SDG Moment: A compass out of the crisis

On 20 September, the United Nations held the virtual SDG Moment with more than 30 heads of state and government to report on the status of the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals.

“We must safeguard the future of our planet and the future of younger generations,” said Angela Merkel in her two-minute video message. „This task should be the highest priority for us all”, she said. The occasion for the Chancellor’s appeal was the SDG Moment, an event launched by the United Nations in 2020, which took place this year on the 20th of September. The event is designed as a virtual meeting of heads of state and government.

The aim of the SDG Moment is to reinforce the continued relevance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and build momentum in advance of major summits – currently also against the background of the pandemic and its consequences. In her welcome address, Angela Merkel emphasised: “We, the international community and the United Nations, must now do our utmost to work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.“ She called on the audience to continue to work together to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Neither helpless nor hopeless

UN Secretary-General António Guterres had already stressed in his opening speech of the SDG Moment that the world had never faced such a challenge. It would be easy to lose hope. But people are neither hopeless nor helpless, he said, there is a path to recovery with the 2030 Agenda – “if we choose to take it”.

In addition, Guterres had published the long-awaited report “Our Common Agenda” a few days before. The report emphasises the challenges of multiple crises and is a call for a new global solidarity and a strengthening of multilateralism. It provides concrete recommendations for action on how the global community should adapt its global governance to emerge from the crisis.

The SDG moment also marked the start of the 76th United Nations General Assembly. More than 30 participating heads of state and government shared their statements via pre-recorded video messages – with the exception of Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who joined in live.

German Chancellor Merkel was joined by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, a second representative of a G20 nation and also an important climate financier. He emphasised that the Covid-19- pandemic has had a severe impact on various SDG areas. To achieve the SDGs by 2030, he said, all countries need to develop creative strategies and work together to accelerate their efforts. “As a country that attaches great importance to multilateralism, Japan is determined to lead the efforts of the international community to achieve the SDGs,” Suga said.

A to-do list for the planet

Suga called for equitable access to vaccines and other tools in the fight against infectious disease – this was “essential”. It is also crucial to build a more resilient global health system to prepare for future crises. Lastly, he emphasised gender equality, which promotes innovation and drives social transformation: “The SDGs are the compass to overcome the current crisis.”

The SDG moment was also closely watched because it came just weeks before the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow in late October/early November, for which Angela Merkel announced an “ambitious target” in her video message. “It is clearer than ever that we must implement the 2030 Agenda more swiftly,” she said. “We will not be able to make up for our shortcomings now in a few years down the line.”