Because if they do not, then we are doomed to fail to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (for which only 104 months are left). The clock is ticking but governments from around the world, who are convening at the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) seem to be regurgitating old timid commitments and shying away from taking bold decisions. The Covid-19 pandemic and cascading humanitarian crises warrant governments to adopt a strong enough Ministerial Declaration at HLPF 2021 which is critical for progressing towards a resilient recovery post-pandemic as well as for SDGs. The Ministerial Declaration is a major outcome of the HLPF, but sadly our governments failed to adopt one last year. The price of inaction for not taking genuinely transformative actions globally will not only be regressive, but will also worsen the already existing inequalities and injustices for the majority of the people.
“Adding to the existing crises of sustainability and climate, rapid biodiversity loss, inequality and poverty traps for low and middle income countries, Covid-19 pandemic has given a serious blow not only to the economic and social sectors but also to whatever little (and howsoever fractured) progress was made so far towards achieving the SDGs. The HLPF presents an acid test for the governments to walk-the-talk on multilateralism, political ambition and courage to take a step forward from usual intergovernmental rigmarole to make good on the promise of Agenda 2030” said Wardarina, Co-Chair of Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM), and Ajay Jha of AP-RCEM. Wardarina and Ajay were also speaking to CNS (Citizen News Service) on behalf of members of the Global Coordination Committee of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders of the HLPF.
The HLPF shoulders the responsibility to help the current highly unsustainable world navigate its way to eradicate poverty and hunger, and ensure ecological balance by 2030. To achieve this, it is an absolute imperative that the governments at the HLPF adopt a strong Ministerial Declaration this year to address these issues effectively.
Even before the pandemic, a large majority of the global population was reeling under the severe impact of deep rooted injustices and inequalities. The promise of SDGs by the world leaders does provide a direction towards sustainable development where “no one is left behind”, but it fails to address the real problems that plague our people and our planet. “We are extremely concerned with consistent refusal to address the systemic barriers (climate change, seeking infinite growth from extractivist economies, unequal power relations engendering unsustainable debt and illicit financial flow, patriarchy as a political tool, corporate capture of the governance, development and sustainability agenda and its implications on the fulfillment and respect of human rights, among others)” said Wardarina and Ajay Jha.
The pandemic is not an excuse for the governments for inaction. It actually heightens the urgency for governments at the HLPF to come out with a strong political (Ministerial) Declaration which addresses:
Equitable universal free access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatment: HLPF should encourage countries to recognize ongoing efforts to take vaccines out of the patent regime (including those at the World Trade Organization or WTO) and make efforts to remove other impediments related to infrastructure and capacity gaps, resistance of the vaccine manufacturers, embargo and trade-related restrictions on raw materials, and facilitating movement and distribution of vaccines. It is also important that vaccine related requirements do not impose universal coercive measures and otherwise adversely affect movement of essential goods and supplies, and mobility of migrants and other travellers.
Poverty and hunger eradication: The impact of Covid-19 necessitates an urgent stronger action towards ending poverty and hunger, and is certainly not an excuse to dump or slacken efforts towards these essential goals.
Means of Implementation: The target of 0.7% of the Gross National Income of the developed countries made 52 years ago in the 1970 Resolution of the UN General Assembly (which was reiterated in the Monterrey Consensus 2002 and Addis Ababa Action Agenda 2015) is not sufficient today to rid the world of poverty. The USD 100 billion too is equally insufficient to prevent the climate crisis and its impacts. Developing countries face a financing gap of USD 2.5-3 trillion every year through 2030. Full range of means of implementation, including aid, finance, trade, technology transfer and capacity building, needs to be deployed besides addressing systemic barriers like addressing asymmetry in global power relations, debt sustainability, preventing illicit finance flow, among others.
Climate crisis: The looming climate emergency is making it almost impossible to achieve the SDGs. Several parts of the world are reeling under record-breaking heat waves. Corporate Accountability rightly points out that far from signifying climate ambition, the phrase “net zero” is being used by a majority of polluting governments and corporations to evade responsibility, shift burdens, disguise climate inaction, and in some cases even to scale up fossil fuel extraction, burning and emissions. The term is used to greenwash business-as-usual or even business-more-than-usual. Emissions have only reduced slightly and are already claiming a comeback. The countries have agreed to awfully inadequate contributions as part of the global climate treaty negotiations (formally called United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC), which fail to respond to an ever raging crisis. The HLPF Ministerial Declaration must be an additional opportunity (besides the UNFCCC process) to bring countries together on progressive ideas and real solutions.
Science technology and Innovation: It is an important reminder that public money was invested majorly in the research and development of treatments for major diseases, for example, TB, HIV as well as Covid-19 vaccines. Governments must not get trapped in the narrow narrative of science, technology and innovation that is propelled by the private sector. Instead it must recognize a broader understanding of science, technology and innovation, that includes wide knowledge systems developed on centuries of experience by indigenous populations, women, farmers, among others. Profiteering from illness has to end.
The United Nations is an intergovernmental platform, but the people of the world must remain its primary focus. A response that restores faith in multilateralism, and the SDGs which are grounded in the ecological balance and human rights, should be central to all recovery and restoration efforts.
If governments of our countries truly want to address the real problems confronting our people and our planet (including the pandemic), they must unanimously adopt a strong Ministerial Declaration at HLPF 2021.
Shobha Shukla – CNS (Citizen News Service)
(Shobha Shukla is the award-winning founding Managing Editor and Executive Director of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate. She is a former senior Physics faculty of prestigious Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Regional Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media). Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla)