Wednesday, December 2, 2015
UN 2030 Agenda: More than Climate Change
After Intense, last-minute negotiations among member states and NGO stakeholders, the 193-member UN General Assembly formally adopted late last September the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new global goals, which are being hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – previously known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – is the direct descendant of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that concluded this year.
“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, which witnessed the adoption of the agenda that will stay in effect as a global guiding star for the next 15 years.
Speaking to the press after the adoption of the agenda, Ban said: “These goals are a blueprint for a better future. Now we must use the goals to transform the world. We will do that through partnership and through commitment. We must leave no-one behind.”
The UN chief, civil society, academics and scientists, cheered the new framework with its inclusion of many human interests and needs in an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership. “It conveys the urgency of climate action. It is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all,” Ban said, urging the world leaders and others convened at the event in New York City to successfully implement the agenda by launching “renewed global partnership.”
Justifiably, climate change, global warming and the environment have attracted almost all of the fanfare leading up to the 2030 Agenda’s adoption and since then. The attention these concepts are attracting has been compounded by the COP21 conference, which is currently being held in Paris. World leaders are expected to adopt a new climate-friendly course that will for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations strive to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
“You are here today to write the script for a new future. A future of hope and promise – of increased prosperity, security and dignity for all,” UN’s Ban told the world leaders at the opening of the summit. “Let us build a durable climate regime with clear rules of the road that all countries can agree to follow. Paris must mark a turning point. We need the world to know that we are headed to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future, and that there is no going back.”
However, the monumental and optimistic 2030 Agenda is not only about climate abuse and its expected deleterious effect on future generations. As with the MDGs, the 2030 Agenda focuses on a wide range of climate, sustainability, education, gender, health, environment and human rights issues. Embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 principles and 140-plus subsidiary points are many references to the urgency of protecting human rights. Human rights include national rights and the fulfillment of the latter usually guarantees the former. Conventional wisdom states that this hopeful, comprehensive package will make life easier and better for future generations.
Among the numerous references to human rights, we find the following two salient passages:
“We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.”
“We reaffirm the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international instruments relating to human rights and international law. We emphasize the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.”
But with wars and sanctioned national malice still plaguing the world, the obvious lack of global emphasis on these painful issues raises the question “what are the UN and global community thinking about?” Will it benefit sustainable development to sweep ethnic prejudice and violence and wars under the carpet? Should Russia’s war against Ukraine and human rights violations against Ukrainians and minority groups be overlooked for the sake of a successful conclusion to COP21? If Russia wages war and violates human rights with impunity will it voluntarily abide by new climate regulations?
Of course not and that’s where Ukrainian and other former captive nations’ NGOs, as well as their Permanent Missions to the United Nations along with indigenous Crimean people, and relevant human rights and disarmament groups have an opportunity to compel the UN and global community to remain focused on freedom, democracy, peace and stability by recognizing and punishing recidivist international aggressors like Russia.
President Poroshenko of Ukraine, who attended COP21, speaking at the United Nations on the eve of the ratification of the 2030 Agenda, declared Ukraine’s support for the UN Development Agenda but poignantly pointed out, “There will be no sustainable development without peace and freedom.”
Indeed, how can the global community be expected to evolve ecologically for the benefit of future generations when one outlaw member of the international community wages war against a neighboring state and violates the human rights of its citizens?
Poroshenko said further: “Ukraine’s bitter experience reveals that peace and freedom are principal pre-conditions for achieving the SDGs. Sustainable development is not achievable where explosions are heard and peaceful people are killed. It is not achievable where aggressive ideologies advocating suppression of some nations by other nations reign and key human rights and freedoms are violated.
“Strengthening universal peace and promoting larger freedom should become a driving and unifying force behind our collective efforts towards achieving the SDGs.
“Today Ukraine has to implement so much needed systemic reforms while opposing the Russian aggressor that tries to undermine the democratic European development the Ukrainian people have chosen.
“As a result of Russia’s treacherous annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea and its aggression in the Ukrainian Donbas region, thousands of people have been killed.”
As far as environmental concerns go, the Ukrainian president pointed out that Russia’s war against Ukraine has also increased environmental and epidemiological threats, as well as the risks of social exclusion.
Poroshenko assured the global community at the UN that Ukrainians are ecologically aware and focused today, first and foremost, on:
· fighting corruption;
· ensuring equal opportunities and social justice;
· effective public health system;
· promoting decent work;
· ensuring affordable education for all;
· promoting innovation development and sustainable infrastructure;
· ensuring sustainable energy supply;
· ensuring food security;
· healthy environment.
These points are also included directly or indirectly in the 2030 Agenda.
Speaking this week at COP21, Poroshenko further noted, “The terrible events that France experienced this tragic November are a daily reality for Ukraine for almost 21 months.” He again placed the blame for Ukraine’s woes directly on Russia, saying that his country “is suffering from terrorism sponsored and promoted by the Russian Federation.”
Consequently, more than 8,000 Ukrainians, of whom were about 6,000 civilians, lost their lives.
“There can be no compromise on democratic values and principles with terrorists or states sponsoring terrorism,” Poroshenko emphasized.
Convening of COP21 with its pro-climate advocates should give freedom-loving NGOs in the UN system and beyond, the Permanent Missions of the former captive nations, and concurring stakeholders the task of initiating a conversation within the context of the 2030 Agenda about creating a global partnership that would foster and preserve sustainable freedom, liberty, democracy, human rights, stability and peace for future generations while sanctioning Russia for its criminal belligerence.