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Where do things stand with the United Nations’ global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the face of numerous global crises, from the war in Ukraine to the impacts of the climate crisis? This question was discussed by a high-level panel at the Annual Conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE).

Back in July, at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had already pulled no punches in his analysis: the world is in a desperate situation, and the SDGs are no exception, he lamented. But in his video message he gave the public hope: “We can still turn the tide if we all stand together – governments, civil society and the private sector.” But this mission needs, more than ever, the support of countries like Germany.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul: We must prevent new blocs from forming

Already last year Guterres himself launched various reforms towards inclusive and networked multilateralism, summarised in “Our Common Agenda”, including proposing a UN Summit of the Future. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, former German Minister for Development and member of the RNE, acknowledged Guterres’s proposal to establish a regular joint summit of the G20 and ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) states together with international financial institutions. This could act as a kind of global sustainability council, she explained, which would serve as a compass for the further development of the SDGs.

“The multilateral system is not suited to resolving the combined crises we are facing”, said Wieczorek-Zeul. She went on to accuse the industrialised countries, in particular the G7 states and the EU, of hypocrisy for failing to provide sufficient funding to combat climate change and the pandemic. “We have to stand by our commitments”, insisted Wieczorek-Zeul. The German budget plan for 2023 would not be enough to expedite progress on the SDGs. Wieczorek-Zeul was applauded for her call to defend democracy, rule-based multilateralism and international law against their critics – but at the same time do everything we can to avoid new blocs forming in the international community. “I know this happens, but we must prevent it”, she said.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Think bigger and boldly lead the way

Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia until 2018, also recounted in a video message where the multilateral system has done too little for people and the planet in recent times: on climate action, global healthcare, food security, handling forced migration and upholding human rights and democracy.

Sirleaf is also Co-Chair of the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, which was founded by Guterres to put the ideas of the Common Agenda into practice. “Be bold, think bigger, we cannot solve the challenges of our time half-heartedly”, she urged, calling on Europe and Africa to work together on transformative change – and create multilateral institutions in which the Global South plays a genuine role in decision-making processes.

Svenja Schulze: Structural answers to ongoing crises

Svenja Schulze, current German Minister for Development, gave four answers to the ongoing crises. Firstly: 828 million people around the world are starving – that’s considerably more than before the pandemic. Against this backdrop, the G7 in partnership with the World Bank set up the Global Alliance for Food Security with the aim of establishing not only acute aid but also structural change, such as more resilient agrarian systems. Secondly, the impacts of the pandemic are still very much being felt, especially in the Global South. Efforts are therefore being concentrated on ensuring that vaccines are available – and also produced – worldwide. Healthcare systems, too, must become more resilient.

Thirdly, Schulze continued, people all over the world must play a part in the war on climate change. Germany, therefore, is working to ensure a just transition. Fourthly: We need gender equity in order to achieve these goals. “In most countries around the world women do not have the same rights as men”, explained Schulze. Yet research shows that societies where woman have equal rights are also more sustainable. As such, Germany fosters a feminist development and foreign policy.

Jennifer Morgan: Partnerships as diverse as possible

Former head of Greenpeace and since March 2022 Special Envoy for International Climate Action in the German Foreign Ministry, Jennifer Morgan, emphasised: “If the SDGs are not addressed, the climate crisis cannot be resolved either”, the necessary foundation for this being a global, ecological, social and market-based economic system. “Germany has a big responsibility”, she explained: “We are living at a disruptive moment.” At the next UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November, Morgan will lead the negotiations for compensation for future meteorological disasters as a facilitator together with the Chilean ministry for the environment. The debate around “loss and damage”, as the experts call it, has already caused major conflict at previous climate conferences in response to the industrialised countries refusing the key demands of the poorer nations. And it is not getting any easier since a member of the UN Security Council, Russia, has brutally violated international law. What the future holds for the international community, which thus far has followed the path of multilateralism, is anyone’s guess. But Morgan remained positive, pointing out there are “new opportunities to work together with allies”.

