The loss of confidence and trust between people and Governments, multilateral institutions and international organizations highlighted the paradox that problems were increasingly global in nature and could not be solved by individual countries, participants heard today, as the ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development got under way.
Globalization and progress had dramatically increased global trade and wealth and the number of absolute poor had declined, but it was also true that inequality had increased, stressed António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his opening statement, as the Council began its annual three-day segment with a series of reports, presentations and a ministerial-level general debate.
Calling the large number of people who had been left behind and the severe challenges brought on by high unemployment serious obstacles to development, the Secretary-General said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aimed at a fair globalization and to create conditions for people to trust again; not only in political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and international organizations like the United Nations.
Urging leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, he emphasized that the green economy was becoming the economy of the future, and that green business was good business. Those that did not embrace that trend stood to lose or would fail to gain economic leadership in the years to come, he warned.
Pointing to the eminent fourth industrial revolution, he called on leaders to anticipate trends and work together to move away from being reactive in order to foresee what was coming and tailor investment accordingly. In that context, reform must take place at all levels, including within the United Nations development system. Only by working together would leaders be able to rebuild the trust that was needed to ensure the fair globalization that the world so desperately needed, he added.
“We have arrived at a period of unprecedented and stunning inequality,” declared Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, in a keynote address. Global output this year was estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at $127 trillion, an average of $17,000 per each man, woman and child. That sum was enough to end poverty, ensure universal access to health care and quality education, and provide the investments needed to transition to climate-responsible policies. Yet, startling challenges persisted, he said, emphasizing that money that went to finance war and conflict could easily fund sustainable development for every person on the planet.
Spotlighting the world’s powerful coal, oil, and gas lobby, he warned: “It will kill the planet if it survives in its current form.” In that context, he urged the super-rich who resisted taxation and managed the levers of power to accept their responsibilities. “There seems to be no limit to the greed,” he lamented, noting that despite the extraordinary wealth in the world, 1 billion people still struggled to survive every day.
Indeed, the world was facing challenging and turbulent times, said Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, who noted that although the prevalence of extreme poverty had steadily declined in recent decades, the total number of people living in extreme poverty — more than 767 million in 2013 — remained unacceptably high. Inequality among and within countries remained deep; conflicts, t