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Poverty & SDGs

U.N. Chief Leads the Way on the ‘Road to Dignity’

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2015 (IPS) - Addressing the 193 member states of the General Assembly on Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for sweeping changes that would set the world on the path of sustainable development.

Referring to his synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda, Ban reiterated his commitment to “finishing” the job of the Millennium Development Goals – a set of poverty reduction targets that will expire this year, and which have seen patchy progress across the globe over the past decade.

For instance, the number of people living at or below 1.25 dollars a day fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to just over a billion in 2011, representing an improvement in hundreds of millions of lives, but reminding the world that far too many people are barely able to eke out a living, or put a meal on the table for their families at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, a further 2.2 billion people were living on just two dollars a day in 2011, indicating massive deprivation facing over a quarter of the world’s population.

Other indicators also paint a bleak picture about the hardships facing millions; this past June, the U.N. Refugee Agency noted that for the first time since the World War II era, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, displaced or otherwise stateless people topped 50 million at the end of 2013, a good six million more than in 2012.

The situation is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, experts say, another issue that is high on the secretary-general’s sustainable development agenda.

At the session earlier today, Ban reiterated the need for member states to fulfill promises made recently in Lima, Peru, during COP 20, the 20th meeting of the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Indeed, government inaction on climate change – particularly the lack of concrete decisions at high-level forums such as the COP gatherings – has both scientists and citizens on the edge, and throws into doubt the notion of a decade of ‘sustainability’.

A study by the Global Carbon Project released last year, for instance, suggested that global greenhouse emissions touched 40 billion tonnes in 2014, a 2.5-percent increase compared to emissions in 2013.

This, despite the fact that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the apex body on environmental issues, has predicted ‘catastrophic’ consequences if countries to fail to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius, including severe melting of the polar ice caps, sea-level rise, recurring droughts and floods and a host of other natural disasters.

In light of this, Ban’s commitment to “ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet” is not just a theory on the way forward: it is increasingly becoming the only way forward for a world of seven billion people, if the U.N.’s goals of equality and justice for all are to be realized in the coming decade.

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