Emmanuel Ametepey: Africa is full of innovations

The great potential that partnerships can hold was highlighted by Emmanuel Ametepey, Director of the African Youth SDGs Summit – a forum set up in 2017 that now reaches more than 100,000 young people in Africa. “Africa is the continent of youth, a continent full of brilliant ideas, with enormous creativity and innovation. The question is: How can we support that?”, he asked. June 2023 will see the fifth African Youth SDGs Summit in the Zambian capital Lusaka. “I would like to issue an invitation to the young people of Europe: Come to us. Let us develop ideas and solutions together as to how we can put the SDGs into action”, said Ametepey. Last year as part of the Common Agenda, Guterres founded the UN Youth Office, in which Ametepey sees a great opportunity to coordinate, finance and boost the engagement of young people around the world. He also encouraged young people to get much more involved in national and international SDG policy processes.

The conference was brought to a close by Imme Scholz, Deputy Chairwoman of the RNE, who looked ahead to the next Global Sustainable Development Report 2023, which she will co-edit: “It is important to us that there is a better understanding of what transformation means. If something new is to emerge, for example a renewable energy system, then not only will the new system proliferate, but there will also be things we have to leave behind. That is a painful process, which goes hand in hand with much resistance – we need to work proactively with that situation. Moreover, the transition is taking place at different speeds, which makes it all the more important that the federal government and the new German Sustainable Development Strategy will act across policy fields and within the six main areas of transformation.”

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[document id="94062"]
" ["post_title"]=> string(34) "In times of multiple global crises" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(162) "War, hunger, pandemic – why we need global sustainability goals now more than ever and what needs to change if we are to achieve them despite the many setbacks." ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(34) "in-times-of-multiple-global-crises" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2022-11-04 12:03:24" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-11-04 11:03:24" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(42) "https://www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/?p=94379" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [1]=> object(WP_Post)#6033 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(91983) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "5" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2022-08-11 10:42:54" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-08-11 08:42:54" ["post_content"]=> string(8786) "Where does the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda currently stand? If we are to believe this year’s progress report on the 17 SDGs, the international community’s sustainable development goals, the answer is not a positive one: "Years or even decades of development progress have been halted or reversed", writes Ecosoc, the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in its latest progress report. Primarily to blame is the COVID-19 pandemic, but the growing number of conflicts and climate change are also responsible. Indeed, UN member state representatives expressed "alarm" in their closing declaration at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the annual UN sustainable development summit in New York in July. Women and children are disproportionately suffering the effects of the pandemic, writes Ecosoc, noting that more than 100 million children have missed key learning milestones and that this generation stands to lose $17 trillion in lifetime earnings. Similarly, women were more likely to experience job losses, provide unpaid care for children and the elderly and suffer domestic violence. Accordingly, the German delegation made SDG 5, gender equality, the focus of its appearance at the HLPF. "We will not, without empowering women and girls, be able to implement all the other SDGs", said German Ambassador to the UN Antje Leendertse at the start of a high-level panel discussion led by the German delegation. The side-event focused on three key aspects. First, that gender equality is fundamental. "Gender equality is not something [to] add on top, something [that’s] nice to have. Gender equality is all about human rights, and it’s about that all people – it doesn’t matter which background I have – that all people have the right to be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation or gender", said Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. The second aspect is that women worldwide are disproportionately affected by poverty and violence as well as by the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss. Renata Koch Alvarenga, founder of Brazilian NGO Empoderaclima, illustrated why this is the case: if, for instance, schools suffer from a lack of clean water and toilets, which is a particular issue in poorer regions, girls are often forced to miss school when on their periods. As such, they receive a lower-quality education than boys. This example demonstrates how the different SDGs are nevertheless mutually dependent: without clean water and sanitation, SDG 6, there can be no gender equality, SDG 5. Alvarenga also drew attention to the aspect of intersectionality, namely that some women suffer multiple types of discrimination. For example, black or indigenous women are also affected by racism and structural, historic poverty. In Brazil, for instance, the percentage of black women living below the poverty line grew from 33 to 38 percent during the pandemic, while the share of white women increased from 15 to 19 percent. In addition, black and indigenous people are also less likely to have their voices heard. "We have a lot of amazing indigenous women and amazing black women who often don’t get to be a part of these stages because of educational barriers, language barriers", continued Alvarenga.

