18-22 September 2023
Marking the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda, the SDG Summit and the Climate Ambition Summit aimed to provide renewed impetus for accelerating the pace of change in the fields of sustainable development and climate action, respectively. The 27th IEF Annual Conference was planned as virtual events in association with the UN Summits.
Monday 18 September 2023
Sustainable Development Goals Summit
The high-level dignitaries assembled for UN Summits Week hoped to witness a renewed global resolve to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the halfway point since its adoption in 2015.
With the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 showing that only 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track to be met, the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) underscored the need for transformative action and invited Member States to announce bold commitments during the SDG Summit.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres asserted that the 2030 Agenda is not a promise among diplomats but a promise to all people to “build a world of health and progress, leave no one behind–and pay for it.” Emphasizing the SDGs need a global rescue plan, he called for a stimulus plan of USD 500 billion per year for SDG implementation. He also proposed an effective debt relief mechanism and urged reforming the “outdated, dysfunctional, and unfair” international financial architecture.
Delegates then adopted the Political Declaration, whose negotiation was co-facilitated over the course of several months by Qatar and Ireland, and which will be presented to the UNGA for consideration.
The opening segment continued with statements by groups of Member States. Many noted the trajectory taken by governments to reach the SDGs has been hampered by external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and mounting climate change impacts. Others pointed out that progress on the SDGs had stalled well before the pandemic.
Developing countries underscored that increasing indebtedness and unfavourable lending conditions have impeded their capacity to pursue sustainable development. They urged reforming the international finance architecture. Small island states advocated for using the multidimensional vulnerability index to account for more than just income-based criteria in assessing eligibility for concessional finance.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called upon leaders to restore the promise that “tomorrow will be better for all than today.”
High-level dignitaries and stakeholder representatives then engaged in four Leaders’ Dialogues on:
• Scaling up actions on key transitions to accelerate SDG progress;
• Building resilience and leaving no one behind;
• Applying science, technology, innovation, and data for transformative action; and
• Strengthening integrated policies and public institutions for achieving the SDGs.
Throughout the day, various speakers emphasized the need to rebuild trust between countries and fight misinformation.
Tuesday 19 September 2023
At UN Headquarters, leaders continued their exchange on how to reinvigorate and accelerate action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the context of the second and last day of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit.
Leaders’ dialogues focused on:
• strengthening the multilateral system for enhanced support, cooperation, follow-up, and review; and
• the mobilization of finance and investments and the means of implementation for SDG achievement.
Delegates emphasized that the relevance of the UN depends on its capacity to respond to global challenges. They converged on the need to mobilize resources to support developing countries’ sustainable development efforts. Many called for better harnessing science and technology to accelerate action.
Amid broad agreement on the need to reform the international financial architecture, discussions touched upon redirecting International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), increasing concessional finance, de-risking private investment, and tax reforms to enhance developing countries’ domestic resources.
During the closing segment, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called upon leaders to make the most of the discussions held at the Summit by focusing on seven key areas:
• mobilizing at least USD 500 billion for sustainable development per year, ideally with the help of a leaders’ group to outline concrete steps to get funding flowing in 2024;
• shifting the focus of Voluntary National Reviews towards accountability of commitments made at the Summit;
• strengthening support for food security, energy, digitalization, education, social protection and decent jobs, and biodiversity;
• bringing to life the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection;
• fulfilling the goal of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) for official development assistance (ODA) in 2024;
• using the next IMF meeting to accelerate progress, including through recapitalization, rechanneling of SDRs, restructuring debt on longer and more affordable terms, and developing concrete proposals for a reform of the global finance architecture in time for the Summit of the Future in 2024; and
• arriving at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) with concrete plans to support developing countries in achieving a just transition to renewable energy and to operationalize the loss and damage fund.
“This development to-do list is not just homework, it is hope work” Guterres underscored, calling for leadership and for countries to take these discussions to heart when preparing their national budgets for 2024.
