General News

Amid Effects of Climate Change, High Debt, Least Developed, Landlocked, Small Island Countries Struggle to Meet 2030 Agenda, Speakers Warn Political Forum

‘Stop the Problem,’ Palau’s President Urges, Pointing to Warming Oceans, Slow Progress on Halting Global Temperature Rise

From climate change to burdensome debt, the challenges of small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries were spotlighted today as the Economic and Social Council continued the ministerial segment of its High-Level Political Form on Sustainable Development.

Dozens of senior Government officials shared their country’s accomplishments in the sectors of education, health care, entrepreneurship, women’s rights and equality, and affordable housing.  However, many also cautioned that with just over a decade left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals, they urgently required a significant boost in assistance and financing.

Haiti’s Foreign Minister cautioned, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that the region’s successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda can easily be eroded by its high debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio.  The bloc remains burdened by its small and vulnerable economies which depend heavily on international trade, face limited product and market diversification and are increasingly disrupted by natural disasters.

Paraguay’s representative, on behalf of the Group of landlocked developing countries, said these nations are challenged by their isolation, distance from global markets and cumbersome border procedures.  Despite emphasis on trade as a driver of development, the participation of landlocked developing countries in international trade has declined in recent years, compounding already serious deficits in infrastructure, information and communications technologies, energy and water.

The representative of Belize, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), expressed alarm that inequalities have become more pronounced.  Stressing the urgency of moving away from useless mantras and impractical solutions, she emphasized:  “What we want is for the development of small island developing States to be as much part of the work as it is part of the rhetoric.”  Disaster risk reduction requires a holistic and systematic approach, working with small island States to deal with liquidity gaps.

“Climate action cannot be seen or reviewed in isolation,” the President of Palau stressed, as he urged countries to take a holistic view of the world’s inadequate progress towards meeting the 1.5°C goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement on climate change.  The very bedrock of Palau’s economy — tourism — is threatened by warming and acidifying oceans.

Several other speakers said national development efforts are severely stunted by unilateral coercive measures, with Iran’s Foreign Minister stressing that the United States sanctions against his country not only violate Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) but subject “our people to the most brutal form of economic terrorism, deliberately targeting innocent civilians”.

Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment likewise said the economic blockade by the United States is the biggest challenge to development in his country.  “This causes great harm to the people of Cuba and their economic well-being,” he stressed, effects that have only worsened with the introduction of new sanctions.

Norway’s Minister for International Cooperation meanwhile said too many people in the world feel hopeless and without a voice.  The suffering of those who are food insecure or forced to flee their homes must be heard in these discussions.  With only 10 years until the 2030 Agenda deadline, efforts must focus on guaranteeing food for the hungry and freeing the 40 million people captured in slavery.  “We are here today to reaffirm that we are heeding this call,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Chile (on behalf of Older Persons), Austria (on behalf of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs), Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, South Africa, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Philippines, Hungary, Albania, Israel, Italy, Andorra, Egypt, India, Tonga, Malta, Chad, Sweden, Zambia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Panama, Fiji, Serbia, Burkina Faso, Bahrain, Finland, Vanuatu, Botswana, Guinea, Angola, Uruguay, Turkey, Honduras, Guatemala, Spain, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Morocco, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cabo Verde, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Poland, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Romania, Pakistan, Ireland, Nepal, Ukraine, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and Senegal.

The High-level Political Forum will continue its ministerial segment at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 18 July.


BOCCHIT EDMOND, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Haiti, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said regional leaders have acknowledged that sustainable development requires ending poverty and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production.  However, the region’s full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can easily be eroded by its high debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio.  Despite that many in the region are classified as middle-income countries, the Caribbean Community remains burdened by its small and vulnerable economies that rely heavily on international trade, have limited product and market diversification and are vulnerable to natural disasters.  As small island developing States, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda cannot be divorced from that of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, he emphasized, adding that he looked forward to the midterm review of the mechanism in September.  He also stressed the need for high-quality, reliable and timely data and analysis. 

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of landlocked developing countries, said these countries face the particular challenges of distance from global markets and cumbersome border procedures, among others.  He emphasized the need to fully implement the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024, noting that despite the importance of trade in achieving the 2030 Agenda, the participation of landlocked developing countries in global trade has declined in recent years.  They deal with huge deficits of infrastructure, information and communications technologies, energy and water, and are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in particular, land degradation and drought.  As such, these countries must be given specific attention to address their myriad challenges.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the Pacific small island developing States, CARICOM, the Group of landlocked developing countries and the Group of least developing countries, said inequalities have become more pronounced.  Despite their grave situation, the small island developing States find themselves sitting in rooms with discussants presenting solutions that only benefit a small group of countries and people.  They hear useless mantras and impractical solutions.  “What we want is for the development of small island developing States to be as much part of the work as it is part of the rhetoric,” she asserted.  Disaster risk reduction requires a holistic and systematic approach, including working with small island developing States so that they can effectively address liquidity gaps.  Instances from which “we simply cannot recover” must also be tackled, she said, stressing that “the United Nations is the agreed forum where we should be able to transcend self-interest and engage with each other”.

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, underlined the group’s commitment to ensuring the full realization of all human rights and dignity for older persons.  That includes combating discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence, while also addressing issues related to social integration.  The number of older persons is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030, an increase that will be greatest and most rapid in the developing world.  It is also estimated that by 2030 older persons will outnumber youth around the world, a shift that underlines the urgent need to pay more attention to the specific challenges they face as an integral part of implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Outlining links between the Sustainable Development Goals and issues related to older persons, he said education and training can enhance their employability, while the care work that many older persons do should be more explicitly valued.  Mainstreaming ageing and the human rights of older person into global agendas is essential, and requires a concerted effort, he stressed.

JAN KICKERT (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, said meeting the targets of the 2030 Agenda will require a stronger role for science, technology and innovation and “space technology could be at the forefront of it”.  Around 40 per cent of the 169 targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals benefit from the use of geospace location and Earth observation satellites, he said, adding that the space sector is evolving rapidly and the United Nations needs to keep pace in order to reap the benefits.  The Office for Outer Space Affairs has therefore launched the “Space4SDGs” initiative, aimed at raising awareness of the potential of space technology for sustainable development and to meet the increased demand for relevant services.  Noting that space infrastructure, data and information will only play that crucial role if they become an integral part of whole-of-society development approaches, he described the Office’s “Space4Women” programme — which promotes science, technology engineering and math fields among women — and its work to use space-related technology in combating climate change.

