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A combination of factors, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the Ukraine conflict, have presented a series of complex and intersecting crises, says Dennis Francis.

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- A two-day SDG Summit opened on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York to galvanize global action on sustainable development.

The summit provides world leaders, who are gathering annually in New York for the UN General Assembly high-level week, with an opportunity to take stock of the progress or lack thereof, halfway into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "a global rescue plan" for the SDGs.

At the midpoint, only 15 percent of the targets are on track and many are going in reverse, said Guterres. "Instead of leaving no one behind, we risk leaving the SDGs behind."

Therefore, the SDGs need a global rescue plan, he said.

Guterres called for action to reduce hunger, quicker transition to renewable energy, wider spread of the benefits and opportunities of digitalization, better education for children and youth, decent work and social protection, and climate action.

Eight years ago, UN member states adopted the SDGs, which were not a promise made to one another as diplomats but rather a promise to people, said Guterres. "So, the SDGs aren't just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere. And they provide the surest path to living up to our obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now in its 75th year."

At the halfway point to the SDG deadline, people around the world are demanding urgent action, he said.

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UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis, in his opening remarks, called on world leaders to re-commit to the SDGs.

A combination of factors, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the Ukraine conflict, have presented a series of complex and intersecting crises, he said.

Despite commitments to eradicate poverty and reduce hunger being at the core of this agenda, alarmingly, 1.2 billion people were still living in multidimensional poverty as of 2022. It is estimated that approximately 8 percent of the global population, or 680 million people, will still be facing hunger in 2030, said Francis.

"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," he said. "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."

He called on world leaders to re-commit to the SDGs.

"While there have been setbacks, we cannot relent in our resolve and determination to do our utmost to rescue the SDGs. ... The fact that we are lagging in our promise cannot be the death knell of 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," he said.

"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," he said.

Francis challenged world leaders to demonstrate emboldened leadership and announce groundbreaking commitments at the summit to support and complete the 2030 Agenda.

"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," he said.

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A political declaration was adopted at the summit on Monday, in which world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to "effectively implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs and uphold all principles enshrined in it."

"The 2030 Agenda remains our overarching roadmap for achieving sustainable development and overcoming the multiple crises we face. We will act with urgency to realize its vision as a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, leaving no one behind," reads the declaration.

The leaders emphasized that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

The leaders recognized that the achievement of the SDGs is in peril.

"At the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, we are alarmed that the progress on most of the SDGs is either moving much too slowly or has regressed below the 2015 baseline. Our world is currently facing numerous crises. Years of sustainable development gains are being reversed. Millions of people have fallen into poverty, hunger and malnutrition are becoming more prevalent, humanitarian needs are rising, and the impacts of climate change are more pronounced. This has led to increased inequality exacerbated by weakened international solidarity and a shortfall of trust to jointly overcome these crises," reads the declaration.

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The leaders committed themselves to "bold, ambitious, accelerated, just and transformative actions, anchored in international solidarity and effective cooperation at all levels" and promised to promote "a systemic shift toward a more inclusive, just, peaceful, resilient and sustainable world for people and planet, for present and future generations."

They recognized the special challenges facing all developing countries in pursuing sustainable development, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing states, as well as the specific challenges facing middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The leaders stressed that sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security and that peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.

They committed themselves to enhancing global, regional, national and local partnerships for sustainable development, engaging all relevant stakeholders.

They recognized that the integrated nature of the SDGs requires a global response and renewed their commitment to multilateralism to find new ways of working together and to ensure that multilateral institutions keep pace with the rapid changes taking place.

They further committed themselves to finding peaceful and just solutions to disputes and to respecting international law and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

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