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Sustainable Development Goals, ongoing war in Ukraine to be in focus at UN General Assembly

Experts continue to warn about the climate crisis but calls for action are being drowned out by political inertia.

Sustainable Development Goals, ongoing war in Ukraine to be in focus at UN General Assembly

An aerial view shows rescue teams searching for dead bodies at a beach, in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya September 17, 2023. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili

NEW YORK: Global leaders will gather in New York City in the United States this week with hopes of getting United Nations targets back on track to achieve a more prosperous and equitable world.

The Sustainable Development Goals summit will be one of the headline events at this year’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) as the international community takes stock of the target they had set in 2015.

The two-day summit will mark the halfway point for the Sustainable Development Goals – 17 targets to hit by 2030 that seek to address climate change, cut poverty, tackle inequality, and create a more prosperous world.

The progress check will take place against the backdrop of the effects of climate change that have been keenly felt globally. 

For instance, eight significant flooding events have happened around the world in just 11 days in September, wreaking havoc and taking lives in countries including Libya, Greece and China.

Issued ahead of the UNGA, an annual report that combines input and expertise from 18 organisations found that only 15 per cent of of the Sustainable Development Goals are on track.

The United in Science report makes a systematic examination of the impact of climate change and extreme weather on the goals. It illustrates how weather, climate and water-related sciences can advance aims such as food and water security, clean energy, better health, sustainable oceans and resilient cities.


Experts continue to warn about the climate crisis but calls for action are being drowned out by political inertia.

“The climate crisis is worsening dramatically but the collective response is lacking in ambition, credibility, and urgency,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a news conference earlier this month at the UN office in India’s capital New Delhi, where the Group of Twenty (G20) summit was being held.

Dr Astra Bonini, senior sustainable development officer at the Division for Sustainable Development Goals at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said:

“Progress has been set back significantly in recent years. This is in part due to the lingering drag of the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest level of armed conflict globally since 1945, and climate-related disasters as well as inflation and the rising cost of living.”

The ongoing war in Ukraine, pandemic preparedness and the climate crisis will also be in sharp focus at the meeting.

Roughly 100 heads of state and nearly 50 heads of government are expected to address members of the international community at the UNGA this year. While Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be in attendance, Ukraine’s President Volodmyr Zelenskyy is expected to attend.


UN Security Council members will convene to discuss the war in Ukraine.

Analysts see the UNGA as an opportunity to resurrect the Black Sea Grain Initiative which allowed Ukraine, one of the breadbaskets of the world,  to export commercial food and fertiliser from three key ports in the Black Sea.

The landmark diplomatic deal brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, which helped facilitate the export of nearly 33 million tons of grain from Ukrainian ports for about a year, collapsed in July this year. 

“The fact that all these leaders are going to be talking to each other so that Putin is going to hear ‘here’s why his decision to back out of this is posing real harm in the developing world’ –  this can only be thought of as a good thing,” said Professor Martin Edwards from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University.

The breakdown in the deal has stoked fears of a global food crisis, as it delivered grain to some of the world’s most food-insecure countries including Yemen, Ethiopia and  Somalia.

Source: CNA/ja(dn)


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