Press Release

2023 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

19 September 2023

Opening Remarks by Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UNGA

It is an honor to welcome you to the 2023 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development – the ’SDG Summit’.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted unanimously by all United Nations Member States in 2015 – constitutes a global call to action to banish poverty from our societies, protect and preserve our planet, and to ensure prosperity for all.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals serve as a beacon of hope and a roadmap for common action to create a more equitable, more just, and more sustainable world.

Now, at the midway point, it is essential that we take stock of our progress and assess the remaining challenges that confront us. Such assessment is a necessary basis for charting a course for success to ensure that we, the United Nations, keep faith with the bold undertaking we gave to the world in 2015, that no one is left behind.

Today's Summit therefore provides a unique platform for us to recommit to the 2030 Agenda.

I therefore encourage you to use this opportunity for peer learning to share your experiences; forge partnerships; and put forth innovative ideas that can help drive meaningful change.

However, let us be clear,

A combination of factors – including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacts of climate change, and the war in Ukraine – have presented a series of complex and intersecting crises.

And, while this has dramatically altered the trajectory of the entire world, it is – as is too often the case – those in the most precarious circumstances and those who are already the most vulnerable, who suffer the most.

This includes the countries in special situations – Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries, and Landlocked Developing Countries.

The most vulnerable in our communities – including women and girls, young people, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and indigenous peoples – have not been sparred and are at the foremost receiving end of these crises.

Despite commitments to eradicate poverty and reduce hunger being at the core of this agenda – alarmingly, 1.2 billion people were still living in multi-dimensional poverty as of 2022.

It is estimated that approximately 8% of the global population – or 680 million people – will still be facing hunger in 2030.

Can we accept these numbers or, because they make us uncomfortable, should we pretend they do not exist and carry on with business as usual?  Surely, we cannot. To do so would amount to being reckless. Rather, we must do more to lift people sustainably out of poverty and hunger not merely because it is the right thing to do in the name of humanity but also because to do nothing would be to fan the flames of discord and conflict, with well-known terrible consequences.

While there have been setbacks, we cannot relent in our resolve and determination to do our utmost to rescue the SDGs – as we have been challenged by the Secretary-General.

The fact that we are lagging in our promise cannot be the death knell for our blueprint – nor should this Summit be a forum to point fingers, apportion blame, and certainly, not to accept defeat.

Instead, bold and transformative actions must be prioritized to support the well-being of our global constituents, particularly those left farthest behind.

This is our moment to re-dedicate ourselves to the SDGs, and to reinvigorate progress across the entirety of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report outlines clear steps in that regard.

It recommends an ambitious “SDG-push” scenario to improve social protection, strengthen governance, promote a green economy, and address digital disruption, while improving access to quality education and healthcare in a human rights setting.

With concerted, ambitious action, it is still possible that, by 2030, we could lift 124 million additional people out of poverty and ensure that some 113 million fewer people are malnourished.

Such achievements would also generate gains across other Goals related to health, nutrition and education.

Adequate investment in the SDGs is therefore a win-win for all, with cross-cutting and knock-on benefits reverberating across the globe – positively impacting every society and every community.

I urge you to make this strategic investment in the SDGs – through effective domestic resource mobilization accompanied by fulfilment of the targets set for the inflow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and productive partnerships with the private sector.

We must reform the international financial architecture – to promote affordable, stable long-term financing for sustainable development across the Global South, where development has been in perpetual deficit.

The Financing for Development Dialogue and the Summit of the Future are both key opportunities to continue pushing this reform agenda, bearing in mind the urgent need to address the worsening gap for financing the SDGs.

By delivering meaningful change to the lives of so many, we can demonstrate that the UN not only hears the demands of those in difficult situations – but, more importantly, that these needs will not go unmet.

Renewed faith in us, by the many who depend on us, will help to restore our credibility, trust and ultimately, a sense of confidence that UN-led multilateralism delivers.

We must remember, the world is watching.

Our eight billion constituents are looking to us for a signal that we will keep our promises – and that we are alive to the reality that we have only seven years left before 2030.

They want and deserve full reassurance that we – all together,

    • recognize the circumstantial setbacks that so many have experienced and continue to endure,
    • and that we stand ready to support them in their time of acute need,
    • and, most importantly, that we see the heightened sense of urgency; and we are all prepared as the world leaders gather here today to raise our ambition and recommit to meaningfully delivering the 2023 Agenda and its 17 SDGs.

With that in mind, I challenge you all to demonstrate emboldened leadership by using this Summit to announce groundbreaking commitments to support and to complete the 2030 Agenda.


I call for your support to the Political Declaration – negotiations for which were skillfully led by Qatar and Ireland, to whom I extend my grateful thanks and that of the membership. I sincerely believe that the Declaration represents the most ideal common denominator for the overwhelming majority of members.

Adoption of a strong Declaration at this Summit will herald the start of a new phase of accelerated progress to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

As we navigate the challenges ahead, the SDGs will remain a true blueprint for humanity and will continue to be our guideposts to deliver peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all peoples, everywhere.

As the late former Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, we must work tirelessly to achieve a better world that is free from fear and free from want.

Thank you.


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