22 September 2020

Use COVID-19 Recovery as Springboard to Achieve Global Development Targets, Deputy Secretary-General Urges, at Virtual Opening of SDG Action Zone

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message at the opening plenary session of the SDG Action Zone, held today:

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all — across every time zone and region — to the 2020 SDG Action Zone.

Last September, an inspiring turnout of communities and leaders came to the United Nations General Assembly high-level week to highlight solutions and demand greater ambition to create a sustainable future for all.  Their momentum was carried forward into the start of 2020 when the Secretary-General provided a wake‑up call, saying that we must urgently change course to avoid irreversible damage to people and the planet.

He warned of four horsemen:  geopolitical tensions; the climate crisis; global mistrust; and the dark side of technology.  Together, they represent four looming threats that endanger humanity’s progress.  Just a few months later, this apocalyptic warning is more relevant than ever.  Around the globe, societies are reckoning with climate disruption, geopolitical tensions and intolerable injustice — all, of course, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, even in the bleakest of moments, there is hope and opportunity.  COVID-19 has hit a pause.  We can use the recovery as a springboard to create a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.  We are at an inflection point for people and planet.  Now is the moment when leaders and citizens need to act on the scale demanded by the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are standing up for people around the world, but we must do more.  For women and girls — nearly 1 in 5 of whom has experienced violence in the past year — we must get to zero tolerance.  For the tens of millions of children who could fall into extreme poverty this year and risk remaining out of school.  For those with disabilities, who have suffered additional burdens during national lockdowns.  And we must stand up for our planet — joining the millions of young people who are demanding that we take climate action now.

Our Sustainable Development Goals deadline is looming.  The Decade of Action requires our urgent collective efforts and our bold commitment to transform our world.  We need a reinvigorated multilateralism — inclusive partnerships of all sectors and stakeholders that will lift the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the coming decade.  We need to raise our ambition, inspire a massive movement and supercharge ideas to solutions on three major fronts — poverty, gender equality and climate action.

The United Nations global broadcast film Nations United was created with this spirit — to inspire change, mobilize action and reimagine what is possible.  Nations United tells the story of the world as it is, as it was and as it could be.  It focuses on facts and solutions.  It recognizes the need for policy based on agreed and up-to-date science.  And it makes a call for global unity and solidarity.

Let me highlight a few of these solutions and opportunities now.  Ensuring equality will require a major expansion of social protection systems, a global investment in peace and a reimagining of education, health, jobs and financial systems.  Tackling gender equality will require investing in women’s economic empowerment, laws that protect all women and girls and bringing down long‑standing cultural barriers that reinforce gender stereotypes and violence.

Responding to the climate emergency will require halving emissions by 2030, ending fossil fuel subsidies and the building of new coal-fired power plants, and investing at scale in renewable energy to reinforce the climate action needed for just transitions.  We know the facts.  We have the solutions.  Now we must act.

As an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals Moment mandated by Member States, the SDG Action Zone invites people from all around the world to come together to act in support of the Goals.  This United Nations General Assembly is unique, as we have the opportunity to democratize participation through our virtual meeting and the ability to connect across the world in one moment.

The United Nations at 75 is an invitation to reimagine the power structures of the world, recognizing that true power lies in the hands of everyday people seeking dignified, more self-actualized lives.  We are calling on you all — activists, students, business leaders, Government representatives, faith leaders and stewards of your community — to join hands in ambitious action and shape a course for our world delivering on the global Goals.

Everyone has a stake in our future.  I urge you to amplify your voices and create an unstoppable movement for transformation.  Together, we can realize a peaceful world of justice, dignity, opportunity and hope.

For information media. Not an official record.