UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres File photo

Sustainable Development Goals in peril due to overseas aid cuts: Guterres

New York, May 14, 2022

Recent deep cuts to overseas aid budgets by governments, will have “direct, negative impacts” on the ability of the world to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN chief warned on Friday.

Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his concern over the fall in Overseas Development Aid (ODA) following a meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board, which brought together the heads of 30 entities, to discuss ways of alleviating the crises holding back economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and boost implementation of the SDGs.

‘Cascading challenges’

He noted that the current “moment in history” had thrown up “cascading challenges” including a climate emergency, uneven economic recovery, and the triple crisis of food, energy and debt, all exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Guterres said that a critical ingredient of the UN’s ability to “rescue” the SDGs and provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance was “predictable and additional funding”, underpinned by the commitment of nations to provide 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income, to overseas aid – a target adopted in a UN General Assembly resolution, for advanced economies, back in 1970.

He acknowledged that a number of countries have met, “and in some cases” gone beyond, the threshold.

Commitments reversed

“However, there are recent indications that other Member States are making deep cuts of ODA, in a reversal of their commitment,” he said.

“This will have direct negative impacts on the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals. This is alarming and I urge Member States to reconsider, given the dire consequences for the vulnerable among us in these turbulent times.”

He reiterated the UN’s commitment to strengthened coordination in support of “coherent” national strategies for reaching the ambitious targets of the SDGs, agreed by 193 countries in 2015 – a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and make peace and prosperity accessible to all.

“We can deliver results and ensure they meet the needs and rights of the people whom we are meant to assist,” said the UN chief.

“At a time when global conflicts are at their highest levels since the creation of the United Nations, the evidence demonstrates that investing in development is the best way to prevent crises and maintain international peace, which remains the UN’s central mission. Prevention remains at the heart of my agenda.”

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