TOMMY ESANG REMENGESAU JR., President of Palau, said his country is turning 25 years old in 2019 and has also submitted its first voluntary national review.  “Climate action cannot be seen or reviewed in isolation,” he said, urging participants to take a more holistic view of the effects of that phenomenon and the world’s inadequate progress towards meeting the 1.5°C goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Outlining progress made by Palau on Goal 13 (climate action) as well as others, he said the bedrock of its economy is tourism, which is threatened by warming and acidifying oceans.  Meanwhile, climate change threatens social resilience and stability.  What is at stake in international efforts to address climate change is countries’ very ability to carry out any of the Sustainable Development Goals, he stressed, calling on States to “stop describing the problem — stop the problem”.

TIGRAN AVINYAN, Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, recalled that last year his country presented its voluntary national review, highlighting the role of innovation, creative education and synergies for collaboration action.  The peaceful “Velvet Revolution” that took place in April and May 2018 was followed by parliamentary elections in December, marking an important step in establishing a strong and robust democratic framework.  Advancing sustainable development with particular emphasis on information and communications technologies, amplifying the growth of start-ups, fostering innovation and investing in young people’s skills is a major priority of the Government.  Armenia has also embarked on comprehensive reform of the justice sector.  Women and young people were at the forefront of the “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia, and the Government will continue to promote their meaningful participation in public affairs.  Various reforms are under way to improve gender equality, create better employment policies and ensure decent work for all.  As a middle-income country and a landlocked developing country, Armenia is well-familiar with the risks of environmental challenges and natural disasters. 

ZAMIRBEK ASKAROV, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, said that while every country strives for development, many have varying degrees of capacity and ability to do so.  He noted various improvements in the country’s socioeconomic policies, adding that Kyrgyzstan is making significant progress in promoting entrepreneurship, protecting investments and revamping its democratic processes.  Despite its young age as a sovereign State, Kyrgyzstan has a long history of respect for nature.  “We are aware of our responsibility to protect the environment, not only for future generations in our country, but for the whole world,” he said.

ALI AHMADOV, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, said his country is prioritizing the 2030 Agenda in the course of its ongoing economic and social reforms.  The MAPS Mission — a mission for integration, acceleration and policy support — consisting of experts from various United Nations agencies, provides technical and political support to the Government in adapting the Sustainable Development Goals to national priorities.  Azerbaijan has prioritized 88 targets and 119 indicators to date, he said, also recalling that it hosted the Baku Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in October 2018.  Outlining progress made on the Goals under review, he said the national minimum wage and minimum pension levels were doubled, while State support for internally displaced persons — who number almost 1 million in Azerbaijan — was significantly increased.  However, the military conflict which arose from Armenia’s aggression remains a serious challenge, he stressed, adding that resolution of the conflict will not only contribute to stability and development in Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also to peace and justice in the broader region.

ERNESTO M. PERNIA (Philippines), associating himself with the “Group of 77” and China and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, said the Philippines-United Nations Partnership Framework for Sustainable Development (2019-2023) redefines the nature of engagement between the Organization and his country, shifting from one of development assistance to that of strategic partnership and collaboration.  No pillar of sustainable development is self-contained, he stressed, adding that each contributes to attaining the Philippines’ midterm and long-term priorities.  The Philippines has seen rapid and uninterrupted growth in recent years and is expected to achieve upper-middle-income country status by 2020.  However, economic growth alone is not sufficient and more work is needed to ensure that every Filipino is empowered to live a comfortable, secure and peaceful life.  Outlining programmes to that end, including a conditional cash-transfer scheme, he said $208 billion has also been invested to improve the country’s connectivity and infrastructure and to spur regional development.

KLÁRA DOSTÁLOVÁ, Minister for Regional Development of Czech Republic, said sustainability depends on good governance, participation and the rule of law, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Expressing strong support for building on the High-Level Political Forum’s success, she said common international efforts are crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Going forward, cooperation among the High-Level Forum and other United Nations forums and processes should be improved and their common focus should be strengthened, with the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda becoming a year-long process involving all relevant platforms, culminating in the July meetings every year.  Noting the close relations between the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda, she said the Czech Republic recognizes that cities have the potential to contribute to at least half the Sustainable Development Goals.  As such, her country is actively involved in urban development as well as in the proceedings of the European regional forum while also supporting the work of the United Nations Regional Commissions and their important role in the 2030 Agenda commitments.

MMAMOLOKO KUBAYI-NGUBANE, Minister for Tourism of South Africa, said the Sustainable Development Goals must be tackled as a package going forward, treating them in an interlinked and integrated manner to ensure the 2030 Agenda’s full implementation.  Moreover, the international community must acknowledge the synergies among the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Developing countries are hardest hit by climate change and adverse impacts could derail 2030 Agenda gains, she said, urging developed countries to deliver on their commitments to mobilize $100 billion by 2020 to address their needs.  Indeed, global warming could threaten the underpinnings of economies and social fabric, jeopardizing natural assets and affecting the most poor and vulnerable populations.  A coordinated and integrated response is required to change this trajectory.  She urged developed States to deliver on official development assistance (ODA) commitments and meet their responsibilities to complement efforts developing nations are undertaking.

GHASSAN HASBANI, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, noting that his country is a relatively small one located in a challenging region, described its whole-of-society approach to sustainable development.  Noting that Lebanon hosts the largest refugee population in the world relative to its own population, he said its sustainable development strategy aims to serve as a road map for consecutive Governments to ensure appropriate legislation.  Describing that new, holistic strategy as a “structured and organized road map out of our current crises”, he said a sustainable development committee was also created and that Lebanon enjoys an active Global Compact Network.  Spotlighting the Government’s strong engagement with civil society at the local level, he said “we are not starting from scratch” as capital investments in infrastructure and other existing programmes will form a major part of Lebanon’s sustainable development strategy.

ISIDORO SANTANA, Minister for Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic, associating himself with the Group of 77, AOSIS, the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the Dominican Republic is focused on the priority objectives identified by the High-Level Political Forum.  Among others, he said, it has seen positive strides in its engagement with the private sector, education investments and green economic strategies.  The country’s basic education rate stands at 94 per cent, and a large-scale literacy campaign is under way for young children.  The Dominican Republic has one of the highest growth rates in the region, with per capita growth expanding by 5 per cent annually in recent years.  Women’s employment is also on the rise.  Family remittances represent about 8 per cent of its GDP, a high rate, and the country receives significant direct foreign investment.  However, the Dominican Republic remains challenged by a small tax revenue base, with one third of those funds used to service national public debt.

