Month: September 2015

Great Expectations: The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot

Reflections by HE Dr Ion Jinga, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 21.09.2015

“Great Expectations”, Charles Dickens’ famous novel set in early Victorian England, in a time of great social changes, is about the desire of people for wealth and social development. Dickens’s themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.

“Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” is not a novel, but a United Nations comprehensive document about “leaving no one behind” in an ambitious horizon of 15 years. Its aim is to eradicate poverty. It links the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) to peace and security, the rule of law and access to justice. From this perspective, it is about how the good can triumph over the evil.

During the last week of September, New York will be the undisputed capital of the world, with an unprecedented gathering of 108 head of states, 50 prime ministers, 38 foreign ministers and 3 vice-presidents, as heads of the national delegations attending the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 Development Agenda (the 2030 Agenda) and the 70th session of the General Assembly. Romania will be represented at the highest political level, by President Klaus Iohannis. This is a confirmation of the important role the UN and multilateral diplomacy play in our foreign policy.

Born after more than three years of intense negotiations and from the need to ensure that the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals formulated in 2000 was carried forward, the 2030 Agenda would be universally applicable, while recognizing national circumstances, different levels of development and the needs of countries in special situations. It is the first global development agenda to be fully negotiated by member states.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that “”This agenda marks a paradigm shift in tackling emerging challenges.” It requires all of us to commit to eradicating extreme poverty, fighting inequality, empowering women and girls, protecting our natural resources, improving governance, encouraging sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and focusing our collective efforts to ensure that those most in need get an equal chance in life.

The UN 2030 Agenda may be imperfect, but it is indispensable. There can be no substitute for the UN legitimacy or its potential to mobilize the widest possible coalitions. There is no better alternative to the UN framework to sharing the costs of social and economic development, environment protection, peace operations and humanitarian missions.

The United Nations has saved millions of lives from wars, deepest poverty, diseases and starvation. It boosted health and education across the world. It helps rebuild shattered societies, lay the foundations of democracy and create conditions in which people can live in dignity. Today, the UN is a multi-billion dollar enterprise facing greater demands than ever, in more places than ever.

Some people may consider the organization is expensive, but the total UN spending in 2015 is still only about half of New York City’s budget. The global economic crisis, the multiplication of threats posed to the international peace and security by violent extremism, the refugee crises, all these show why we need a renewed multilateralism. Paraphrasing the former president of Harvard University Derek Bok, who once said “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”, the choice we have now is between engagement within the UN and the isolation.

As the President of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, remarked: “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a seminal, in fact, revolutionary universal agreement befitting this anniversary year. And a welcome gift to a world beset by war and humanitarian crises, sectarianism and violent extremism, by poverty and inequalities, by climate change and environmental degradation.”

With 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets set for the period 2016-2030, the 2030 Agenda could become a triumph for multilateralism, if it will be followed by concrete implementation. Great expectations reclaim great responsibilities. It is up to our political leaders to move towards that vision, through a spirit of global solidarity.