Economic and Social Council

Opening of ECOSOC High Level Segment and 2019 High-level Political Ministerial Segment

High-level Political Forum opens ministerial segment amid calls for urgent action in tackling global injustice, effects of climate change at 29th meeting.
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Months before the landmark Sustainable Development Goals Summit, delegates speaking during the ministerial segment of the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum today urged world leaders to commit themselves to urgent, accelerated action to tackle the planet’s most critical challenges or risk a “terrible stain on the world’s conscience” for years to come.

Senior United Nations officials, artists, activists and youth representatives opened the Forum’s ministerial portion, which follows a week of interactive discussions and progress reports by Governments working to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Speakers — including keynote presenter Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders group of global leaders and former President of Ireland — told participants that the three-day ministerial segment should lay the groundwork for the upcoming Summit, allowing leaders gathering in New York this September to “come away with more than just words”. With new evidence revealing the accelerating nature of such challenges as climate change, action must be multilateral, not merely voluntary on the part of individual nations, she stressed. “We have a global crisis and we must treat it as such.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres echoed those concerns. Emphasizing that development cannot be sustainable unless it is fair and inclusive, he said inequality between and within countries remains jarring and “people are rightly questioning a world where a handful of men hold the same wealth as half of humanity”. With the Earth on track to record its five warmest years between 2015 and 2019, and sea levels rising rapidly, the poorest people will suffer most, he stressed. Pointing out that a shift to a greener economy could create 24 million jobs by 2030, he urged Member States to advance global climate action in a manner that also reduces inequality.

Council President Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) welcomed the High-Level Political Forum’s ability to keep stakeholders engaged and focused since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption in 2015. While many countries are hard at work to meet its targets and indicators, “we need to do more, faster and more transformatively”. She urged Member States to use the ministerial segment to build and renew partnerships, while pledging to assist States in preparing an action-oriented political declaration to be adopted at the September Summit.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garces (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said the credibility of the multilateral system and the hopes of the world’s 7.7 billion people lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. Data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reveal that poverty and inequality persist around the globe, while an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underscores the urgency of addressing the impacts of climate change. Agreeing that the upcoming Summit presents a milestone opportunity to reaffirm commitments to the world’s people, she urged leaders to use that meeting to announce accelerated measures in response to the planet’s most pressing challenges.

Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also delivered a keynote address this morning, providing details on the escalating threats posed by current warming patterns. Noting that these trends are already seriously impeding progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, he drew attention to the links between climate change, injustice, agricultural challenges and increased migration flows. Limiting warming to 1.5°C — rather than the 2°C baseline — will expose 10 million fewer people to the risk of sea level rise and reduce crop yield declines by one third. While restricting warming to 1.5°C will require carbon dioxide removal — including through soil carbon sequestration and biomass energy — he stressed that the world has little choice but to pursue a path of high-efficiency energy.

Richard Curtis, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate and Co-Founder of Project Everyone, used his keynote address to underline the importance of rendering the Goals fully inclusive and effectively communicating their messages. Stressing that Governments, churches, trade unionists, tech leaders, scientists, mayors, feminists, schoolchildren and many other segments of society are all vital partners in carrying out the 2030 Agenda, he declared: “You in power cannot do this job on your own.” The Forum must grab this opportunity to “turbo-charge” the General Assembly and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September.

At the meeting’s outset, participants viewed a dance performance by Gruppo Jobel, Art for Earth, and heard presentations from youth delegates from the Czech Republic, Philippines, United States, Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates.

In the afternoon, the Forum held an interactive discussion on the theme, “What are regions telling us about implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals?”, featuring the chairs of various regional forums. It also heard presentations by Ola Elvestuen, President of the United Nations Environment Assembly and Minister for Climate and Environment of Norway; Michelle Bachelet Jeria, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Boris Greguška, Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests Bureau and Chief State Counsellor, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Slovakia; Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; and Guy Ryder, Director‑General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Forum also began its general debate.

The ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum will continue at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 July.

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