Foreign Secretary James Cleverly addressed the United Nations High-Level Political Forum to discuss global progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2015, 193 countries agreed on these 17 SDGs as a crucial step towards creating a fairer, healthier, and more prosperous world by 2030.
However, at the halfway point in the timeline, it is evident that we are on track to miss a staggering 88% of the targets set in the SDGs. This is deemed unacceptable, as it undermines efforts to end poverty, improve health and education, increase prosperity, and combat climate change.
To get back on track with the SDGs, Cleverly emphasizes the need for reforming development finance and directing it towards critical areas such as food security, health, renewable energy, and empowering women and girls. He supports the Bridgetown Initiative proposed by Mia Mottley, which aims to mobilize more resources for developing countries.
The Foreign Secretary highlights the importance of Multilateral Development Banks freeing up trillions more for developing countries by implementing the G20’s independent review on Capital Adequacy Frameworks. He also stresses the need for increased private sector investment, especially in clean energy, water and sanitation, and climate-resilient infrastructure.
Addressing climate-related challenges, Cleverly calls for creditors to offer Climate-Resilient Debt Clauses, enabling developing countries to suspend loan repayments in the event of disasters, as demonstrated by the UK Export Finance in 12 African and Caribbean nations.
Moreover, the focus is placed on strengthening developing countries’ public finances through better tax collection and addressing illicit financial flows. Cleverly emphasizes the importance of making the international financial system more responsive to shocks, enabling support for poorer and smaller countries, especially those at risk of natural disasters, to sustain development gains and prevent rollbacks caused by economic crises and debt spirals.
While acknowledging that the UK doesn’t have all the answers, Cleverly expresses the commitment to work with partners to accelerate progress towards the SDGs over the next seven years. He calls on all stakeholders to recommit to the SDGs at the upcoming Summit at UNGA in September, emphasizing the need for political will and partnership to create better international financial systems that meet present development needs. Concrete reforms can be achieved through collaborative efforts within organizations like the G20, World Bank, IMF, and at COP28.
In conclusion, Cleverly urges everyone to seize the opportunity and work together to go further and faster in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.