Take aways from the two-day SDG Summit
The international community is realizing more than ever “how interconnected we are, and how much work we have to continue to do”. There is an urgent need to end poverty and hunger, ensure access to health care and quality education, promote gender equality and human rights, protect the environment and build sustainable infrastructure.
Current actions are not sufficient: The Group of 20 (G20) is accountable for more than 80 percent of global emissions but are likely to reduce emissions only by 10 percent by 2030, against the desired 50 percent.
There is a high need for action, ambition, collaboration and timeliness.
There is a need for an overhaul of the global financial architecture. Developing countries, especially those in Africa, are forced to focus on debt management instead of development. Lending countries and institutions should take radical steps in debt cancellation.
There is a need to fulfill funding commitments.
There is a need for access to technology.
Without dialogue and trust among States, it would not be possible to overcome the issues that loom over humanity.
Tuesday 19 September
A Second Charter: Imagining a Renewed United Nations
Global Governance Forum 3 side events at BIC Offices
Peace and Security
The experts who explored the most essential purpose of the UN noted that the UN was at a cliff edge with warfare taking on new forms, arms control failing, increasing violence, assaults on the biosphere, and nuclear war so likely that we should plan for what to do the day after. There were references to the war on nature, and the need for environment to become the fourth pillar of the UN Charter, with an anchor institution for the global environment. Security includes healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature. The problem is with the great powers emitting 80 percent of greenhouse gases and unwilling to change behaviour, but small states with thought leadership can bring change.
This session noted the UN failures in poverty reduction, addressing planetary boundaries, and climate change management, with the UN too far from the grassroots. Science and technology should be used for human security and well-being, not just profit. Since all the problems are interrelated, the UN should think in terms of dimensions rather than pillars. Continuing failures have disillusioned the youth about their future, who need to be offered hope and some reason to trust. We need both rapid action on urgent issues addressing social good, and efforts at longer-term Charter reform
UN Charter Reform
We are good at diagnosis of the polycrisis and the failure to maintain peace, but need collective action on UN reform. The UN Charter does not represent sovereign equality but the dominance of the winners of WWII, with no voice for the South, provisions never applied, and the veto used without justification. However in a fragmented world, it is hard to see where agreement on change would be possible, and a gradual approach may be needed. The SOTF and the use of article 109 on Charter revision might open doors to reform as proposed in the Second Charter initiative.
Wednesday 20 September
Accelerating Climate Action
Amid the busy UN Summits Week, Heads of State and Government and other leaders convened for a full day of discussions on pathways towards accelerated climate action and increased ambition.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres reminded delegates that “humanity has opened the gates of hell,” leaving current levels of climate action “dwarfed by the scale of the challenge.” He stressed that the world’s poorest nations have a “right to be angry” about lagging ambition, lacking climate finance, and skyrocketing costs of borrowing.
Words of Antonio Guterres
Humanity has opened the gates of hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods; sweltering temperatures spawning disease; and thousands are fleeing in fear as historic fires rage.
Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8°C temperature rise — towards a dangerous and unstable world.
But, the future is not fixed. It is for leaders like you to write it. We can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C. We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs and affordable clean power for all.
But, if we are to meet the 1.5°C limit and protect ourselves from climate extremes, climate champions, particularly in the developing world, need solidarity, they need support and they need global leaders to take action. Action to reduce emissions.
We need a transformation to rebuild trust. Governments must push the global financial system towards supporting climate action. That means putting a price on carbon, and overhauling the business models of multilateral development banks so that they leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries.
All parties must operationalize the loss and damage fund at the twenty-eighth UN Climate Change Conference. Developed countries must meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund and double adaptation funding. And everyone must be covered by an early warning system by 2027 — by implementing the action plan we launched last year.
At the same time, my Acceleration Agenda calls for business and financial institutions to embark on true net-zero pathways. Shady pledges have betrayed the public trust. Shamefully, some companies have even tried to block the transition to net zero — using wealth and influence to delay, distract and deceive.
