UN Report Calls for More Business Action on Sustainability

The United Nations has released a new report on private sector efforts to support the Global Compact and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, “Uniting Business in the Decade of Action,” coincides with the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Global Compact, and the fifth anniversary of the UN SDGs. Participation in the Global Compact has grown from 44 business participants to more than 10,000 companies. The initiative also includes 3,000 non-business signatories and 68 Local Networks.

Today, with a global pandemic sweeping the world, the challenges are greater than ever before. “The COVID-19 pandemic, with its twin health and socio-economic crises, has swiftly and dramatically upended lives and livelihoods in nearly every corner of the globe,” says UN Secretary General  António Guterres. “It has exposed global fragilities and laid bare the rampant inequalities that were already making life difficult for the most vulnerable.”

Gutteres says that the pandemic has made it more urgent that businesses and world leaders work toward meeting the goals in  the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “The UN system is fully mobilized to save lives and ease suffering,” the secretary general says. “Moreover, we know that recovery must not aim to simply go back to old ways and business-as-usual.”

One of the key takeaways from the new report is that the business community needs to move from policy commitments to action that can lead to actual performance improvements. While 84% of businesses participating in the Global Compact take some form of action on the SDGs, only 39% are setting goals that are sufficiently ambitious, science based and aligned with societal needs, and only 46%  have aligned sustainable development goals with their core business strategy.

“To truly succeed in driving sustainability outcomes, organizations need to focus on making sustainability sustainable,” the report notes. “To lead a transformation of this scale and nature requires a high degree of legitimacy, personal impact and authenticity that all stems from the personal commitment to making the world a better place.”

EU Releases 2020 Report on Sustainable Development Goals

Paolo Gentiloni

Progress toward meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals continues even as the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are living in difficult times,” said EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni during an update on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Perhaps this crisis has showed us more than ever the importance of interdependence and the need to link our economic, social and environmental efforts.”

Gentiloni  said that progress is being made on plans to integrate the SDGs into the EU economic policy coordination framework, the European Semester. “We are fully aware of the necessity to implement these goals in their entirety,” he said.

In addition to discussing the larger policy picture, Gentiloni said the EU’s 2020 status report on the SDGs includes a chapter on environmental sustainability and an annex tracking each member state’s progress toward meeting the goals.

While it is based on pre-pandemic data, the 2020 report shows that the EU made progress on the SDGs between 2015 to 2019. For example, said Gentiloni:“Since 2013, the EU has managed to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 12.5 million. In particular, fewer people faced problems related to their living conditions, such as overcrowding or lack of sanitary facilities.”

Moreover, the report notes, real GDP per capita in the EU has increased considerably over the past five years. While the employment rate increased from 68% to 73%, the long-term unemployment rate decreased from 5.5% to 2.8%.

And agricultural production in the EU has become more sustainable, with organic farming gaining its share of total agricultural area — from 5.9% in 2013 to 8% in 2018.

“These positive developments over the past five years are of course strongly challenged now,” said Gentiloni. “We will collectively need more sustainable and resilient societies. This is a lesson of the past months. The progress achieved so far is important, but only a starting point.”

 More details on the EU’s progress toward meeting the UN SDGs is available in the 2020 report.

António Guterres Says World Effort Needed in Response to Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragile balance between life and death.

In remarks to the World Health Assembly, UN Secretary General António Guterres noted that “despite the enormous scientific and technological advances of recent decades, a microscopic virus has brought us to our knees.”
 
Guterres  noted that COVID-19 has impacted all areas of life around the world. “The fragility of coordinated global efforts is highlighted by our failed response to the climate crisis,” he said. “The fragility of our nuclear disarmament regime is shown by the ever-increasing risk of proliferation. The fragility of our web protocols is laid bare by constant breaches in cybersecurity, as cyber warfare is also already happening – in a lawless international environment.”
 
COVID-19 must be a wake-up call, said the secretary-general. “Deadly global threats require a new unity and solidarity,” he said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United Nations has advocated for a three-point response. First, Guterres said, a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization,  is needed.  Second, more proactive public policies are needed to address the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis. Third, recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are stronger and more resilient.

