Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
OECD, France - 6 March 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors, Dear colleagues,
It is with hope and enthusiasm that I welcome you to the third edition of our annual Meeting of the Members of the Council on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Let me extend a special welcome to our guests joining us from New York and capitals. I particularly want to thank Her Excellency Inga Rhonda King, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council for joining our discussions today. We will also hear from Her Excellency Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General via a video message.
Addressing persistent challenges
We know that important challenges persist in the achievement of the SDGs and there is still a lot of work to be done over the next 11 years, including in the OECD countries. Let me provide some context of the scale tasks ahead:
Some 10% of the global population still live in extreme poverty; 16% of students of lower secondary school age do not attend school and the figure climbs to 20% for girls . The proportion of undernourished people worldwide increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.
Since 1970, one tenth of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and one third of freshwater biodiversity have been wiped out. We are on course to lose another 10% of terrestrial species by 2050 . Our collective efforts to address climate change still fall far short of putting the world on a pathway in line with the Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal. In fact, global energy emissions rose by an estimated 1.4% in 2017, after a three-year period of stabilisation. While further research estimates that this number jumped to 2.7% in 2018.
The forthcoming update of the OECD’s “Measuring the Distance to SDG targets” study shows that more than one third of OECD countries are on average making progress toward the SDG targets on Health, Gender, Energy, Infrastructure, Implementation, and all five “Planet” goals. However, more than half of our members have made little or no progress towards targets relating to Eradicating poverty, Food, Education, Infrastructure, Cities and Institutions. And when it comes to the Goal 8 on ‘Promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’, a third of OECD countries is actually moving away from the SDG targets.
This demonstrates once again that the 2030 Agenda is relevant to all countries – developed and developing alike – and to everyone in this room. That is what brings us here today and that is why we hope that this particular meeting will provide a strong contribution to country implementation of the SDGs, as well as the UN process of reviewing the Goals.
This Agenda is also affected by global tensions and pressures on multilateralism.
This Council can help us to accelerate and move in the right direction. This year, we have chosen to focus on topics that highlight the universality, breadth, and interconnectedness of the 2030 Agenda.
Discussions will be focusing on many paramount issues, from addressing inequalities by empowering those left behind; to achieving our environmental objectives; and mobilising more impactful and effective financing for the SDGs.
We are eager to learn from Members and Partners and hear about your national experiences in designing, resourcing, and implementing comprehensive strategies that are good for the people, and good for the planet.
We will therefore be tapping into your insights and asking you, how do you navigate this incredibly ambitious and complex agenda, ensuring that no one is left behind? How do you mobilise support across your governments and constituencies? How do you maximise your contributions to pursuing the global public goods and in fighting the “bads”? How do you transition to a low-carbon economy and embrace the digital age, in a way that is fair and acceptable by people?
The OECD remains committed to providing answers to these difficult questions and to playing the role of the “best supporting actor” in this UN-led SDG process. We will continue to support the international community through our Action Plan on the SDGs adopted in 2016, leveraging expertise from the entire Organisation, and increasingly engaging in the UN processes through our office in New York.
Among others, the Action Plan identifies several areas for action where the OECD’s added value and expertise can contribute to achieving the SDGs, these include: Leveraging OECD data to help analyse progress in the implementation of the SDGs; as well as upgrading the OECD’s support for integrated planning and policy-making at the country level, and providing a space for governments to share experiences on governing for the SDGs, as we have done for Slovenia and the Slovak republic (and soon with Romania and Malta).
In the area of governance for the SDGs, our work spans many different areas, including on public procurement, access to justice, open government, regulatory policy, measurement and governance indicators, and policy coherence.
On implementing the SDGs at the sub-national level, tomorrow the OECD is convening the first OECD Roundtable on Cities and Regions for the SDGs to identify trends and challenges in the localisation of the SDGs building on the findings from the pilots of the programme “A territorial approach to SDGs. A role for cities and regions to leave no one behind”.
On Friday, within the March on gender, we will launch the 2019 SIGI Global Report. The 2019 edition of SIGI covers all gender-related SDGs, covers 180 countries and ranks 120 of them.
The insights from our PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) for Development initiative are being mainstreamed in PISA 2018 and PISA 2021 to expand the participation in the assessment by middle- and low-income countries.
The OECD-UNDP Tax Inspectors Without Borders initiative continues to grow with 13 completed projects, 39 operational projects and 25 additional ones in the pipeline. Since 2012, over USD 445 million have been uncovered in additional tax revenue (last year the estimate was USD 328 million, a USD 117 million y-o-y change).
We will hear more on our work from DSG Kono and our Directors over the course of the day.
Last but not least, our upcoming annual Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) in May, chaired by the Slovak Republic – and co-chaired by Canada and Korea – will be focusing on how to harness the potential of the digital transformation for growth, well-being and sustainable development. I would like to thank you Deputy Prime Minister Raši for your leadership in championing this agenda, and for joining us today to share Slovakia’s journey on the SDGs.
Ladies and Gentleman,
The SDGs clock is moving fast and the cost of inaction is increasing by the day. This is particularly true for climate change and inequalities – challenges which if not tackled swiftly and effectively, can have disastrous consequences for our economies, our societies, and the planet. We cannot dwell on our successes, we must focus on the tasks ahead and we need to do it now!
I therefore encourage you to have a frank and open discussion so that together we can deliver on the vision and the promise of the 2030 Agenda. hank you.