BAMBANG P.S. BRODJONEGORO, Minister for National Development Planning of Indonesia, said despite gains, transformational changes are needed to scale up implementation, with all stakeholders on board to ensure inclusivity and strong ownership.  Indonesia has incorporated the Goals into national and subnational development priorities, planning and financing, involving such stakeholders as the private sector, civil society and academia.  Realizing the multiplying benefits of the Goals, he said initiatives to reduce inequality have increased job opportunities, access to education and inclusive economic growth.  Financing remains a key element, so Indonesia improved its tax-to-GDP ratio and introduced new sources such as blended finance, public-private partnerships, faith-based charities and crowdfunding.  Going forward, global partnerships must urgently be strengthened, new mechanisms and approaches must foster more participation from relevant stakeholders and more responsive and adaptive policies must effectively address challenges, such as climate change.

ERNESTO M. PERNIA (Philippines), associating himself with the “Group of 77” and China and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, said the Philippines-United Nations Partnership Framework for Sustainable Development (2019-2023) redefines the nature of engagement between the Organization and his country, shifting from one of development assistance to that of strategic partnership and collaboration.  No pillar of sustainable development is self-contained, he stressed, adding that each contributes to attaining the Philippines’ mid-term and long-term priorities.  The Philippines has seen rapid and uninterrupted growth in recent years and is expected to achieve upper middle-income country status by 2020.  However, economic growth alone is not sufficient and more work is needed to ensure that every Filipino is empowered to live a comfortable, secure and peaceful life.  Outlining programmes to that end, including a conditional cash-transfer scheme, he said $208 billion has also been invested to improve the country’s connectivity and infrastructure and to spur regional development.

PETER SZIJJARTO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said deep changes in global politics and the global economy are having a significant impact on mid-size, landlocked countries with open economies like Hungary.  “We need more and more people with better and better skills to maintain economic growth,” he said, reaffirming:  “Hungary is leaving the phase of ‘made in Hungary’ and entering the phase of ‘invented in Hungary’”.  He outlined gains made in ensuring universal access to quality education and vocational training, noting that the Government has reduced the tax burden on individuals and companies.  “If a woman gives birth to four or more children she will be exempted from paying personal income tax for the rest of her life,” he added.  Hungary provides free kindergarten, elementary and secondary education, with a view to guaranteeing quality learning and health care for all its citizens.  It is unfortunate that that debate on universal health-care coverage has left the 2030 Agenda context, he said, calling the universal health care principle an extension of the Global Compact for Migration, which interferes in national competencies and makes no distinction based on legal status.

DAG INGE ULSTEIN, Minister for International Cooperation of Norway, said millions of people in the world today feel hopeless and without a voice. “I like to feel like I am at the High-Level Political Forum for them,” he said.  Norway regards the Sustainable Development Goals as a global road map of hope.  The suffering of those who live with food insecurity and those who are forced to flee their home must be heard in these discussions.  World leaders must commit to implementing the 2030 Agenda.  The commitment to good governance cannot be overemphasized, he said, noting that Norway is a staunch supporter of multilateralism and making the United Nations “fit for purpose”.  With only 10 years until the 2030 Agenda deadline, efforts must focus on ensuring that food is on the table of the hungry and freeing the 40 million people captured in slavery.  “We are here today to reaffirm that we are heeding this call,” he said. 

OGERTA MANASTIRLIU, Minister for Health and Social Welfare of Albania, said her country has fully committed to the 2030 Agenda and achieving social equality and inclusiveness.  Implementing the 2030 Agenda goes hand-in-hand with national development efforts, which have largely focused on reforming the justice system.  “It is a milestone in the fight against corruption,” she said, commending all European partners for supporting Albania’s reform endeavours.  Economic reforms are meant to increase profitability, create jobs and improve public services and delivery, she said, emphasizing that Albania will continue to prioritize and mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals into its subnational plans.

ZE’EV ELKIN, Minister for Environmental Protection of Israel, said his country’s first voluntary national review provides whole-of-Government assessment, measuring progress in realizing the 2030 Agenda and detailing areas for improvement, including unequal access to education and waste management.  Noting that Israel is the most densely populated country in the world, with the highest birth rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), he said 40 per cent of its population is comprised of immigrants.  Despite being located in one of the world’s driest regions, Israel is a global leader in water efficiency, having reduced its per capita water use by 60 per cent in the last 50 years.  Just last week, Israel approved the incorporation of the Sustainable Development Goals into its National Strategic Goals.  “We are responsible for seeing them through and we are held accountable by their methodology, parameters and reports,” he added.

SERGIO COSTA, Minister for Environment, Land and Sea Protection of Italy, underlining the universality and indivisibility of the Sustainable Development Goals, said they must be balanced in a coherent, integrated manner and through international cooperation.  Italy’s recently-launched Sustainable Development Forum brings together Government ministries as well as other sectors and civil society actors, he said, describing climate change as the most critical of all challenges.  Italy has established an integrated national plan for energy and the climate, and is engaged with other European Union member States in adopting a longer-term regional clean energy strategy.  Calling for strong environmental policies as well as for greater support for the many people around the globe who still lack access to electricity, he underlined the importance of Italy’s focus on resilience, adaptation and nature-based solutions.  Against that backdrop, he also noted that Italy will preside over the Conference of States Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2020.

MARIA UBACH FONT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said multilateralism is the best way to raise global awareness about the importance of sustainable development.  Describing equality and inclusion as the main priorities of Andorra’s national development policies, she said inclusive, high-quality education is a Goal in itself as well as a means of achieving all the others.  In line with Andorra’s Education Action Framework 2030, an inclusive model was put in place which takes into account students’ diversity.  This type of education is one of the best ways to end ingrained discrimination against women and girls, she said, adding that Parliament also recently enacted a law on the rights of children and adolescents.

