This year offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put our world on more peaceful, sustainable and equitable footing. When they meet at the Schloss Elmau Summit in Germany on June 7-8, G7 leaders can show they are serious about seizing the moment and protecting people and the planet.
As the international community prepares to adopt a new sustainable development agenda at a Summit in September in New York, and a new climate change agreement in December in Paris, the G7 countries have a special responsibility to lead. As the heads of state and government of the largest economies, G7 leaders can make a decisive difference in taking the difficult yet sensible steps that will achieve our goal of prosperity and dignity for all.
For the past two years, United Nations member states have been shaping a new agenda to build on the gains made under the Millennium Development Goals, the set of global priorities that have steered international development for the past 15 years. The negotiations were supported by the most transparent and inclusive consultative process in U.N. history, giving the new agenda great global legitimacy — and mobilizing millions for the great global job of implementation. The new generation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide us for the next 15 years, encapsulates an ambitious, transformative vision in a set of concrete actions. They also represents a significant shift in the way international development is conceived and pursued.
First, the new agenda aims to leave no one behind. Halving poverty in the past 15 years has been an extraordinary accomplishment by any standard. Yet there are still many poor and vulnerable people around the world, and development must include them. Hence the ambition of the new goals is to end poverty and hunger, once and for all.
Second, the new agenda targets the root causes of persistent poverty, deprivation and instability, while avoiding simplistic recipes. Economic, social and environmental challenges are increasingly complex and interrelated. One main strength of the SDGs lies in the interweaving of these dimensions.
Third, the SDG agenda is universal. In the face of challenges such as climate change, health pandemics, and economic and financial crises, the conventional distinctions among countries — North/South, developed/developing, donor/recipient — are becoming increasingly blurred. Even in G7 countries, there can be destitution, exclusion and inequality. Universality implies that all countries will need to change, each with its own approach, but each with a sense of the global common good.
Many worry about the price tag of the new goals. But while aid to developing countries remains essential, it is part of a wider picture. Resources have to be raised and spent primarily in countries themselves. All the important economic actors — governments, the business sector, banking and insurance firms, financial institutions and the international trading system — have to be part of the transition to sustainability. The financing for development conference next month in Addis Ababa will be a landmark on the way to financing the SDGs and will test the spirit that underpins them. I urge G7 leaders to make this smart investment in our collective well-being.
Ours can be the first generation to end poverty — and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late.
Negotiations on climate change are continuing this week in Bonn. A strong climate agreement in Paris will move the world towards an era of low-carbon, climate-resilient economies that will drive growth. These efforts — a new development agenda and a new climate agreement — are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing. We have two processes — but one universal agenda.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently doubled Germany’s contribution to climate finance by 2020 as part of the $100 billion per year pledged by developed countries to support developing countries. I urge other G7 countries to follow Germany’s lead. Small island developing states and least developed countries are particularly vulnerable and will require targeted support, including climate risk insurance.
Climate finance is essential for building the trust needed to secure a meaningful, global agreement in Paris that will help put the world on a safer path. The G7 can also serve as a model for higher ambition in Paris by putting forth strong climate targets now while committing to up its game for the post-2020 period.
At a time of global crisis and division, an international negotiation among 193 countries has produced an inspiring new vision for development — a heartening and major achievement. While retaining a strong focus on poverty eradication, the new agenda will take us in new and necessary directions. It recognizes the need for holistic approaches and climate smart solutions. It reflects a greater understanding of the global public’s aspirations and of the problems people face in their daily lives. And it focuses on effective institutions, human rights and other key elements that were not part of the MDG blueprint but which are crucial for preventing conflict and promoting stability and peace.
As G7 countries gather in Upper Bavaria, they should uphold their political and moral responsibility to lead. Not by imposing a set of policies for the world to follow, but by demonstrating that it is politically possible and economically viable to chart a new way towards a better, more sustainable future for people and the planet.
Ban Ki-moon is secretary-general of the United Nations. The views expressed are his own.