Women most affected by climate crisis

Indian publicist and environmentalist Sunita Narain underscored the interdependency between the different SDGs and showed how women in particular are suffering the effects of the climate crisis and the pandemic. Narain is Director General at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. In 2019, Time Magazine named Narain as one of the 15 most influential women worldwide in the fight against climate change. "Always think of the last person", she said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. For her, when she imagines that last person, she sees the face of a poor woman, using her hometown of New Delhi to bring to life how the energy crisis affects the women living there. Many women living in poverty in the city cook with firewood or burn waste over open fires. The resulting smog is one of the primary culprits behind the city’s poor air quality. "[This woman knows] that it has a hugely bad impact on her own body but without any choice. What is the pathway in which her energy rights will be secured?", asked Narain. After all, affordable and clean energy, SDG 7, plays just as much of a role in gender equality. The transformation towards this must be pursued far more decisively, added Narain, explaining that climate change endangers the lives of the very poorest. "[They] already have no choice but to move, and they move from village to city to a different country, and that really is the crisis of migration today", she continued. Of course, this impacts poor men as well as poor women, but migration has led to a rise in human trafficking, with young women and girls particularly at risk. The third aspect as to why gender equality is vital in meeting the SDGs is that women will play a central role in achieving the transformation. "We would benefit so much if the experiences and priorities of women and girls were taken seriously and if women and girls from all countries were unhindered in helping us reach these goals", said Bettina Hoffmann, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. To her mind, men and women perceive and influence their environment in different ways. In Germany, for instance, Fridays for Future are largely shaped by women, while in other countries too, women are taking centre stage in fighting for the very basis of existence for future generations. Take Brazil, for example, where, as Ana Toni, director of environmental protection organisation Instituto Clima e Sociedade, explained, eighty percent of environmentalists are women.

