Why the Sustainable Development Goals matter for the Maghreb

Why the Sustainable Development Goals matter for the Maghreb
Mark Seddon

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders officially came into force.  The ambitious plan was that the 17 Goals that apply to all countries would mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. 

The Goals – ranging from education to tourism, forestry and the oceans are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

In truth this agenda is in trouble and some of the goals currently seem unlikely to be reached by 2030. The pandemic, the spread, depth and duration of conflict combined with climate change and other factors is blowing some parts of the World off course. The UN estimates for instance that Ukraine’s sustainable development plans have been set back by 20 years. Which also begs the question as to where the people of Gaza have been left as the extent of the destruction there becomes apparent. All of this goes some way to explain why the President of the UN General Assembly, the former Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dennis Francis, has decided to seize the initiative and will shortly launch the UN General Assembly’s first ever Sustainability Week on the 15th April to re-focus minds and commitment on the part of World leaders. Earlier this week, President Dennis Francis went to Times Square in New York and rang the NASDAQ Bell in advance of this upcoming initiative, before hot-footing it back to UN Headquarters to take questions from journalists. 

Some of them focussed on the continuing impasse over Israel/Palestine at the UN Security Council; they wanted to know why the UN General Assembly wasn’t taking stronger action and were dubious about attempts by the General Assembly to reform the UN Security Council. For his part Dennis Francis explained that his mandate from Member States includes peace & security and the sustainable development agenda. The success of the latter helps underpin the strengthening of peace and security. For the Maghreb, as with other parts of the World, especially in the global South, these arguments need no rehearsing. If security deteriorates, if conflict breaks out, or if there are terrorist attacks, tourism halts itself as countries such as Tunisia and Egypt know only too well.  This was a point well made by Dennis Francis; ‘The tourism sector is highly sensitive to external shocks, exposing many countries that are heavily dependent on this sector.’ He continued; ‘This flagship initiative of my Presidency will supercharge implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, concentrating on critical sectors of the economy, that is, tourism, infrastructure, energy, and transport, as well as to shine a spotlight on the key development issue of debt sustainability’.  His hope is that this General Assembly initiative will build momentum towards to the Summit of the Future in September as well as re-invigorating the sustainable development goals at a time of immense global insecurity. The Maghreb will be watching.. 


Press Conference by the President of the General Assembly,

Mr. Dennis Francis, On Sustainability Week at United Nations Headquarters in New York9 April 2024[As delivered] https://youtu.be/2GqJ31TVbMc


*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly


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