“Both our response and our recovery must put human rights considerations at the center, “Guterres said. “Instead of going back to systems that were unsustainable, we need to make a leap into a future of clean energy, inclusivity and equality, and stronger social safety nets, including universal health coverage.”

UN Secretary-General Says COVID-19 Marks Earth Day with a ‘Wake-Up Call’

Earth Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The first Earth Day in the United States was held in 1970. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demand better environmental stewardship for planet Earth.

Today, Earth Day is part of a worldwide effort to support clean air, clean water, and protection for endangered species. In 2016, theUnited Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris climate agreement into force.

On this Earth Day, says UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic — the biggest test the world has faced since the Second World War.  We must work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences.”

Guterres noted that the coronavirus has exacerbated the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis. “Biodiversity is in steep decline,” he noted. “Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return.”

It is imperative that policymakers act decisively to protect the planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption. “The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call,” the secretary general said. “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.”

Federation of Sustainable Development Organizations Member Directory Now Live

The Federation of Sustainable Development Organizations Member Directory is now live online. The directory can be searched and sorted by type of organization, sustainable development goals and/or country. 

Most organizations can be contacted via a website link or by using the “Email Entry” link, which will enable you to send a secure email.

Organizations that are interesteed in joining the nearly 1,000 members of the Federation of Sustainable Development Organizations, can use this Registration Form. Membership is free to all qualifying organizations, which includes NGOs, universities, government agencies and private sector countries that are supporting the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Organizations that already have listing and would like to make a change or update should use the Contact Us form on the website.

UN Secretary General Calls for Science and Solidarity in the Wake of COVID-19 Crisis

UN SDGs

The coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity for the world to act in solidarity and turn this crisis into an impetus to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“The United Nations – and our global network of country offices — will support all governments to ensure that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his recent statement, expressing his firm determination to prevent the crisis from derailing sustainable development efforts while laying out a vision for the affected to build back better.

“As the world fights the deadly COVID-19 pandemic – the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War – we are also seeing another epidemic — a dangerous epidemic of misinformation,” Gutteres said.

In an effort to provide useful information, Gutteres announced the launch of a new United Nations Communications Response initiative “to flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation — a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.”

Learn more about the United Nations response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expo 2020 Dubai Postponement

Expo 2020 Dubai is likely to be postponed in the wake of the worldwide impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We continue to face a global situation that is both fast moving and unpredictable,” the organizers said. “These are extraordinary times and we, in common with our other stakeholders, expect to experience many challenges over the months to come. We remain firm in our collective aim to deliver an Expo that is true to its time and to our shared, urgent priorities. But it is clear that this is not the right time.”

The organizers have recommended to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) that the Dubai expo be postponed for one year. The BIE is the final arbiter on the postponement, and on setting new dates.

“While everyone involved in Expo 2020 Dubai remains firmly committed,” the organizers added, “many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have expressed a need to postpone Expo’s opening by one year, while they focus on overcoming this challenge.”

Learn more about the updated plans for Expo 2020.

Sustainability Includes the Fight for Basic Human Rights

Fostering global peace, justice and strong institutions is an essential component of the United Nations effort to support sustainable development around the world.

“Advances in ending violence, promoting the rule of law, strengthening institutions and increasing access to justice are uneven and continue to deprive millions of their security, rights and opportunities and undermine the delivery of public services and broader economic development,” says a recent United Nations report. “Attacks on civil society are also holding back development progress. Renewed efforts are essential to move towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16.”

Violence is a ongoing concern around the world. The number of intentional homicides per 100,000 people increased from 6.0 in 2015 to 6.1 in 2017, according to the UN report. An increase in the homicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, are reasons for concern.

Moreover, violence against children continues to be a problem in many places. In 83 countries, the UN report,, nearly 8 of 10 children from 1 to 14 years of age has been subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment at home.

“In all but seven of these countries, at least half of children experienced violent disciplinary methods,” the UN report says. “Sexual violence is perhaps the most disturbing of children’s rights violations. Based on the limited data available, in 14 of 46 countries with comparable data, at least 5 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 29 experienced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts that were forced, physically or in other ways, for the first time before they were 18 years of age.”

Human trafficking is also increasing. The vast majority, 70 percent, of detected victims of human trafficking are women and girls, most of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation, the UN report says.