Feminists in power

So how can the situation be improved? A key factor here is education. But this is about more than just giving girls the same schooling as boys. Gender parity does not equal gender equality, explained Antara Ganguli, Director of the UN Girls’ Education Initiative. In many countries where the number of girls in school is equal to that of boys, many students report in surveys that they still consider it normal for men to be allowed to beat women. "[Schools must become] places where children learn to become adults different from what we are today", said Ganguli. What is needed is feminist education, the teaching of fundamental values. This includes people who define themselves outside the male-female gender binary. Ganguli described how their rights, too, are the focus of efforts to include them in curricula across the globe. "This often does put us in a difficult position", she added, continuing to relate how many states still fail to recognise the rights of these people. In her view, this is where leadership from influential figures is needed to make a difference. For women in business or politics, the same is true as in schools – ticking boxes does not cut it. "It’s not enough to have women in power. It is important to have feminist women in power", stated Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women. For this to work, men need to be involved too – they need to be just as committed to gender equality as women. "What we are really lacking there is political will to declare violence against women a public health crisis", added Bhatia. She urged countries around the world to focus on targeting women with their stimulus packages. In her opinion, the private sector too must change, adding that if companies were making larger profits than the GDPs of entire nations, those companies’ actions on gender equality needed to be measured, monitored and reported. The groundwork is in place, writes Ecosoc, but the world is still not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. Instead, it is moving backwards. Against this backdrop, one thing above all remains a priority, said moderator Pamela Chasek, a politics professor at Manhattan College: we all need to work hard for change. That goes for women and men alike." ["post_title"]=> string(43) "No sustainable development without feminism" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(227) "A failure to empower women and girls will see the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come to nothing. This was the core message from the German delegation at this year’s UN Sustainable Development Summit. " ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(43) "no-sustainable-development-without-feminism" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2022-08-11 10:42:54" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-08-11 08:42:54" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(42) "https://www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/?p=91983" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [2]=> object(WP_Post)#5947 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(91781) ["post_author"]=> string(2) "17" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2022-07-08 16:34:57" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-07-08 14:34:57" ["post_content"]=> string(6722) "Few concerned with the global Agenda for Sustainable Development are still under any illusions: the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as formulated in the 2030 Agenda are an increasingly distant reality. “In the 75 years since the United Nations was founded, the human race has never had to face a set of challenges like we do right now”, says British actor and human rights activist Thandiwe Newton at the start of the official UN video for this year’s High-Level Political Forum, or HLPF for short. Once a year, heads of state and government join representatives from business and civil society at the UN building in New York to review progress on the 2030 Agenda adopted by the United Nations in 2015. This year’s meeting from 5–15 July will be special for several reasons: for the first time in two years, it will predominantly take place in person instead of via video link. The HLPF will focus on how the world can recover from the pandemic in a way that effects change to achieve the SDGs. But this is also a meeting in the midst of numerous crises, with the emotive scenes of the conference film illustrating precisely what this means: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, war, pandemic. Similarly, the UN Secretary-General’s report on the HLPF makes for sober reading on the facts behind these images. As many as 95 million people have slipped into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, while 100 million children fall below the minimum reading proficiency level. In all the years since 1945, there have never been as many violent conflicts as there are today, while two billion people live in countries that feel the impact of this aggression. 2020 saw 161 million more people go hungry than in 2019, with Russia’s war of aggression only poised to exacerbate the situation. Indeed, Russia and Ukraine supply 30 percent of the world’s wheat and more than half of the world’s sunflower oil.

Not a summit for resignation

But the summit in New York is not one for resignation. Instead, it hopes for a fresh start. Echoing the sentiment so many are feeling, the opening video sees Newton declare that we can solve these problems together. “In light of the Russian war of aggression and its global impact, global sustainable development policy needs a total rethink”, adds Marc-Oliver Pahl, Secretary General of the German Council for Sustainable Development. For while current affairs leave the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 – including the eradication of poverty and hunger worldwide by 2030, gender equality, and the preservation of ecosystems, to name just a few – looking more than ever like wishful thinking, the SDGs can also serve as a compass to guide us out of the crisis. This was the subject of an RNE statement back in May which emphasised that, even as the war and its impact exacerbate structural poverty, it is more important than ever for all decision-makers across government and opposition, business and society, to focus on sustainability, resource conservation and climate neutrality. Equally, now more than ever the importance of securing a clean break from our reliance on fossil raw materials, and thus on Russian natural gas, is clear. As the RNE writes, “We now need even more courage to effect the necessary transformation at pace and honour a political spirit of resolve and pragmatism”. The HLPF is the perfect platform to summon that courage. Observers hope the meeting will get down once and for all to bridging the gaps and issues in the 2030 Agenda – certainly UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres approached the meeting unremittingly last year and seems unlikely to sugar-coat anything this time round. The HLPF is also an opportunity for states and civil society across the globe to learn from one another, which is why nation states use the stage to present their reports on the implementation of the Agenda in their respective countries. These reports are called voluntary national reviews, or VNRs. This year, a number of states have written VNRs for the first time – and behind each one is a national process for advancing sustainable development.