Highlights from leaders’ statements included:
• calls for negotiating a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty;
• updates on the development of Joint Energy Transition Partnerships;
• announcements of earlier dates for phasing out fossil fuels;
• criticisms of fossil fuel companies’ deceit and inaction;
• appetite for reigning in corporate greenwashing and enhancing the credibility of net-zero commitments; and
• resolve to recapitalize the Green Climate Fund in the context of its second replenishment.
Several speakers said the outcome of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement should serve as a course correction to achieve the 1.5°C target. Momentum seemed to be growing to adopt a goal to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030.
Developing countries and others underscored their support for the UN Secretary-General’s “Early Warning for All” initiative, with several offering to share lessons learned through South-South cooperation.
Solidarity was a theme of discussions on decarbonization, as well. Governments offered to share experience in emissions trading schemes, recognizing the need for all possible sources of finance. High-emitting industries like steel and cement were a target for raising ambition.
As the day’s discussions concluded, Guterres listened to the key messages of the day and reflected that leaders had helped to turn ambition to hope. Addressing those who had been featured as “climate doers,” he asked them to keep going: scale up action, bring more people together, and “take no prisoners.”
Wednesday 20 September
One-Year-to-Go to the SOTF
A C4UN-led Strategy Session
The Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN), co-coordinated by Dan Perell of BIC, organised a discussion of concrete steps in the coming year to maximise the potential of the Summit of the Future (SOTF) in September 2024. They have prepared an Open Letter for Strengthening the United Nations which is open for signatures. The session discussed:
1. Ensuring coherence of processes: SDG Summit → SotF → 2nd World Social Summit
2. Utilizing the Open Letter for Strengthening the United Nations between now and 24 October 2023, plus possible additional Open Letter initiatives in February and June 2024.
3. The Summit of the Future is in September, possible Nairobi meeting in May, negotiations likely to start in January, appointments of co-facilitators by Oct 31.
4. Finalizing the People's Pact for the Future (PPF), convening another, multi-track Road to the SOTF e-Consultation.
5. Convening a new round of Regional Futures Forums and country and community-focused dialogues.
6. Engaging youth and former heads of state/UN agency leaders (Club de Madrid, Group of Women Leaders, and The Elders).
7. Nairobi UN-Civil Society Conference proposed for May.
8. Expanding the reach of the periodic SOTF Information Bulletin.
9. Global Policy Dialogues (in Africa and Asia) and related policy research from a diverse generation of scholars, Road to the Summit breakfast series, HLPF side events, CSW, Global People’s Assembly…etc?
Thursday 21 September
Preparatory Ministerial Meeting for the Summit of the Future
This ministerial meeting prepared for the September 2024 Summit of the Future, which marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance global cooperation to tackle critical challenges, address gaps in global governance, reaffirm existing commitments, including to the SDGs and the United Nations Charter, and make a multilateral system better positioned to positively impact people’s lives.
Major global shocks in recent years – including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and the triple planetary crisis, among others – have challenged our international institutions. Unity around our shared principles and common goals is both crucial and urgent.
Building on the SDG Summit in 2023, Member States will consider ways to lay the foundations for more effective global cooperation that can deal with today’s challenges as well as new threats in the future. An action-oriented Pact for the Future will be endorsed by Heads of State/Government at the Summit, showcasing global solidarity for current and future generations. See Summit of the Future: What would it deliver?.
Climate Governance Commission
CGC Statement Governing our Planetary Emergency issued 18 September.
Side event at BIC offices 21 September, chaired by IEF member Maja Groff
This high-level session with Climate Governance Commission members at the Bahá’í International Community offices was chaired by commission convenor and IEF member Maja Groff. It presented the main lines of the Statement just issued that will be developed in the CGC report before COP28 later this year. The discussion explored how to involve the public in holding countries and their leaders accountable for the gaps in pollution action and governance. Following the report there will need to be working groups on long-term transformation and education. Efforts need to be grounded in nature and encourage hope in all the positive movements going forward. A Mobilizing an Earth Governance Alliance (MEGA), in which IEF is active, will be launched in November.
SOURCE in part:
IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin Highlights https://enb.iisd.org/un-summits-week-2023
Last updated 30 September 2023