On 19 September 2022 the United Nations General Assembly held its 3rd SDG Moment, calling for the rescue of the SDGs and renewed commitment from UN Member states to achieving the 17 goals. The SDG Moment took 90 minutes, and featured speeches from UN officials and goodwill Ambassadors and performances by celebrities. The three main purposes of the event were to:
Reinforce the continued relevance of the SDGs, and build momentum for upcoming major summits and intergovernmental meetings
Highlight urgent actions necessary to achieve an equitable, inclusive and accelerated transition to sustainable development
Demonstrate that transformative change can be accomplished between now and 2030
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General did a stocktaking of the current progress of the SDGs, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and the economic and environmental crises the world is currently facing. He said there was a long To-Do list for UN Member States and the private sector to accomplish and he specifically mentioned the following required actions:
Provide public and private sector finance and investment in the SDGs;
Reform the financial architecture that benefits developing countries, through providing critical financing and debt relief;
Invest in the health, education and wellbeing of all people, including refugees and migrants;
Expand universal social protection to protect people against economic shocks, while boosting job-creation — especially in the digital, care and green economies
Support the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions;
Lift up women and girls in every walk of life;
Address the triple planetary crisis of climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and pollution
Support the Global Biodiversity Framework;
Move away from fossil fuels and jump-start renewable energy transition and support developing countries in making this shift.
Guterres’ call was echoed by the President of the 77th Session of the General Assembly, Csaba Korosi who specified the need for a renewable carbon-free energy future; green and inclusive circular economies including food systems; multilateral commitments to build a science base for decision-making; and political momentum to move beyond GDP. He added that a bleak future could be avoided, as long as UN Member States were serious about taking action and delivering on the promises they made with regards to the SDGs.
CSOs noted that previous SDG Moments took place for a whole day, while this year, the Moment was reduced to an hour and a half. They expressed doubts that a 90-minute program would be enough to encourage UN Member States to re-dedicate themselves to the SDGs, calling the To Do list message an “inadequate, perhaps revealing political message, that falls far short of the transformations long called for by science and civil society alike.” This year’s SDG Moment and the To Do List message seemed to trivialize the SDGs, treating them like New Year’s resolutions – made with good intentions but rarely accomplished without real concrete effort.
CSOs also pointed out that they were kept at the sidelines, while celebrities and the private sector representatives were active participants in the Moment. CSOs represent rightsholders, acting on their behalf, to hold governments accountable for their obligations. The exclusion of CSOs from this year’s Moment raises questions about to whom the UN and Member States believe they are accountable, and whether they realize how beneficial achieving the SDGs would be to their citizens.
The 2022 UN SDG Moment was high in rhetoric and performances. However, given current global conditions and inadequate progress on the SDGs, was this Moment enough to renew sufficient interest and momentum to “rescue” the SDGs and to encourage Member States and other stakeholders to take urgent action? There are only 7 years left to meet the SDGs; stronger action is needed from the UN as well as its member states to get the world back on track.
Engage-AI firmly believes that the stronger actions needed to drive the SDG 2030 Agenda forward should include the utilization of new tools and technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). AI/ML can not only supplement, but actually initiate efforts to achieve the SDGs. By assisting government efforts and by empowering individual communities to address their specific challenges, the UN stands a better chance to create opportunities for growth and to achieve its sustainable development targets.
Cities around the world call for greater support to achieve the Global Goals: Leaders gather to recommit themselves to the Global Goals at the SDG Moment, The Global Goals, 23 September 2022, https://www.globalgoals.org/news/cities-around-the-world-call-for-greater-support-to-achieve-the-global-goals/
IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin, SDG Moment Briefing Note: A Reporting Service for Environment and Development Negotiations, 21 September 2022, https://enb.iisd.org/sites/default/files/2022-09/SDG%20Moment%202022%20briefing%20note.pdf
Rescuing the SDGs: General Assembly highlights ‘world’s to-do list’, UN News, 19 September 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/09/1126981
SDG Moment, 19 September 2022, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sdg-moment/
Secretary-General's remarks at SDG Moment event, 19 September 2022, https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2022-09-19/secretary-generals-remarks-sdg-moment-event-bilingual-delivered-follows-scroll-further-down-for-all-english-version
UN General Assembly highlights world’s to-do list to save global goals, Xinhua, China Daily updated 20 September 2022, https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202209/20/WS6329132da310fd2b29e7893b.html