Events with RNE’s involvement

Last year, the meeting was held largely online and saw then-Chancellor Angela Merkel present the German VNR herself via video link. This year, Germany will be represented at state secretary level, while its official event will focus on feminist foreign policy. The RNE is also organising two events together with partners from the Global Forum for National SDG Advisory Bodies. The Forum is a global network of councils for sustainable development, or similar bodies, with a mandate to promote sustainable development in their respective countries. The event on 12 July will address the complex issue of how different countries can establish institutions to work on sustainability policy on a long-term basis, bringing together a range of actors spanning from civil society to business. The second event on 14 July will focus on local authorities, which have a central role to play in realising the 2030 Agenda. There are now also voluntary local reviews (VLRs) at local level to allow local governments to review their progress in achieving the Agenda. The event will see Pereira in Colombia and Bonn in Germany present their VLRs. As such, the RNE aims to prove that the 2030 Agenda is not a matter for nation states alone, but one between states and their civil societies at all levels. “We need new structures for inter-state cooperation for those states that want to advance sustainable development, climate protection and biodiversity, but we also need greater commitment from business, civil society and local government”, says Marc-Oliver Pahl in the hope that this year’s HLPF will generate fresh momentum  " ["post_title"]=> string(39) "A Sustainability Summit in Times of War" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(299) "After three years of COVID-19 and more recently the war in Ukraine, the 2030 Agenda has never before seemed quite so utopian. Now, the international community is meeting for its annual sustainability summit in New York to continue fighting for its roadmap to making the world a better place for all." ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(39) "a-sustainability-summit-in-times-of-war" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2022-07-08 16:46:29" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-07-08 14:46:29" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(42) "https://www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/?p=91781" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [3]=> object(WP_Post)#6212 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(53022) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "5" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2021-08-06 09:30:32" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2021-08-06 07:30:32" ["post_content"]=> string(9161) "

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is a man of clear words, and the ones he chose to open this year's UN Sustainability Forum (HLPF) were crystal clear: The Corona pandemic has driven 124 million people into poverty, global inequality and violence against women has increased. Four billion people worldwide were without social security, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were at record highs, as was the rate of global species extinction. "This High-Level Political Forum is intended to assess progress on the 2030 Agenda. But we must face facts. Rather than progress, we are moving farther away from our goals," Guterres said at the start of the annual eight-day meeting, where UN countries were represented by their ministers.

However, Guterres also raised hope: the situation "can and must" be turned around, he said. Despite the pandemic, 42 countries have submitted Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on how they are implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Germany was part of this year’s countries - the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), however, still sees "greater need for action". Apart from the grim global development: Institutions worldwide are working tirelessly to help the SDGs achieve a breakthrough in their countries. This was also the focus of the recent meeting in New York and its many side events. The main purpose of these events is to promote global networking and the exchange of knowledge and experience.

One of these knowledge exchange events was hosted by the RNE: In cooperation with UN DESA, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, and other international partners, it organised a so-called VNR Lab. This session dealt with the question on how to link VNRs with national sustainable development policy cycles. During the discussion, examples and recent studies were presented that displayed promising concepts for institutional anchoring of the national implementation of the SDGs and how central councils, bodies or groups can be best organised and used for this implementation. The VNR Lab discussed these topics using examples from partners from Benin, Germany, Namibia, and Norway. Together with government representatives, speakers from national multi-stakeholder bodies gave insights into their work. They described, for example, how they are working constructively with their respective governments to ambitiously implement the 2030 Agenda. The VNR Lab particularly emphasised that trust between such advisory bodies and their governments is essential for the successful implementation of the SDGs. Another important finding was that while there is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied everywhere, while overarching success factors of such bodies can be identified.

Trustful proximity and critical independence

The authors of a recently published study by the Global Forum for National SDG Advisory Bodies, for example, have investigated what these factors are. The Global Forum is a network, co-founded by the RNE, in which sustainability councils and similar bodies share good practices and experiences worldwide. The challenge: How can countries establish an advisory body on sustainable development that is independent of changing governments and political undertones? The study summarises eight key points. These are a few of them: Representatives from all sectors of society must sit on these committees, that are able to formulate consensual and evidence-based advice, even in the case of conflicting positions and, at best, involve existing organisations from environmental to business associations. The balance between trustful proximity to the government and simultaneous critical independence is important. In Germany, for example, the Federal Chancellor appoints the members of the RNE every three years. They are eminent personalities from politics, business, science and civil society.

