Friday 25th September 2015 is a day that will go down in history as one that determined the direction of the world’s development and humanitarian efforts for the next 15 years. The new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) were adopted by the 193 member States of the United Nations at the 70th General Assembly in New York. World leaders, including President Peter Mutharika, committed to leaving no one behind.
The SDGs represent an historic opportunity to change the world for the better. The 17 goals are ambitious, but with commitment, hard work and cooperation, and the resources, knowledge and technology available in the world today, they are achievable.
The SDGs take the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and expand them to include new challenges the world is facing: Affordable and clean energy, decent work, reducing inequality, sustainable cities, responsible consumption and action on climate change. The SDGs are a call to action for us all.
Much has been achieved under the MDGs. Globally, 43 million more children attend school and HIV infections have been reduced by 40 percent. In Malawi, child mortality has reduced by 72 percent since 1990. At the same time, only four out of eight MDGs will be achieved by Malawi by the end of this year. Much work remains to be done to make sure everyone has the opportunity to rise to their full potential.
The SDGs have a specific target on reducing inequality. This is relevant for all countries. In Malawi, it means reducing the growing gap between the rich and poor, ensuring that gifted students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to complete higher education, ensuring that quality health and education services are available for all, not just those who can afford to pay.
The adoption of the SDGs comes at a pivotal time for Malawi when the nation prepares for the next medium-term development strategy. The planning process will examine how global goals fit in Malawi’s dynamic context. The UN stands committed to support government in making these goals a strong focus for the future development strategy in order to increase impact and change in the lives of men and women, boys and girls at the local level.
The ambition to leave no one behind calls for urgent action as Malawi is faced with the worst hunger season in almost a decade. A timely relief response is imperative to save lives and livelihoods during the difficult six months ahead. The UN is working with development partners to support government and mobilise resources to deliver urgent food, nutrition, and agricultural assistance in a safe and dignified manner. Timely relief assistance is an essential part of resilience building and longer term preparedness. Without it, disasters will wipe out development gains, as was clear during the recent devastating floods. Without a timely relief response, there is a risk of loss of life, loss of assets as they are consumed or sold, children dropping out of school and the nutritional status of women and vulnerable groups’ deteriorating.
Against this backdrop, the UN is ready to not only respond to immediate needs when disasters strike, but also to support government in addressing chronic vulnerabilities in the country that leave many people on the brink of hunger, malnutrition and poverty year after year.
Leaving no one behind requires addressing chronic vulnerabilities in the country. A self-reliant Malawi will adapt to and mitigate climate change, decrease pressure on its natural resources including through managing population dynamics, and ensure that all have the opportunity to live up to their full potential as healthy and educated citizens.
Can the SDGs that Malawi decides as priority be achieved? Not by anyone alone. Goal 17 is about broad partnerships. Partnerships led by the government, that engage all citizens and partners, old and new, the private sector, academia, civil society, religious and traditional leaders as well as development partners. The SDGs are ambitious but achievable if we all work together to build the world we want and the world we deserve.