MIL-OSI United Nations: Government Officials Highlight National Efforts to Make Cities Safe, Bring Potable Water, Modern Energy Services to All, as High-Level Political Forum Continues

Source: United Nations 4

Senior Government officials described national efforts to ensure access to drinking water, provide modern energy services and make cities safe for all, as the general debate of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development moved into its second day.

“As elected representatives, we have a responsibility to lead,” said Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, capturing what many described as the need to localize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and transform their societies.

Delegates focused particularly on national efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17, covering respectively:  clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; sustainable cities; responsible consumption and production; life on land; and partnerships.  Several underscored the importance of recognizing the links among the Goals and their related targets.

In this context, many emphasized the need to build circular economies, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible, then regenerated into new products and materials at the end of their life cycle.  Stressing that point, Finland’s Minister for the Environment, Energy and Housing said his country sought to become carbon-neutral by 2025, a goal which Bhutan’s Minister for Finance said his country had already achieved, making it the only nation in the world to have done so.  Estonia’s delegate meanwhile recalled that 50,000 Estonians united on World Cleanup Day in 2008 to pick up waste around the country in just five hours.

On housing, Goal 11, Namibia’s Minister for Economic Planning and Director‑General of the National Planning Commission said skewed land ownership and a lack of serviced land for housing had resulted in the expansion of slums on urban peripheries.  To address the issue, the Government is accelerating housing provisions through public-private partnerships and sourcing financing for rural housing schemes.

Sudan’s Minister for Security and Social Development meanwhile described a national project to ensure housing for all families, notably those headed by women, through the provision of credit.  On internal migration, a related issue, the Government supports small and medium-sized enterprise creation, which would allow people to stay in their “zone of origin”.

Other officials discussed innovative ways of providing better access to clean water, with the Minister for Regional Development of Czechia citing efforts under way to improve water retention and rainwater use, as more than 20 per cent of the country has been designated a protected area.  Zambia’s Minister for Development Planning said a campaign to upgrade slums focused heavily on providing clean water and improved sanitation, while Guatemala’s Secretary for Planning and Programming outlined his Government’s commitment to the comprehensive management of water.

Taking a broad view, Jordan’s Minister for Environment said resilience and prosperity requires sustaining peace, safeguarding gains and systematically working to reduce inequality.  Indeed, said Colombia’s Minister for National Planning, sustainable development is not a zero-sum game.  It requires openness and generosity.

On that point, the Special Envoy of Thailand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude to everyone involved in helping to save the young boys recently trapped in a cave in his country.  “This 18-day saga exemplified how best mankind could combine forces to overall all obstacles that hinder the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals,” he declared.

Also participating in the general debate were ministers and other senior officials for Latvia, South Africa, Cabo Verde, Cuba, Greece, Serbia, Sweden, Andorra, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Republic of Korea, Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago, Chad, Guinea, Guyana, Bahrain, Mexico, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Argentina, Netherlands and Norway.

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 18 July, to continue its general debate.


ARVILS AŠERADENS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economics, Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia, associating himself with the European Union, said the country’s strategy to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development featured skills, knowledge and talents as its main capital, along with nature, digitalization and culture.  The Government is preparing a new national development plan for post-2020, which would address the challenges identified in Latvia’s voluntary national review, a process that includes nationwide discussions on the targets and measures that fostered implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  It is important that economies are inclusive, he said, noting that a Latvian entrepreneur had designed a website that published offers from companies providing jobs for people who had emigrated but would like to return.  To promote a circular economy, Latvia sought to invest more in research and development, achieve 40 per cent of its energy consumption from renewables by 2020, and halve energy consumption relative to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

KIMMO TIILIKAINEN, Minister for the Environment, Energy and Housing of Finland, said the world must move to a revolutionary circular economy and his country is dedicated to building a carbon-neutral country by 2025.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires recognition of the links among them and their targets.  Stressing that unsustainable energy solutions could negatively affect biodiversity and human health, and calling access to water and sanitation human rights, he said implementation of Goal 6 requires more dialogue among States and other stakeholders at the United Nations.  The importance of gender equality, including sexual reproductive health and rights, could not be over-emphasized, he said, pressing Governments to take the lead in implementing the 2030 Agenda, along with civil society, academia, indigenous peoples, municipalities and regions, and the private sector.  Further, the huge potential of science, technology and innovation must be harnessed, he said, noting that Finland hosts a new United Nations technology and innovation lab to achieve the Goals.  Finland also carried out its first voluntary national review two years ago, and starting next year, its budget will include an integrated description of financial resources allocated to implementing the Agenda, an important step towards mainstreaming the Goals into all sectoral policies.

MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, Minister of Environment and Water Resources of Singapore, said that “as elected representatives, we have a responsibility to lead”. Ultimately, the 2030 Agenda is about transforming people’s lives.  Economic transformation is about uplifting people’s lives.  It is about taking a pragmatic approach to foster inclusive and harmonious societies.  Singapore has always balanced economic development with societal and environmental responsibility.  This helps accelerate innovation and shift the economy towards a sustainable and low-carbon future.  Being one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, Singapore has made heavy investments to ensure water resilience and sustainability.  It designated 2018 as the Year of the Climate Action to increase awareness and spur nationwide action.  Singapore is also strongly committed to partnering with and helping other countries achieve the 2030 Agenda.  As a fledging nation, Singapore has benefitted from United Nations agencies’ technical advice and it shares the country’s development experience with fellow developing countries through a cooperation programme set up in 1992.

EDNA B. MOLEWA, Minister for Environmental Affairs of South Africa, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, said that ensuring just and inclusive sustainable development requires collective action by all countries, sectors and actors.  Implementing the Goals requires fair, integrated and coordinated action.  She spelled out South Africa’s development challenges, including climate change, urbanization, and unsustainable consumption and production patterns, adding that its national development plan gave priority to poverty, inequality and unemployment.  Global sustainable development and humanitarian challenges must not be conflated with security issues, she said, adding that States must live up to the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Doha Development Agenda and address such issues as illicit financial flows, intellectual property, mutual benefit and the gross national income target of 0.7 per cent for official development assistance (ODA).

MIGUEL ANGEL MOIR SANDOVAL, Secretary for Planning and Programming of Guatemala, said his country has made progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by aligning its national priorities with a long-term comprehensive vision.  It has focused on improving health care and protecting the environment.  Reviewing 2030 Agenda progress has enabled Guatemala to prioritize water-related issues.  Even though progress has been made in this area, more work remains.  Guatemala is committed to the comprehensive management of water, and in general, other resources as well.  He underscored the contribution of civil society, adding also that his Government is working on increasing access to electricity for people living in rural areas.  On land planning, he stressed the need to examine the proportion of people living in slums.  It is essential to ensure that Guatemala takes on sustainable urban planning, including at the micro level.

JOSÉ DA SILVA GONÇALVES, Minister for Tourism and Transport, Minister for Maritime Economy of Cabo Verde, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), expressed concern that United Nations discussions on the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development faced “considerable” roadblocks.  Cabo Verde is on track to implement its own development agenda, which is aligned with the 2030 Agenda, with the goal of building resilience, with a focus on the most vulnerable.  Noting that Cabo Verde graduated from a least developed country to a lower middle-income country in 2008, he said it will continue to invest in human capital, good governance, justice and energy, and focus on meeting basic needs of health, education, water and sanitation.  However, limited international funding, along with mobilization capacity constraints, are major obstacles to promoting development, and a harmonized system is needed to classify countries with clear eligibility criteria. 

LYONPO NAMGAY DORJI, Minister for Finance of Bhutan, said the voluntary national review is an important forum for sharing success stories.  The objectives of the 2030 Agenda are consistent with Bhutan’s development paradigm of gross national happiness, which ensures that peace, well-being and happiness are at the core of all socioeconomic endeavours.  Noting that Bhutan also aligns the Goals with its national plans, he said the country is on track to implement these targets, with its five-year national development plan marking the first big step towards this goal.  Bhutan also has made considerable progress in building a just and harmonious society, having reduced multidimensional poverty from 5.78 per cent, maintained income inequality at 0.38 per cent and achieved 100 per cent school enrolment.  Yet demographic change, economic vulnerability, impacts of climate change and limited technological progress are among its challenges, he said, noting that Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-neutral country.  Its “Bhutan for Life” initiative provides sustained funding for protected areas and biological corridors.

