Although cascading global crises are undermining hard fought development gains, “now is not the time for despair,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told African ministers and policy makers meeting in Niamey, Niger, on Feb. 28.
As the continent weathers the full impact of fallouts from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine, she underscored the need for greater action to achieve UN and African Union roadmaps that promise an inclusive and sustainable future for all.
Countries off track
“At the mid-point of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 we are far from where we need to be,” Ms. Mohammed said in remarks to the opening of the Ninth African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development.
“But now is not the time to despair. On the contrary, now is the time for solidarity, leadership, and for commitment to the actions that we need to take to implement the agendas.”
She said countries can change course and rise to the challenge through “African-led solutions, born on African soil,” noting that the Continental Free-Trade Agreement has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty.
Energy transformation key
Leaders have also endorsed an action plan on sustainable industrialization and economic diversification.
“We must ensure that the emerging green and digital economies better serve Africa’s people and natural environment. And key to implementation will be the inclusion of our young population,” she added.
Africa’s energy transformation is at the heart of these efforts, she said, citing promising developments such as the Congo Basin Carbon Credit registry and the Great Green Wall initiative.
Invest in solutions
Ms. Mohammed said world leaders meeting at the SDG Summit in September must support and invest in these types of solutions. Furthermore, the meeting must deliver on three key areas, starting with re-energizing national SDG promises.
“At the Summit, world leaders must set out clear ambitions to reduce poverty and inequality by 2027 and 2030. And they must do so by making investments in Africa, investment in our economy, and investment in our people, especially women and youth,” she said.
Financing the SDGs
Tangible progress on SDG financing must also be another Summit outcome as “the financing gap to achieve the SDGs and deliver climate resilience continues to widen,” she said.
Ms. Mohammed reported that 43 percent of African nations are in or near debt distress, largely due to external factors beyond their control—a situation she described as “not acceptable.”
“The Secretary-General has called on the G20 to unlock an SDG Stimulus of at least $500 billion dollars annually to developing countries, especially in Africa,” she recalled.
“More broadly, we also need systemic reforms to a global financial architecture that today is not fit for purpose—and that remains too short-term oriented, crisis-prone, and fundamentally skewed towards the interests of the rich.”
The Summit must also “reinvigorate the concept of genuine partnership,” she continued, highlighting the need for engaging with young people, civil society and the global public.
“It means securing more ambitious and more credible SDG ambition from business, the private sector—while expanding the engagement of local authorities, our traditional fathers and mothers, and investing in the science-policy interface,” she added.
Ms. Mohammed said over the coming months, the UN will work with Governments and other partners to advance these three areas, including through work already being carried out by its Resident Coordinators, country teams and regional entities.
UN Resident Coordinators lead teams servicing more than 160 countries and territories who support government efforts to achieve sustainable development. (UN News)