"Describing and deciding on pathways towards sustainable societies and economies is demanding and complex. It needs knowledge and evidence, networks, openness to innovation and acceptance – ideally by the entire government and by all sectors and members of society," says Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz, deputy chair of the RNE and deputy director of the German Development Institute. Above all, it must be considered how the effects of political measures influence each other: A CO2 price to reduce emissions is a burden on low-income households – social compensation is therefore needed. Central to this is what is called a whole-of-society approach, an approach that involves everyone – including local actors, faith communities, youth organisations, vulnerable groups.

Different contexts worldwide: front runners yes, but no "one-size-fits-all"

Namibia, for example, is considered one of the front runners in Africa in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The country founded a Sustainable Development Advisory Council in 2013, consisting of representatives from ministries and NGOs, ranging from the environmental sector to the Young Women's Association. Namibia presented a comprehensive VNR progress report at the most recent HLPF. For instance, a public campaign on the implementation of the SDGs will run from July to December 2021. It will involve women's and youth groups as well as people with disabilities in the policymaking process and, moreover, reach the indigenous population in all languages, for example through various radio programs.

Different countries have taken different approaches to implementing the SDGs: In some, the national SDG council is located at the head of state, elsewhere in a department such as the Ministry of Economy or Environment. If, on the other hand, a council is organised more independently, institutionalised exchange with the government is important. In that case, the possibility of inviting ministers and other officials to its meetings is crucial. In some places, ministries are even legally obliged to respond to the recommendations of their sustainability council. The Global Forum's studies highlight all of this with concrete country examples that demonstrate the contextuality of each case.

The authors of the studies emphasise, however, that trust between the sustainability councils and the government is essential. It is not a matter of simply being held accountable to yet another official body. Instead, the government and other social actors must act in consensus in order to realise the SDGs together with all of society. In another Global Forum study, four countries were examined to find out how such multi-stakeholder bodies function in practice, i.e., bodies in which various social forces must formulate consensual advice. Because of their broad composition, these bodies are highly regarded when the whole of society is struggling to find solutions. A first evaluation of the national reports on the 2030 Agenda presented at the HLPF shows: When a state makes successful sustainability policy, it succeeds through real commitment, broad participation, and access for all to the decision-making processes – and not just before decisions are made, but also after. This is another reason why national sustainability councils or similar multi-stakeholder advisory bodies must be anchored in the respective national sustainability policy architecture in the long term.

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Where do things stand with the United Nations’ global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the face of numerous global crises, from the war in Ukraine to the impacts of the climate crisis? This question was discussed by a high-level panel at the Annual Conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE).

Back in July, at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had already pulled no punches in his analysis: the world is in a desperate situation, and the SDGs are no exception, he lamented. But in his video message he gave the public hope: “We can still turn the tide if we all stand together – governments, civil society and the private sector.” But this mission needs, more than ever, the support of countries like Germany.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul: We must prevent new blocs from forming

Already last year Guterres himself launched various reforms towards inclusive and networked multilateralism, summarised in “Our Common Agenda”, including proposing a UN Summit of the Future. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, former German Minister for Development and member of the RNE, acknowledged Guterres’s proposal to establish a regular joint summit of the G20 and ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) states together with international financial institutions. This could act as a kind of global sustainability council, she explained, which would serve as a compass for the further development of the SDGs.

“The multilateral system is not suited to resolving the combined crises we are facing”, said Wieczorek-Zeul. She went on to accuse the industrialised countries, in particular the G7 states and the EU, of hypocrisy for failing to provide sufficient funding to combat climate change and the pandemic. “We have to stand by our commitments”, insisted Wieczorek-Zeul. The German budget plan for 2023 would not be enough to expedite progress on the SDGs. Wieczorek-Zeul was applauded for her call to defend democracy, rule-based multilateralism and international law against their critics – but at the same time do everything we can to avoid new blocs forming in the international community. “I know this happens, but we must prevent it”, she said.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Think bigger and boldly lead the way

Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia until 2018, also recounted in a video message where the multilateral system has done too little for people and the planet in recent times: on climate action, global healthcare, food security, handling forced migration and upholding human rights and democracy.