HALA HELMY ELSAID, Minister for Planning, Follow-up and Administrative Reform of Egypt, said her country is focused on social development with the strong engagement of civil society, women and youth.  To implement that national vision, Egypt is engaged in various social reforms and programmes to facilitate private sector engagement and investment.  Spotlighting its project to improve access through the Suez Canal, she said Egypt is also developing technical expertise to better evaluate the outcome of such projects.  In all areas of development, capacity-building and investment in human resources is critical.  Therefore, the Government has put in place a comprehensive strategy for quality education and is working to expand health care access to all people.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said that despite huge impediments caused by unlawful unilateral sanctions, his country has made significant progress in empowering its people.  Twenty-seven per cent of faculty members, 50 per cent of college students and 37 per cent of medical doctors are women.  There has been a 60 per cent increase in appointments in a bid to ensure that by 2020, 30 per cent of national decision makers are women.  Iran has nearly ended illiteracy and provides free public education, with the literacy rate currently at 97 per cent.  Iran is also focused on training disadvantaged groups, as well as rural and nomad communities and prisoners.  It must deal with natural disasters, land degradation, desertification and water scarcity, he said, noting that regional threats and insecurity caused by foreign-sponsored terrorism, extremism and violence hamper development.  “Our people are also subjected to the most brutal form of economic terrorism, deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives,” he said, stressing that the United States sanctions against Iran violate Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ, Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Cuba, said implementation of the 2030 Agenda is tied in with efforts to deliver on the national economic and social development plan, which also extends to 2030.  Cuba’s biggest challenge is the economic blockade imposed on it by the United States.  “This causes great harm to the people of Cuba and their economic well-being,” he said, effects that have only worsened with the introduction of new sanctions.  Despite these actions, Cuba still ranks well in terms of human development and is the only Latin American and Caribbean country that has fully ended severe child malnutrition.  However, it still needs international support to continue to move forward in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

RAJIV KUMAR, Vice Chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India, India, listed various achievements of the country’s economic empowerment schemes, including its loan programmes to rural women.  The Government has launched an ambitious health-care scheme and is working to provide housing to its people, with millions of homes handed over to citizens.  A new Ministry for Water, Conservation and Management will examine aspects of water conservation and manage the crisis India is currently facing.  Among other gains, he cited a 2 per cent reduction in child malnutrition in recent years, noting that India also recently published an index ranking the progress made by its regions in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and describing the Government’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda as unwavering.

SEMISI KIOA LAFU SIKA (Tonga), associating himself with the Group of 77, AOSIS and the Group of Pacific small island developing States, said his country presented its first voluntary national review to the High-Level Political Forum this year.  Outlining progress made on the various Goals under review, he said Tonga’s Education Act makes schooling compulsory for children aged 4 to 18.  On Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), he said the country embraces the four pillars of the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Decent Work Agenda, and continues its efforts towards ratifying the organization’s conventions.  On Goal 10 (reduced inequalities), Tonga addresses its limited economic opportunities by engaging in seasonal work programmes in partnership with Australia and New Zealand, which have expanded from horticulture and viticulture skills to include semi-skilled work including care services, carpentry and hospitality.  On Goal 13 (climate action), he said, Tonga is a pioneer in integrating the management of both disaster risks and the effects of climate change into its Joint National Action Plan.  In addition, it established a Climate Change Trust Fund in 2017 to support resilience.

CARMELO ABELA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion of Malta, said his country’s economy is among the strongest in Europe.  Employment growth is among the highest in the European Union, while youth unemployment and income inequalities are below the bloc’s average.  Citing climate change as a pressing challenge, he said Malta has taken various measures, including diversifying its energy and water resources to meet supply and demand.  Having presented its first voluntary national review, Malta is working on the development of a new Sustainable Development Strategy which will run up to 2050.  This vision sets out a framework for advancing sustainable development, focusing on a number of challenges and gaps.  “Sustainable development is all about current and future generations and not solely limited to specific economic sectors of social strata,” he stressed.

ISSA DOUBRAGNE, Minister for Economy and Development Planning of Chad, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said his country’s Vision 2030 is closely aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  Chad submitted its first voluntary national review in 2019, he said, spotlighting several major challenges facing the country’s implementation process.  Those include the collapse of oil prices beginning in 2014 as well as insecurity resulting from the activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, which significantly delayed the implementation of Chad’s development plans.  However, he said the process is now under way and the country has already seen some strides, including improvements in women’s empowerment and political participation, reductions in social inequality and economic diversification.

ANNIKA STRANDHÄLL, Minister for Social Security of Sweden, said that while her country is well-placed to implement the 2030 Agenda it must still work harder to address existing inequalities.  In particular, it must tackle disparities faced by people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, minorities and newly arrived immigrants, and more work is needed to achieve equity in health care and to provide equal opportunities for lifelong learning.  Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish climate activist, has led the way in emphasizing the urgent need to act on climate change, she said, underlining Sweden’s ambition to become the first fossil fuel-free country in the world.  “Climate change has devastating effects that are particularly severe in fragile contexts,” she said, citing climate-related security risks faced around the globe.  In addition, in far too many countries, women and girls’ rights — including the sexual and reproductive health and rights — are being pushed back.

ALEXANDER CHITEME, Minister for National Development Planning of Zambia, said the Sustainable Development Goals three-year report for Africa highlights that both collectively and as individual countries African nations have embraced the spirit of the 2030 Agenda.  “We have not, however, moved at a desired pace towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030,” he said, calling for redoubled efforts in that regard.  At the national level, Zambia has mainstreamed 86 per cent of the 2030 Agenda’s targets, and will soon publish a National Sustainable Development Goal Baseline Report to comprehensively assess progress made to date.  Zambia’s national sustainable development plan prioritizes five key areas, namely:  economy and job creation, reducing poverty and vulnerability, reducing inequalities, strengthening access to education, health care, water and sanitation, and environmental governance.

FIDELIS MANUEL LEITE MAGALHÃES, Minister for Legislative Reform and Parliamentary Affairs of Timor-Leste, said empowering people, and ensuring inclusiveness and equality are at the heart of national State-building efforts.  Timor-Leste’s significant progress on health, education, gender equality and infrastructure would not have been possible without its commitment to Goal 16 (peace, justice, strong institutions), which has catalyzed its growth as a nation.  “People are the central focus of our development,” he said.  The strategic development plan will enable Timor-Leste to emerge as a dynamic economy with balanced purchasing power to compete regionally and the world over.  As Timor-Leste is a small island developing State, global action to promote climate adaptation, along with climate-proof investments, are central for protecting its food security, he said, underscoring the importance of partnerships to help it grow from a least developed country into an upper middle-income nation in the coming years.

MUHAMMAD ABDUL MANNAN, Minister for Planning of Bangladesh, said that despite the global economic slowdown, his country’s economy is among the fastest growing in 2019.  “We consider economic prosperity equal to human development,” he said, adding that the Government promotes education for girls and is working to achieve gender parity in schools.  Moreover, it is spending its scarce resources to build resilience against climate change, he said, noting that almost $920 billion is required to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh.  He called for stronger global partnerships so that rhetoric turns into action.