Basic human rights are also under pressure. About 30 percent of people in prison are unsentenced detainees. Moreover, killings of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists are on the rise. From 2017 to 2018, the United Nations recorded and verified 431 killings across 41 countries.  

The pace of progress to put in place national human rights institutions compliant with the Paris Principles must be accelerated, notes the UN. In 2018, a total of 39 percent of all countries had in place an institution that was fully compliant with the internationally agreed standard, seven countries more than was the case in 2015. If growth continues at the same rate, by 2030 only a little over one half (54 percent) of all countries worldwide will have compliant national human rights institutions.

 “When it comes to human rights, there are no exceptions to those whom are protected under the Universal Declaration,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Human rights are our ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom, and we must rid the world of abuse, exploitation, marginalization, racism, torture and all exclusion.”

Life on Land Is Threatened by Over-Development and Extinction

Life on land is under siege, and protecting terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity is imperative. But, a recent United Nations report notes, while more key biodiversity areas are protected, land degradation continues. Moreover, biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate, and invasive species and the illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife continues to hurt vital ecosystems and species.

Protecting important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity is vital for ensuring long-term and sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater natural resources. And, as the UN notes, healthy mountain ecosystems are fundamental to ensuring sustainability. As of 2017, 76 percent of the world’s mountain areas were covered by some form of green coverage: 41 percent by forests, 29 percent by grassland/shrubland and 6 percent by cropland.

But land resources are under pressure from human activities. “From 2000 to 2015, more than one fifth of the Earth’s total land area was degraded, largely due to human-induced processes, such as desertification, cropland expansion and urbanization,” according to the UN. “During the same period, there were significant productivity declines in land cover, with grasslands incurring some of the greatest losses.”

As the UN report underscores, the Earth is facing a crisis when it comes to bio-diversity. “The most fundamental and irreversible human impact on nature is species extinction,” the report says. “The Red List Index – which measures the risk of extinction, in which a value of 1 indicates no threat to any species, and a value of 0 indicates that all species are extinct – has deteriorated from 0.82 in 1993 to 0.73 globally in 2019.”

One effort to improve sustainability on land is the The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources and biodiversity.

 “Nature is dynamic and interrelated — and so must be our response,” says Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. “We must move from the very real incremental change that we have created to a model that continues to push incremental wins while also fundamentally reaching for transformational change.”

Life Below Water Is Essential to Life on Land

Ensuring the biodiversity and sustainability of the Earth’s oceans is the focus of sustainable development Goal 14. But signification challenges must be overcome. According to a recent update from the United Nations, “the expansion of protected areas for marine biodiversity and existing policies and treaties that encourage responsible use of ocean resources are still insufficient to combat the adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification due to climate change and worsening coastal eutrophication.”

Billions of people depend on oceans for their livelihood — and for food source – which means that more urgent intervention is needed to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources at all levels.

As the UN notes, reducing ocean acidification form CO2 is critical. Moreover, to achieve sustainable development of fisheries, fish stocks must be maintained at a biologically sustainable level. Since 1974, the sustainability of world marine fish stocks levels has decreased from 90 percent 66.9 percent.

Over-fishing and decreasing bio-diversity are also problems. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remains one of the greatest threats to sustainable fisheries and the livelihoods of those who depend upon them and marine ecosystems.

“A framework of international instruments has been developed that addresses different aspects of fisheries management,” notes the UN report.”Most countries have taken measures to combat such fishing and have adopted an increasing number of fisheries management instruments in the past decade. For example, the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the first international binding agreement to combat such fishing, entered into force in June 2016. The number of parties to the Agreement has rapidly increased and stood at 58 as of February 2019.

Finally, more countries need to focus on supporting small-scale fisheries. To promote small-scale fisheries, most countries have developed targeted regulatory and institutional frameworks. However, more than 20 percent of countries have a low to medium level of implementation of such frameworks, particularly in Oceania and Central and South Asia.

With the global ocean economy valued at $1.5 trillion annually, a healthy marine environment is an essential component of the United Nations’ sustainable development agenda. “Life under water is essential to life on land,” says UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.  “The ocean produces half of the oxygen we breathe and provides food for 3.2 billion people around the world.”