Remarks by Ms. Lizbeth Cullity Resident Coordinator of the United Nations at the Launching of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), FAO Conference Room, Apia

Sep 28, 2015

Honourable Acting Prime Minister, Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo

Honoraurable Ministers,


Distinguished Guests, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you all for joining us today. 

It is a priviledge to celebrate with you the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals. Today, is one for the history books.

During the three-day Summit held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 25-27 September, more than 100 Heads of State officially adopted the historic new agenda entitled: “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. 

The new development agenda is bold and transformational and includes seventeen goals. 

As the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: “The agenda is a roadmap to ending global poverty, building a life of dignity for all and leaving no one behind. It is also a clarion call to work in partnership and intensify efforts to share prosperity, empower people’s livelihoods, ensure peace and heal our planet for the benefit of this and future generations.”

But let me briefly emphasise the main differences between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals.  

First, the emerging 2030 Agenda is a universal one and is relevant to countries at all stages of development. Historically, “global” development frameworks have only applied to middle and low-income countries with high-income countries only entering the scene to foot the bill. 

Yet, the universal nature of the Sustainable Development Goals identifies the shared challenges that countries face at the national level. The goals belong to every country of the world and recognize that high-income countries are not immune to, for example, social unrest, governance challenges, decent job creation and ensuring inclusive growth. The agenda also shifts our view towards common challenges such as addressing climate change and improving international financial stability. It seeks to promote shared solutions in an inter-connected world.

Indeed, one of the post-2015 framework’s greatest contributions could be to enable the international community to move beyond the old North-South dichotomy.

This is a profound conceptual pivot. 

Second, the Millennium Development Goals were critiqued by developing countries as an externally imposed, top-down agenda. This time around, significant efforts have been made to ensure that the new framework is informed by a participatory process based on consultations with citizens, civil society, the private sector, international agencies, and governments. The agenda was negotiated through an inter-governmental process and this should mean, in theory, that the goals are, for the most part, universally owned.

Third, the Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals but are more ambitious and go much further as they include areas that were not in the MDGs, such as inequalities, multi-dimentional poverty, environmental degradation, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice for all. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are not a mere extension of the previous eight goals as they capture the broad complexity of sustainable development. The world has changed since the MDGs were conceived and the challenges we face at the global and the national level are shared and entangled in nature. 

The Sustainable Development Goals represent a new development paradigm. 

Fourth, the new agenda poses significant additional challenges in terms of tracking progress in all countries, for all people. The sheer breadth of the agenda, plus the welcome call to leave no one behind, means that we will have to change the way we support governments (and others) to produce, make available, and analyze data. The United Nations is fully committed to strengthening data collection in key areas, as well as improving the quality and availability of data for implementing and monitoring the development agenda. 

The new global agenda is taking on big challenges but as Helen Clark, Chair of the United Nations Development Group pointed out: “There is no time to lose. The alternative is to face a world characterized by even more turmoil and instability than the troubled world we live in today.”

Let’s work together for the people and the planet.  

Join the effort to transform our world by 2030.

Thank you.

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