JORGE ARREAZA, Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his Government’s development plan was founded on the Sustainable Development Goals.  There are nations, however, seeking to erode the very nature of multilateralism by imposing coercive unilateral measures which have been rejected by many Member States.  Iran, Cuba and Venezuela continue to be victimized by the United States Administration.  He called on all Member States to work in an inclusive manner to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable development.  “If we comply with the sustainable development agenda, we will experience a social revolution towards a better world where we can live in peace,” he added.

FRANCIS M. KAI KAI, Minister for Planning and Economic Development of Sierra Leone, associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the African Group, said his country recently submitted its second voluntary national review to the Forum.  Among other changes seen since its first submission in 2016, he cited a stronger appreciation that Goal 4 on education and Goal 16 on justice can serve as accelerators to help pursue Sierra Leone’s broader sustainable development agenda.  All students in the country, including those in remote communities, now have access to free textbooks and other school materials, which has benefited more than 2 million children in Government-owned and Government-assisted schools.  Meanwhile, primary and secondary school enrolment for children with disabilities has increased from 25,000 in 2017 to 30,000 in 2018.  As a global pioneer on Goal 16, Sierra Leone co-chairs the Global Task Force on Justice and the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and State-building, and is setting up a national peace and national cohesion commission.  Its judiciary is also undergoing a rapid transformation, with an infusion of digital infrastructure to fast-track the processing of court cases.

ALAMINE OUSMANE MEY, Minister for Economy, Planning and Regional Development of Cameroon, said his country fully subscribes to the 2030 Agenda.  He underscored the potential for the Sustainable Development Goals to transform Cameroon into a united and diverse emerging economy.  Cameroon recently presented its voluntary national review, reaffirming its progress in education, despite ongoing security concerns.  Cameroon faces challenges due to capacity and technology gaps, and the Government remains open to dialogue and consultation to find common solutions to common challenges, he said, stressing that no human being should be left behind.

JOSEPH SEKA SEKA (Cote d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country is working to integrate the 2030 Agenda into its national plans by establishing thematic multi-stakeholder groups.  Côte d’Ivoire invested $1.5 billion in its social programme for the years 2019-2020 and has seen an annual growth of 8 per cent in recent years, making it one of the most dynamic economies in Africa.  However, several challenges remain, including the need to strengthen social cohesion, mobilize financing, distribute the benefits of growth more equally and improve the participation of all social groups in public life.  Among other priorities, he said the Government will continue working to speed up economic growth, strengthen the national statistical system and accelerate efforts to build capacity.

GLORIA ALONSO MASMELA, Minister for National Planning of Colombia, said her country is consolidating the institutional underpinnings needed to implement the 2030 Agenda at the national level.  The national plan known as “Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equality” sets the country on course to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Pointing out that over 92 per cent of Colombia’s national development indicators are closely aligned with the Goals, she said sustainable consumption and production patterns now prevail and efforts are under way to close social and economic gaps.  The overall goal is to establish a prosperous, peaceful, egalitarian society and lift some 2.5 million people out of poverty, she said.

SEKESAI NZENZA, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, said her country has entered a new phase under the President’s democratic process following harmonized elections in 2018.  “Zimbabwe is ready for re-engagement,” she said, describing a focus on ending corruption, a problem that has eroded efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  On 16 July, eight commissioners from the newly formed anti-corruption committee were presented to the President to start such work.  She cited inequality and difficult economic conditions as among the various concerns, noting that Zimbabwe seeks partnerships with financial institutions.  The devastation caused by Cyclone Idai which hit in July took funds away from social protection efforts, she said, adding that the El Niño effect is also a problem.

YANARA CHHIENG, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister, Secretary General, Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Board, Council for the Development of Cambodia, said that without peace and political stability, development is unlikely to advance.  Like other lower middle-income countries, Cambodia is experiencing deep structural change.  The national social protection policy framework will translate its “leave no one behind” commitments into policies and actions to ensure income security and reduce vulnerability.  It will respond to rapid population changes by improving the quality and supply of technical and vocational education, while its ageing policy aims to end discrimination and provide income to vulnerable elders.  At the centre of its whole-of-society approach to development are efforts to tackle environmental degradation and making its distinct contribution to halting climate change, he explained.

MARKOVA CONCEPCIÓN, Minister for Social Development of Panama, said no one must be left behind during the quest for development, and the most marginalized must be catered to first.  The Government is encouraging efforts to end widespread inequality in the country.  “This is a high-level commitment”, she said, describing an action plan based on four pillars — good governance, the rule of law, the economy, and efforts to fight poverty and inequality — all of which are guided by a focus on education.   Unequal access to health care, clean drinking water and sanitation, and exposure to infectious diseases, must be tackled.  She also described major progress in fine-turning instruments to achieve the 2030 Agenda, notably enhancements to the legal framework and harmonization of development initiatives, efforts in which the private sector, academia and civil society must be involved.  More generally, public policies must address the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development, she said.

AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM, Attorney-General and Minister for the Economy, Civil Service and Communications of Fiji, said that as a small island developing State, his country aims to do its part towards realizing the 2030 Agenda.  Harnessing the might of multilateralism can transform lives, societies and the world.  Thriving in an evolving global landscape, Fiji is making strides in sustainable development.  While the foundation Fiji has laid is solid, it must be built upon to be valuable.  More girls in classrooms need to translate into more women becoming engineers and doctors.  More resources for young business owners need to translate into enhanced entrepreneurship.  Calling on the United Nations for support to help small island States to excel in their efforts, he also asked the international community to lend its support for finding innovative financing solutions to challenges.

SLAVICA DJUKIĆ DEJANOVIĆ, Minister without Portfolio responsible for Demography and Population Policy of Serbia, said her country sees the European Union accession process as a road to strengthening democracy and achieving greater stability and progress in all three sustainable development dimensions.  Citing several achievements, she said Serbia’s comprehensive approach is intended to realize the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals.  More broadly, Serbia has enhanced regional cooperation towards implementing the Goals, having hosted a subregional conference on this theme in 2018.  Serbia is and always will be devoted to the policy of peace and the creation of prosperous and secure living conditions for everyone, everywhere.

