By Abby Maxman
Boston, USA, Sep 19 2019 (IPS) – As the UN General Assembly begins, we are once again ringing the alarm on the urgent issues of climate and development that demand our global attention and action. And I worry yet again leaders will not heed the warnings and not act with the clarity and at the scale the issues we’re here to tackle demand.
This year the global meetings open with the electrifying cry of young people demanding our attention and our action on climate. I hope this will push us to refocus and deliver on the promises we have made to the world’s most vulnerable people—and to future generations to whom we are bequeathing a planetary disaster.
When we’re talking about the climate crisis and the profound problems the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to address, we cannot stress enough just how high the stakes are. These high-level meetings are the perfect platform for nations to step up and take action – and we hope to see that, but initial signs from countries have been discouraging.
If not now, then when can we expect to see these actions taken?
We can’t keep pushing pledges and actions to a future date – we are in crisis now. Oxfam believes that multilateral approaches are key, and will continue pressing for action on these issues, holding the powerful to account to ensure the voices and needs of the world’s most vulnerable – who these meetings are designed to serve – are addressed.
The unprecedented and remarkable activism led by young people must be heeded and translated into concrete action. Intent to act is not enough – we need to see every nation, especially the wealthy and high-emitting ones, committing to combat this crisis together with urgent and drastic steps.
The science is telling us that we’re running out of time to avert climate change’s worst impacts. Some world leaders have gotten the message, but there is more work to be done, and Oxfam is joining urgent calls for politicians, businesses, and individuals to take ambitious and urgent action to save our planet.
Particularly in making good on wealthy nations’ climate finance commitments which are continuing to fall short of what is needed to protect the world’s poor from the devastating impacts of climate change.
We welcome any commitments made, but we don’t expect to hear enough of those to show leaders are taking this seriously. Too many are delaying, and we are still lacking leadership from the world’s major players and polluters. If anything, we are seeing potentially devastating rollbacks on climate issues in countries like the United States, when we have no time to waste.
Politicians need to go further and faster and to listen and act on the leadership of the students and strikers on the streets, the indigenous peoples and communities on the frontline of climate change, and to the constituencies that they represent. Oxfam is working with our partners to ensure that climate solutions don’t come at the expense of vulnerable communities.
The climate crisis is a defining issue of our day, and it is inextricably linked with other challenges we must face together like the growing global economic equality – the fact that too many still live in poverty and without the basic services and resources to live a healthy, safe and happy life. The SDG’s aim to address these issues and more, but they are far off track.
Two successive cyclones hit southern Africa within 6 weeks of each other, and Oxfam has been responding with clean water, sanitation, and hygiene support to avert cholera and other water-borne diseases.
Oxfam is disappointed by the lack of progress made on the SDGs – the latest Secretary General report shows that the world will not meet the SDGs by 2030. The lack of proper financing, growing inequality, gender injustice, and closing civic space are fundamental constraints to the achievement of the SDGs.
Oxfam is highly concerned that the world is not coming together to make the right political choices and fulfill previous commitments on development finance, which is key for reaching any of the SDGs. We need healthy national fiscal and monetary policies, and people-centered multilateralism with new rules and institutions that seek a more human economy.
At high-level meetings on the SDGs, civil society is provided with very limited time and opportunities to engage in the political process and outcome documents. This year, the outcome document for the SDG Summit was finalized before the actual proceedings of the events in both July and September, which is a clear signal these moments aren’t open for dialogue.
We need to have an open and inclusive process, with more concrete and aggressive actions to address the urgent and interrelated issues the SDGs tackle. We can only achieve the SDGs if we collectively strengthen global and national movements for human economics, accountable capitalism, and a new generation of public and private institutions and norms.
These are massive and complex issues that need sweeping yet specific actions. We must see countries step up and commit to making those now. This work at the UNGA is an opportunity to bring the voices, priorities, challenges and solutions to the table.
I hope we leave this General Debate, Climate Action and SDG Summits with a feeling of momentum – that we are not letting down our young people and the people facing the harsh realities of the climate crisis. Oxfam works with the world’s most vulnerable communities impacted by climate change, disasters, and poverty every day—and we are committed to being a part of the solution that addresses the crisis they feel so acutely.
Abby Maxman is President, Oxfam America