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United Nations

The road to dignity

by Hans Dembowski

In brief

Ban Ki-moon in Nairobi in the autumn.

Ban Ki-moon in Nairobi in the autumn.

In December, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon published a synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda. It stresses the urgency of “ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet”.

The first page spells out a stark ­alternative: “With our globalised economy and sophisticated technology, we can decide to end the age-old ills of extreme poverty and hunger. Or we can continue to degrade our planet and allow intolerable inequalities to sow bitterness and despair.” The title of the document is “The road to dignity”.

Ban states that this year is crucial because UN conferences are set to:  

  • decide on issues of development finance in Addis Ababa in July,
  • agree a list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in September, and
  • conclude an agreement on climate protection in Paris in December.

The report emphasises that the topics are inter-related. According to it, the debate on the SDGs has progressed fast and promisingly since it began at the Rio+20 summit in 2012. Ban implicitly endorses the SDG list that was proposed by the UN’s Open Working Group in summer (see box below). He neither suggests to take an item off the agenda, nor to add one. The final decisions will be taken by the special summit in New York this year.  

To transform the global community, more is needed than goals. Accordingly, Ban calls for mechanisms to monitor progress and review policies at national and international levels, adding that statistical capacities must be improved for this purpose (also see D+C/E+Z 2014/12, p. 450). In regard to finance, Ban makes several points, including the following:

  • Official development assistance (ODA) will stay important, and should increasingly be directed to the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
  • All donor nations should fulfil the old pledge of spending 0.7 % of GNP on ODA, while emerging markets must increasingly assume roles as donors.
  • There is a need for a coherent framework for ODA and climate finance.
  • More needs to be done in terms of restructuring sovereign debt in a transparent, orderly and participatory way.
  • Illicit financial flows must be tackled.

According to the document, all countries must have access to environment-friendly technology, and intellectual property rights must not become insurmountable obstacles. Tackling climate change is stated to be particularly urgent because global warming exacerbates all other threats humankind faces.


Proposed SDGs

Ban Ki-moon’s synthesis report reconfirms the list of Sustainable Development Goals that was proposed by UN’s Open Working Group. It includes 17 goals and more than 120 indicators. The goals are:
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security
and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote ­well-being for all at all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long ­learning opportunities for all
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6.   Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7.   Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8.   Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9.   Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption
and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16. Promote peaceful and inclusive so­cieties for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development