Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Business Forum, in New York on 17 July:
I am delighted to join you for this important gathering. Organized for the third time, the SDG Business Forum has become an annual milestone to support business action and partnerships to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this third year of implementation, there are encouraging signs of progress. The hope that accompanied its adoption in 2015 is still with us.
The Sustainable Development Goals have captured the imagination of leaders and general public alike. Member States are showing strong ownership of the Agenda, and are aligning their plans and strategies accordingly. We are seeing new champions stepping up, seeking to set the world on a path towards a more inclusive globalization.
At the same time, we know the clock is ticking. Not only are we still suffering from many protracted conflicts, but new ones have arisen, along with complex humanitarian crises and mass movements of refugees and displaced persons. Inequality remains alarmingly high, the impacts of climate change are worsening, and environmental degradation is deepening, threatening our long-term sustainability. For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased. The number of people living in slums increased. Young people remain three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And discrimination against women remains pervasive.
Such challenges and obstacles drive home a cardinal point for all of us: the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved by Governments alone. To address the needs of the most vulnerable in communities around the world, we need a bolder approach to partnership, a dynamically engaged business community, and new forms of sustainability financing. That is why it is very encouraging to see businesses responding to the 2030 Agenda at an unprecedented scale. Many businesses are aligning their business plans with the Sustainable Development Goals, more and more private sector representatives are part of Member States’ official delegations to the United Nations, and in some countries the private sector is taking a central role in national SDG implementation.
The participation of prominent CEOs and business representatives here today shows the growing private sector interest in “making the SDGs everyone’s business”. Businesses contribute to the 2030 Agenda in important ways: as engines of employment; through technological innovation; as sources of finance; and with market-based solutions that bring opportunities for women, young people and vulnerable groups. The private sector brings both agility in delivery and new approaches to SDG implementation. We are also seeing markets integrating environmental, social and governance factors into business models, and investors promoting disclosure of the sustainability profile of firms in which they invest.
However, much remains to be done to unlock the full power of business as a force for good. Initiatives by many companies and sectors do not yet amount to the systemic change that is needed to transform economies and societies — including the empowerment of women. Long-term perspectives and supportive regulatory frameworks will be crucial in taking advantage of the tremendous investment opportunities being opened up by the SDGs.
As a fundamental first step on their sustainability journeys, we need companies to ensure they are doing business responsibly, in alignment with United Nations values and the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact. An overall commitment to doing business responsibly is one of the most powerful contributions companies can make to the 2030 Agenda.
The United Nations has a critical role to play in bringing all stakeholders together. We provide a global platform for reviewing SDG implementation, for peer learning and for catalysing multi-stakeholder partnerships. One key challenge I hope we can address together is the large financing gap, in terms of both public and private resources and investments.
With that in mind, the Secretary-General will host a High-Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda in September to build momentum around key actions and initiatives by Governments, business and the international community. The meeting will focus on aligning global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda; enhancing sustainable financing strategies; and seizing the potential of new technologies and the digital revolution to provide equitable access to finance.
We will take the outcome of your discussions today into account as we move forward with preparations. Together, let us continue to use the SDG Business Forum to encourage action where it is needed, towards our common goal of delivering on the SDGs. Thank you for your engagement.