Sirleaf is also Co-Chair of the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, which was founded by Guterres to put the ideas of the Common Agenda into practice. “Be bold, think bigger, we cannot solve the challenges of our time half-heartedly”, she urged, calling on Europe and Africa to work together on transformative change – and create multilateral institutions in which the Global South plays a genuine role in decision-making processes.

Svenja Schulze: Structural answers to ongoing crises

Svenja Schulze, current German Minister for Development, gave four answers to the ongoing crises. Firstly: 828 million people around the world are starving – that’s considerably more than before the pandemic. Against this backdrop, the G7 in partnership with the World Bank set up the Global Alliance for Food Security with the aim of establishing not only acute aid but also structural change, such as more resilient agrarian systems. Secondly, the impacts of the pandemic are still very much being felt, especially in the Global South. Efforts are therefore being concentrated on ensuring that vaccines are available – and also produced – worldwide. Healthcare systems, too, must become more resilient.

Thirdly, Schulze continued, people all over the world must play a part in the war on climate change. Germany, therefore, is working to ensure a just transition. Fourthly: We need gender equity in order to achieve these goals. “In most countries around the world women do not have the same rights as men”, explained Schulze. Yet research shows that societies where woman have equal rights are also more sustainable. As such, Germany fosters a feminist development and foreign policy.

Jennifer Morgan: Partnerships as diverse as possible

Former head of Greenpeace and since March 2022 Special Envoy for International Climate Action in the German Foreign Ministry, Jennifer Morgan, emphasised: “If the SDGs are not addressed, the climate crisis cannot be resolved either”, the necessary foundation for this being a global, ecological, social and market-based economic system. “Germany has a big responsibility”, she explained: “We are living at a disruptive moment.” At the next UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November, Morgan will lead the negotiations for compensation for future meteorological disasters as a facilitator together with the Chilean ministry for the environment. The debate around “loss and damage”, as the experts call it, has already caused major conflict at previous climate conferences in response to the industrialised countries refusing the key demands of the poorer nations. And it is not getting any easier since a member of the UN Security Council, Russia, has brutally violated international law. What the future holds for the international community, which thus far has followed the path of multilateralism, is anyone’s guess. But Morgan remained positive, pointing out there are “new opportunities to work together with allies”.

Emmanuel Ametepey: Africa is full of innovations

The great potential that partnerships can hold was highlighted by Emmanuel Ametepey, Director of the African Youth SDGs Summit – a forum set up in 2017 that now reaches more than 100,000 young people in Africa. “Africa is the continent of youth, a continent full of brilliant ideas, with enormous creativity and innovation. The question is: How can we support that?”, he asked. June 2023 will see the fifth African Youth SDGs Summit in the Zambian capital Lusaka. “I would like to issue an invitation to the young people of Europe: Come to us. Let us develop ideas and solutions together as to how we can put the SDGs into action”, said Ametepey. Last year as part of the Common Agenda, Guterres founded the UN Youth Office, in which Ametepey sees a great opportunity to coordinate, finance and boost the engagement of young people around the world. He also encouraged young people to get much more involved in national and international SDG policy processes.

The conference was brought to a close by Imme Scholz, Deputy Chairwoman of the RNE, who looked ahead to the next Global Sustainable Development Report 2023, which she will co-edit: “It is important to us that there is a better understanding of what transformation means. If something new is to emerge, for example a renewable energy system, then not only will the new system proliferate, but there will also be things we have to leave behind. That is a painful process, which goes hand in hand with much resistance – we need to work proactively with that situation. Moreover, the transition is taking place at different speeds, which makes it all the more important that the federal government and the new German Sustainable Development Strategy will act across policy fields and within the six main areas of transformation.”

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