LASSANE KABORE, Minister for Economy, Finances and Development of Burkina Faso, said a national development plan aims at, among other things, transforming the economy and implementing the Goals.  Providing highlights from Burkina Faso’s voluntary national review, he cited gains made in education and other areas.  Unfortunately, terrorist attacks are threatening the country’s territorial integrity and social cohesion, weakening the security situation and putting internally displaced persons and other vulnerable populations at risk.  Such urgent challenges must be addressed, he said, also underlining a need for a concrete plan to tackle the negative economic impact of the terrorist attacks.

BASIM YACOB YOUSIF AHMED ALHAMER, Minister for Housing of Bahrain, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, described the inclusion of the Sustainable Development Goals in Government policies, evidenced in the volume of public spending on health, education and social security, which totalled 32 per cent of the Government budget.  The Government also established an information committee to monitor and follow up on the Goals, and ministries have been directed to align their initiatives with those targets.  Citing progress on Goal 4 (quality education), he said the Government provides free basic compulsory education, with 100 per cent primary school enrolment.  It is working to diversify economic revenues, in line with Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), and taking actions to support battered women and persons with special needs, and to safeguard the rights of foreign workers in relation to Goal 10 (reduced inequalities).  Bahrain is creating five new housing towns to fulfil Goal 11 (sustainable cities), seeking to balance environment protection and development requirements to meet Goal 13 (climate action), and promote a culture of dialogue, in line with Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

LI ANDERSSON, Minister for Education of Finland, stressed that the new Government in place since June will continue the long tradition of supporting sustainability.  The first objective is to make the country carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon thereafter.  To succeed, the goal must be achieved in a socially fair manner through a just combination of investments in education and social welfare, coupled with an ambitious climate policy.  Finland will increase public investment in education, closing equality gaps and ensuring everyone the chance for continuous learning.  “The global learning crisis is unacceptable,” she said, calling investment in the sector paramount to building more equal societies and keeping up with rapid technological change.  In efforts to become a leader in gender equality, Finland will increase pay transparency and enhance the possibilities for equal parental leave, she said, citing the integration of sustainable development into the State budget and an evaluation of national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda as the most important developments since Finland presented its voluntary national review in 2016.

RALPH REGENVANU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, cited several national priorities, noting that his country spends one quarter of its budget on education, focuses on expanding business and job opportunities and reduces inequalities by increasing the number of women in Government offices and empowering persons with disabilities, among other things.  However, climate change is the single biggest threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, recalling that Cyclone Pam destroyed more than 64 per cent of Vanuatu’s GDP in 2015.  Half-heartedly addressing Goal 17 — revitalizing global partnerships — has dire ramifications for the rest of the Goals, including health, zero hunger, clean water, resilient infrastructure, sustainable cities and healthy oceans.  Unless every State commits to the 1.5°C goal and financial targets in the Paris Agreement, efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda will be in vain.

ONKOKAME KITSO MOKAILA, Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism of Botswana, described efforts to domesticate the Goals into national initiatives, aligning their “five Ps” — people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership — with national development frameworks in the medium- and long-term.  A multi-sectoral national steering committee for the Goals has been set up and efforts made to enhance the statistical capacity of data providers.  A specific implementation plan for Goal 4 (quality education) seeks to bolster the education system, helping to transition Botswana from a resource- to a knowledge-based economy.  As a semi-arid country, Botswana is vulnerable to climate change, he said, noting that the draft national climate change policy is up for review in Parliament.

DIENE KEITA, Minister for Cooperation and African Integration of Guinea, said his country is focused on attaining the Goals, the leitmotif of its development strategy.  Guinea’s vision is based on a multi-disciplinary programme covering 2017 to 2030, with development efforts focused on the promotion of good governance, economic transformation, and the best use of both human and natural capital.  While progress made on food security and good governance related to finances and natural resources are promising signs, more must be done.  The national agency for the financing of local authorities carries out its work with a view to fostering better distribution of wealth, he said, adding that vulnerable rural populations must be better protected.

PEDRO LUIS DA FONSECA, Minister for Economy and Planning of Angola, said that since 2016, his country has been addressing the economic and financial situation, and this year, implemented a macroeconomic stabilization plan.  It is counting on financial and technical support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said, drawing attention to short-term economic imbalances that must be solved through immediate-impact measures.  The Angola 2025 development strategy meanwhile outlines objectives to be considered during the current legislature, even if it is understood that implementation “has a determining factor” over time.  For each year of the present legislature, implementation of such programmes will correspond with the State budget.

ÁLVARO GARCÍA, Head of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay, citing examples from his country’s third voluntary national review, said gains have been made in reducing inequalities, promoting decent work, fostering economic growth and offering quality education.  Uruguay has also made strides in climate change mitigation.  Yet, no country alone can achieve the Goals, and partnerships must be forged to advance progress.  Incorporating the Goals in everyday life is also important, as the local level is critical in empowering people to make the changes required to realize the 2030 Agenda.  For its part, Uruguay will do all it can to work towards achieving these objectives.

NACI AĞBAL, Chief of Strategy and Budget of the Presidency of Turkey, said education is one of the main drivers of the 2030 Agenda, especially for the empowerment of people, inclusiveness and equality.  With 40 per cent of Turkey’s population under 24 years of age, the Government considers children and youth as its largest potential for development gains.  A priority policy area aims at ensuring access to inclusive and quality education.  Considering the link between Goals 4 and 8, he said education is one of the determinants that stimulate employment and economic growth.  To strengthen the interaction between education and the labour market, Turkey encourages collaborations between schools and businesses.  Turkey also has increased prosperity in all segments of society through social policies to, among other things, eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and ensure gender equality.  Hosting the highest number of refugees — 4 million — Turkey shares its resources to provide shelter, free health and education services, social protection and aid.  Inequality among countries is a concern that undermines hopes for sustainable development, and no country alone can address the challenges ahead, he said, noting Turkey’s $200 million annual contribution to least developed countries.

NORMA ALLEGRA CERRATO, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras, recalling that her country has submitted information about its progress to the High-Level Political Forum, said it is now setting up a National Commission for Agenda 2030.  “Our future depends on giving young people a quality education,” she said.  However, the country is experiencing an education crisis and, in response, it has developed a national action plan and six round tables.  It also established a task force to create new jobs, especially for young people, aimed at allowing youth to find the opportunities they seek inside Honduras.  In the wake of a series of droughts and floods, the Government also took action to address climate change.  Spotlighting the negative influence of violence in Honduras and across the wider region, she said the country — which has been the victim of the phenomena of drug supply and demand, to which it has contributed very little — has taken measures to combat crime and successfully brought down its murder rate.

