Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the launch of the World Economic Forum’s UpLink Initiative, in New York on 25 September:
It has been four years since the ground-breaking adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a few metres away, right here at the United Nations. These past two days we have gathered again to take stock of our progress at the SDG Summit. We are not where we need to be. We are, in fact, off track. Global hunger is on the rise. Almost 500 million people could remain in extreme poverty by 2030. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.
One thing that is abundantly clear is that a globalization that is inclusive will need technology. The accelerating emergence of new technologies offers the potential to advance sustainable development and meet the needs of a fast-changing world. But there are also risks on the horizon that must be navigated, particularly around labour dislocation and the exacerbation of existing inequalities. We already see that many new technologies and services based on artificial intelligence mainly benefit those who have the most, leaving behind those who are already worse off or even putting them more at risk.
With this in mind, the Secretary-General and I both echo the call from the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation for innovation that is “people-centred” and aligned with the SDGs. It is heartening to see that many young entrepreneurs are already finding new solutions to help address the world’s increasingly complex challenges, including poverty, food security and ocean deterioration.
Indeed, the world has no shortage of creative ideas. However, we often lack the pathways that would enable youth innovation to be scaled up. The value of platforms that connect companies and citizens, young entrepreneurs and tech partners, students and venture firms, start-ups and universities is now greater than ever. Initiatives such as GenU, the United Nations Global Compact Young SDG Innovators Programme, SAP’s Next-Gen and now UpLink are particularly critical to support innovation for the SDGs, including by leveraging youth initiative and private sector investment.
With an initial pilot of UpLink to be ready in time for the United Nations Oceans Conference in 2020, your initiative offers an opportunity to support young people’s engagement on ocean action and Sustainable Development Goal 14. More than 1,400 voluntary commitments on ocean action have been made since the 2017 United Nations Oceans Conference. Innovation can further support the implementation and impact of these, as well as of the additional efforts and interventions needed to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources at all levels.
We need more initiatives like UpLink that bring together young people, combine ideas with capital, and link business and the SDGs. Through this and similar initiatives, we can see youth innovation translated into impact during the Decade of Action to deliver on the SDGs by 2030. I look forward to that reality.