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HDI Higher Education AllianceHumpty Dumpty Institute brings United Nations speaker to Alcorn State University to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

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Muhlenberg College
Muhlenberg College
Muhlenberg College
Muhlenberg College

Matthias Klettermayer, Sustainable Development Officer at the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs spoke to a crowd of about 70 students at Alcorn State University on February 4, 2016 about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The lecture, entitled “Transforming our World - The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, is part of the Humpty Dumpty Institute’s Higher Education Alliance program designed to build bridges between United Nations and universities around the nation.

Mr. Klettermayer first provided a brief history of the UN charter and illuminated the fact that at the time of its signing, the UN charter did not include goals for sustainable development. According to the United Nations, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, and for sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to synchronize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. Mr. Klettermayer discussed the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 and concluded in 2015, and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs were set forth at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 and agreed upon by the General Assembly last year. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) built on the Millennium Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda. The SDGs are a collection of 17 goals designed to address some of the world’s key issues - Sustainable Development Goals and targets. Mr. Klettermayer discussed the historical context of sustainable development which looks at the three important factors that shape the UN‘s work on development, the scope of work of the UN as a whole; the focus on individuals, and; the participation of non-state actors. With the increase in interstate war, intrastate war, and weak and failed states, violent conflict is one of the greatest obstacles to sustainable development. In January of this year Secretary General Ban ki-Moon said in a briefing to the Security Council that “the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda is an important opportunity to reinforce the interdependence of development, peace and security, and human rights, the United Nations is built around the three pillars of peace and security, development and human rights.” The focus on individuals in setting out the SDGs focuses on improving the lives people lead. It is about expanding the choices people have and acknowledging that people often value achievements that do not show up in income or growth figures. These include: greater access to knowledge; better nutrition and health services; more secure livelihoods, security against violence; and political and cultural freedoms among others. The final factor shaping UN development policy is the increasing importance of non state actors. Civil society organizations and private sector have become increasingly engaged in UN's work on development.

While some targets that have been achieved and others have not, the Millennium Development Goals can be counted as one of the better achievements by the United Nations regarding poverty reduction, disease control, and increased access to schooling in the poorest countries of the world. For example, the global number of the extreme poor (those living on less than $1.25 a day) has fallen from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Nearly two billion people have gained access to piped drinking water since 1990, and enrollment rates in sub-Saharan Africa have grown by nearly 30% in the same time period. However, much work remains to be done; emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 50% since 1990; 800 million people still live in extreme poverty, and; some critical social and economic issues were not addressed in the MDGs, such as inequality, and sustainable consumption and production. These gains regarding poverty eradication can be reversed if we breach planetary boundaries by overextension of resource extraction.

The Sustainable Development Goals agreed on in September 2015 was the result of a two-year intergovernmental process to determine goals. They depart from traditional thinking on development in that they aim to integrate social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The 17 Goals represent an action plan for change that delivers on five key areas. These areas are called informally “The Five Ps” and include: 1.) People: insuring dignity and equality by ending poverty and hunger; 2.) Planet: protection of the planet’s natural resources and climate for future generations; 3.) Prosperity: prosperous and fulfilling lives in harmony with nature; 4.) Peace: fostering peaceful, just and inclusive societies, and; 5.) Partnerships: implementing the agenda through global partnerships. The elements that are key to the success of the new Sustainable Development agenda are integration of resilient and dynamic economies and a health environment to eradicate poverty, the universal commitment of all countries to action taking into account differing levels of development, the involvement of the 193 member states as well as civil society and individuals, the transformation of structural factors such as inequality, consumption and production, and growth, and that every country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development.

Mr. Kletermayer ended with the crucial question of how UN member states can work together to finance the post-2015 SDGs. One estimate puts the cost of the project at 33 trillion dollars. Sustainable Development will need financing, from many sources: Finance (national financing framework, tax collection, assistance in debt financing/relief/restructuring/management, overseas development aid); Technology (technology facilitation mechanism, North-South, South-South); Capacity Building to support national plans to implement the SDGs; Trade (rules-based, equitable, non-discriminatory); Systemic issues (respect each country’s policy space, global co-ordination, multi-stakeholder partnerships). For the SDGs to be successful we will need for peace and security and human rights to be recognized as imperative for sustainable development. Resources will have to be mobilized from domestic and international sources, and the public and private sectors. The SDGs must also leave no one behind. Progress needs to be measurable and measured, through disaggregated data. The SDG’s true test will be implementation. A truly effective global partnership will need to have as partner all members of society.

In addition to his role as a Sustainable Development Officer, Matthias Klettermayer is responsible for communication and outreach in the United Nation’s Division for Sustainable Development, which is part of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). He regularly gives presentations and briefings on sustainable development issues, including a follow-up to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda. Mr. Klettermayer is lead author of the Division's monthly newsletter Sustainable Development in Action and manages the Division's social media channels on Twitter and Facebook. He also organizes Google+ hangouts and Facebook chats on sustainable development issues.

Prior to working with the United Nations, Mr. Klettermayer worked at the British Embassy and UK Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Vienna, where his portfolio included communication and outreach activities on a range of international issues. He has a Master’s degree in Communications Science from the University of Vienna, Austria.

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Wilkes, February 19, 2016 >