MIGUEL ANGEL MOIR, Secretary of Planning and Programming of the Presidency of Guatemala, said successfully implementing development priorities calls for retooling and improving State institutions, while also closely engaging civil society and local authorities.  Countries require reliable data and statistics and should work within their wider regions to address transnational phenomena, including climate change and migration.  Calling for changes in economic and financial architectures, he said international cooperation — including deeper engagement with the private sector — must be increased and its efficiency improved.  “We must look at what States need, rather than just what is offered,” he stressed.

JUAN PABLO DE LAIGLESIA, Secretary of State for International Cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean of Spain, associating himself with the European Union, outlined some of his country’s plans and programmes aimed at implementing the various Sustainable Development Goals.  Among those, he spotlighted the National Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, a package of measures on energy and climate, a strategy for a just transition, a social economy strategy and an open Government plan.  Spain engages all actors in such programmes, he said, including civil society, the private sector, academia and the leadership of its regional Governments.  Drawing attention to the Seville Commitments on the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals — adopted at a high-level meeting held in that city in 2018 — he said Spain also engages closely with other European Union countries and has put in place a national sustainable development council.

KANG JEONG-SIK, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Republic of Korea, endorsing statements by the MIKTA partnership — which along with his own country includes Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and Australia — and by the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, said the world is not on track to meeting the Goals by 2030, as inequality is deepening within countries and conflict has intensified in many parts of the world.  The Republic of Korea embraces inclusiveness as a core value and impetus for sustainable development, notably through policies that expand access to social services, increase the minimum wage and enhance vocational training.  The country set up a monitoring mechanism adapted to its context and priorities, and enhanced global partnerships with a range of stakeholders, he said, noting that it plans to more than double its ODA by 2030.

ALEXANDER PANKIN, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said his country has 12 priority projects relating to health care, education, and economic growth.  The first results of the Russian Federation’s 2030 Agenda achievements will be presented next year, he said, adding that sustainable development cannot be realized without fully achieving the Goals on education and employment.  It is important — through information and communications technology development — to provide vocational training so that citizens are equipped and trained for the job market.  The fight against climate change requires a well-thought out solution.  He also cautioned that unilateral coercive measures are thwarting achievement of equality between and among countries.

NEZHA EL OUAFI, Secretary of State in charge for Sustainable Development of Morocco, reaffirmed her country’s full commitment to achieve the 2030 Agenda by its deadline.  “We believe that the 2030 Agenda, which takes into account all programmes and initiatives of the United Nations, including on climate change, is vital,” she said.  Calling on all States to participate and also provide support to ensure that all countries achieve the 2030 Agenda, she noted how Morocco is making progress, including through establishing a new Constitution.  On the economic front, Morocco has implemented several strategies and programmes in the areas of agriculture, fishing and tourism.  It is fighting all forms of discrimination against women.  On the environment, the country is implementing plans to recycle waste.

THONGPHANE SAVANPHET, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries to underscore his country’s focus on graduating from least developed country status.  To localize the Sustainable Development Goals, the Government has incorporated 60 per cent of their indicators into national development plans, created a communications plan to raise awareness and, along with United Nations agencies, organized stakeholder engagement workshops to raise awareness about the importance of such involvement in the Goals.  It also has performed data mapping on all localized Goal indicators so it can effectively allocate resources.

GILBERTO BARROS, Deputy Minister for Finance of Cabo Verde, said that his country remains firmly committed to implementing its Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development for 2017-2021, which is aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  The national plan sets out a vision of transformative change that would put Cabo Verde on the path to become a developed country by making its islands a Mid-Atlantic gateway.  The strategy is implemented in a way that ensures social inclusive and reduces inequalities.  Cabo Verde is fostering private investment to boost job creation and sustainable economic growth.  He noted various conferences and initiatives aimed at promoting growth in Cabo Verde, including by mobilizing private sector investment.  To achieve its goals, Cabo Verde will need support from development partners, he stressed.

ATANASKA NIKOLOVA, Deputy Minister for Environment and Water of Bulgaria, associating himself with the European Union, said investment in the Goals under review will yield significant benefits for the entire 2030 Agenda.  However, implementation of all the Goals must be considered across each dimension of sustainable development.  It is equally important to take into account human rights, gender equality, and efforts to both reduce inequalities and address climate change.  Describing Bulgaria’s efforts to implement Goal 13 (climate action), he said the transformation to a climate neutral society will only be possible with the participation of the whole society, engagement of public authorities and the private sector, and a change in behavior.  “We, the European Union countries, are determined to continue our work and lead the way,” he said, noting that Bulgaria’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 47 per cent in 2017, compared to the base year, and that its national adaptation strategy and action plan address the negative impacts of climate change.  Goal 4 (quality education) is among the top national priorities with efforts aimed at lowering the dropout rate and improving education for children with special learning needs.

RADZI JIDIN, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs of Malaysia, underlining his country’s commitment to inclusive sustainable development and empowering its people, said its national medium-term strategy provides all people a chance to benefit from economic development.  In recent decades, Malaysia has raised its population’s standard of living, increased employment opportunities and decreased the poverty rate from 50 per cent in 1970 to 0.4 per cent in 2016.  Describing the country’s Shared Prosperity Blueprint — which will be carried out through its various national development strategies — he also drew attention to its regional work within the context of ASEAN and spotlighted its goal of becoming “a developed nation in every sense of the word”.

NGUYEN VAN TRUNG, Deputy Minister for Planning and Investment of Viet Nam, said his country is currently taking measures to overcome its main development challenge: limited financial resources.  It is taking measures to effectively employ public investment and mobilize resources from the private sector and foreign sources.  Public investments are acting as catalysts to attract private investment.  Viet Nam will continue to improve its business environment to attract private investment and implement policies that encourage businesses to improve their competitiveness and technological capacity.  The country is also focusing on attracting quality foreign direct investment.

KAZIMIERZ KUBERSKI, Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy of Poland, said that in 2017 his Government adopted a strategy for responsible development which is oriented towards improving cohesion in the social, economic and environmental spheres.  “We are focused on the improvement of citizens’ standard of living,” he said, reaffirming:  “We consider this to be a long-term investment.”  Noting initiatives aimed at supporting poor and socially marginalized people, he said that in 2017 less than 18 per cent of the children in Poland lived in poverty due to social marginalization, a significant decline from almost 25 per cent in 2016.  “It is the greatest drop since 2004 and it is the lowest ratio in Poland’s history,” he said.  Poland is also improving disabled persons’ access to public space, goods and services.  The Government is committed to improving the economic well-being of its citizens and taking action to combat climate change.

