Supporting SDGs – a strategic priority for new UN Secretary-General

As reported by IIED, when he was sworn in as the ninth UN Secretary-General during the UN General Assembly, António Guterres highlighted support for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as one of three strategic priorities for change. The other two priorities are working for peace and advancing UN internal management.

Guterres will take up his appointment on 1 January 2017 and it will end on 31 December 2021. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term will conclude at the end of December 2016.

In his remarks, Guterres said that the UN was born from war but that they “are here for peace.” He highlighted that working for peace, supporting sustainable development and the SDGs, and reforming UN internal management are strategic priorities, adding that humanitarian response, sustainable development and sustaining peace are “three sides of the same triangle.”

On supporting UN Member States in achieving the SDGs, he said the UN Development System will engage in a comprehensive reform at Headquarters and country levels that will involve leadership, coordination, delivery and increased accountability.

He pledged to respect gender parity from the start in all his appointments to the UN Senior Management Group and UN Chief Executives Board, noting that by the end of his mandate, there should be a full gender parity at the UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Assistant Secretary-General levels, including special representatives and special envoys. Moreover, he called for a clear roadmap with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system “well before 2030.”

He also reported that young people have been excluded for far too long from making the decisions that will affect their future, and stressed the need to empower them, increase their participation in society, and their access to education, training and jobs. 

The General Assembly also paid tribute Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, adopting a resolution (A/71/L.40) that recognizes his “exceptional contribution” to the work of the UN, his “noteworthy achievements” in improving people’s lives and protecting our planet for future generations, and in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in the interest of a safer and more secure world. Among his accomplishments his vision and determination to realize a more just, prosperous and secure world that resulted in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and his support for gender equality as “a cornerstone of his tenure” are noted.

Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, noted on gender equality that Ban oversaw the establishment of UN Women; pushed for a stronger role for women at the UN; championed numerous campaigns relating to women’s rights; and was the first UN Secretary-General in history “to identify as a feminist.” He also thanked UN Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson for his long service to the UN. Statements honouring Ban’s contribution were also made by representative from UN regional groups of States. The US, in its capacity as the host country, outlined three qualities that define him as a leader, including: a belief that nobody anywhere should be left behind; understanding the notion of service and serving others; and defending the dignity of the most vulnerable. She qualified him as an ‘LGBTI champion.’

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