142 million actions alone, the largest Global Week yet. Register your own actions on our global map for game changers.
“Today, only 15 per cent of the targets are on track, with many going into reverse,” the UN chief said.
“Monday’s SDG Summit will be the moment for governments to come to the table with concrete plans and proposals to accelerate progress,” he said, emphasizing that everyone needs to step up to help revive the Goals and ensure a better life for people and the planet.
Deep dive alert
Here are some quick links to all you need to know about the SDG Summit and the global drive towards a better world for all:
- SDG Summit Programme
- 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report
- 2023 Special Edition of the SDG Progress Report
- 2030 Agenda
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- SDG Advocates & Champions