FATHIMATH NIUMA, Deputy Minister for National Planning and Infrastructure of Maldives, said the Goals will be fully integrated throughout her country’s new 10-year development plan, which will soon be released.  In striving to correct malpractices by the previous Administration, the Government is working to improve accountability and transparency while strengthening governance and justice systems to ensure that democratic and human rights gains cannot be reversed.  While the economic challenges are many, the Government remains focused on building a sustainable, resilient and inclusive blue economy.  She warned, however, that for small island developing States like Maldives, a single natural disaster can bring the economy to its knees.  The international community must understand the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of small island developing States and speed up action on the meeting Paris Agreement commitments.

Mr. AL BLOOSHI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his Government’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is guided by its determination to embrace the future.  As such, “future-proofing” and quick adaptation to the world’s rapid technological change is a hallmark of its various development programmes and policies, which also prioritize the population’s happiness and well-being.  Drawing attention to the recently convened Abu Dhabi Summit on climate action, he said the opportunity for action in that arena lies in the business case for green energy.  It has been shown that climate action can not only drive forward economic growth, but also improve human health and well-being, he stressed, calling for those messages to be at the core of global collective climate action.

LASZLO BORBELY (Romania) said his country was the first member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to adopt a strong declaration for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level.  It submitted its voluntary national review to the High-Level Political Forum in 2018 and established an inter-ministerial committee, led by the Prime Minister, to help implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  The country is also working to establish a civil society coalition for sustainable development and partners closely with other European Union members, as well as other countries, on transnational issues.  Expressing support for the establishment of regional hubs for sustainable development action, he called for strong leadership and close collaboration between nations.  The September Sustainable Development Goals summit to be held in New York will be an important moment for the future, where States will have the chance to take the action needed to accelerate their implementation, he stressed, adding:  “Let’s do it.”

MALEEKA ALI BOKHARI, Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice of Pakistan, outlined her country’s various sustainable development plans as well as the institutions driving them forward.  Those include a national development agenda, local and regional monitoring units, a national Sustainable Development Goals framework, and task forces at the local level.  The recently-elected Government has fully embraced the responsibility of lifting millions of people out of poverty, she said, noting that for the first time it established a dedicated Ministry for Poverty Reduction.  Going forward, it plans to enact a multipronged strategy to reduce hunger, stunting and the other impacts of poverty, she said, adding that broad health-sector reforms are also under way.  As climate change is disrupting daily life and costing countries large sums of money, she said Pakistan is working to restore its depleted forests and put in place other nature-based solutions.

SEAN CANNEY, Minister of State in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment of Ireland, said that the adverse effects of climate change will be felt by the world’s most vulnerable.  Ireland continues to assist other countries in the areas of gender equality, humanitarian needs and response to climate change.  Ireland will continue to meet its responsibility globally, and will remain guided by empathy and courage.  The Sustainable Development Goals are a road map for “a future we all want by 2030”, he said.  Ireland helped guide the road to the 2030 Agenda and will continue have the same energy as Member States work to implement it. 

PUSPA RAJ KADEL, Vice-Chairman for the National Planning Commission of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the gaps within and among countries are huge and particularly crippling for countries in special situations.  Therefore, the international community must prioritize helping these Member States overcome their challenges.  Graduating from least developed country status remains a priority for Nepal.  Various programmes have been implemented to promote access to health care and education, particularly for the poor and marginalized.  The effects of climate change disproportionately affect Nepal despite the country not contributing in any way to the phenomenon.

OLGA KRENTOVSKA (Ukraine) said her country adopted a national human rights strategy in 2015 to resolve systematic issues related to inclusiveness and equality.  Its work is being carried out in the context of aggression by the Russian Federation, ongoing for more than five years, which has resulted in forced resettlement, job losses, income reduction and property loss for some 1.4 million Ukrainians.  In response, Ukraine adopted a Strategy of Integration of Internally Displaced Persons and Long-Term Solutions to Internal Displacement.  The country’s 2017 pension reform now plays an important role in overcoming poverty, with average pensions increased by 70 per cent in the last three years.  Among other strides, she drew attention to economic deregulation, labour law improvements, small- and medium-sized enterprise development and enhanced social dialogue, as well as education reforms.

KARLA WURSTEROVÁ, Director General of International Organizations, Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, said her country has integrated the 2030 Agenda into its long-term development framework, but it cannot implement all of the Sustainable Development Goals to their fullest potential.  Instead, Slovakia is focusing on several areas, including education, biodiversity protection, carbon neutrality and reducing disparities.  “To be frank, we are not achieving our financial target for the ODA,” she said, adding that the Government has taken steps to mobilize the public and private sector by strengthening partnerships with businesses using new approaches and tools.  Education has been selected as the national priority, with efforts aimed at improving quality and raising enrolment rates.  Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is a paramount, ambitious target that touches everyone.  The only way forward is to develop new business models, she said, noting that Slovakia supports initiatives on environmentally sustainable economy, water management and averting climate change effects.  “Time waits for no one,” she said, adding:  “The cost of inaction is increasing by the day and the chances of achieving some of our goals are already at risk.”

UDAYA RANJITH SENEVIRATNE (Sri Lanka) said his Government has laid a strong foundation to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including by enacting legislation and establishing a dedicated council for that purpose.  Its priorities include policy coherence and stakeholder engagement, he said, describing strong progress on Goals 3 (good health, well-being) and 4 (quality education) — including free access to health care and strides made in improving the engagement of vulnerable groups.  In addition, Sri Lanka has put forward a nationally determined contribution to climate change goals, despite having contributed little to the phenomenon.  The Government is also combating corruption, illicit financial flows and terrorist financing, he said, expressing his country’s willingness to share its experiences in those areas with other nations.

AMADOU LAMINE GUISSE, Secretary General of the Ministry for Environment and Sustainable Development of Senegal, said that while countries have seen some progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda, it has been slow and unequal.  Senegal’s commitment to implementing the Agenda is enshrined in its Emerging Senegal plan, which focuses on social cohesion and inclusion through revenue support to 400,000 households, and access to health care and basic infrastructure, notably for water and energy, for those living in rural areas.  It has also focused on education, vocational and university training, and works to create new jobs for women and young people.  When faced with the challenges of climate change, Senegal has built its resilience and established new partnerships in such areas as renewable energy and fighting coastal erosion.