SIIM KIISLER (Estonia), associating himself with the European Union, said that when it comes to halting environmental degradation, “strong will and initiative can move mountains”.  Recalling that 50,000 people in Estonia came together in 2008 to clean up the entire country in just five hours, he said World Cleanup Day on 15 September — with 150 countries participating — will be the biggest positive civic action the world has seen.  He added that some innovative new technologies — such as big data, blockchain and artificial intelligence — can advance human well-being and enhance economic growth, but not at the expense of the environment.  By making better behavioural and technology choices, the future will look brighter, he said.

LUIS FERNANDO MEJIA ALZATE, Minister for National Planning of Colombia, associating himself with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Group of Support to Middle-Income Countries, said his country has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change and is one of eight countries that has for the second time submitted its national voluntary review.  More remains to be done to close gaps between and within countries.  Colombia is at a key moment in its history.  Its Peace Agreement has allowed it to focus on improving lives, and building a stronger economy.  The best way to overcome conflict is to provide opportunity to all people.  “Peace and sustainable development go hand-in-hand,” he said, adding that his country was working to ensure that public innovation becomes a transformative tool for future generations.  It has pinpointed the need to focus on productivity and “green growth”.  Countries are linked and interdependent.  “Sustainable development is not a zero-sum game,” he stressed.  It requires openness and generosity.

KLÁRA DOSTÁLOVÁ, Minister of Regional Development of Czechia, said the Forum should further enhance the accountability of the 2030 Agenda review processes.  In this regard, regional forums organized by the United Nations economic commissions make excellent preparatory platforms for sharing good implementation practices.  On her country’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda, she said it is doing well, especially on Goals 6, 11 and 15, with more than 20 per cent of the country being protected areas and efforts under way to improve water retention and rainwater use.  At the local level, a growing number of Czech municipalities are engaged in the Local Agenda 21.  She went on to underscore the importance of sound governance and participation in decision-making processes in achieving sustainable and resilient societies.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ, Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, CELAC and the Alliance of Small Island States, said that a new world order based on justice, equity and peace must be achieved.  “We reject attempts to undermine existing multilateral mechanisms as well as the search for unilateral solutions,” he stressed.  Industrialized countries must accept their historic debt and exercise the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  The environmental crisis plaguing the planet and its devastating impact, particularly on developing countries, continues to pose a serious threat to the very existence of the human species.  Cuba is highly vulnerable to climate change.  Furthermore, the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for nearly 60 years has deprived the Cuban people and is a major obstacle to economic development.  Despite these challenges, Cuba is forging ahead with its development plans.  It also continues to share its limited resources with other nations, implementing programmes in 157 countries.

MASHAIR AHMED ELAMIN ABDALLA, Minister for Security and Social Development of Sudan, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, described his country’s efforts to meet Goal 11, on sustainable cities.  Noting that Sudan guarantees land for families, he said its national habitat project ensures adequate housing for all families, notably those headed by women, through the provision of credit.  Sudan also had established a fund to support dignified housing throughout the country.  As host to many migrants and refugees, Sudan faces the problem of trafficking in persons, and through its regional partnership, it seeks to address this question.  On internal migration, Sudan supports projects for development, microfinancing and small- and medium-sized enterprise creation, which would allow people to stay in their “zone of origin”.  Turning to Goal 6, he said Sudan seeks to provide drinking water from wells in rural zones and by collecting rain water, while on Goal 15, the environmental protection law aimed to combat desertification and ensure biodiversity.

SOKRATIS FAMELLOS, Alternate Minister for Environment and Energy of Greece, associating himself with European Union, said the Goals offer a transformative vision to reinvigorate the principles of democracy, a new vision for open, responsive and accountable governance, and a basis for a “new deal” that will trigger prosperity for entire societies.  “We need a new social agreement,” he said.  The Goals align with Greece’s priorities and are a blueprint for the values it seeks to promote at the global level.  On the environment, Greece has achieved most of the Goal 6 targets.  On Goal 7, the fight against energy poverty, together with greater use of renewables, is important for fostering social cohesion, he said, noting that the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and circular economy is of paramount importance, notably for job creation and supporting innovation in waste management.  He described efforts to incorporate biodiversity values into decision making in all sectors and levels, noting that efforts to promote peace, religious tolerance and security extend “beyond borders” in the eastern Mediterranean and south-east Europe amid an evolving refugee crisis.

SLAVICA ĐJUKIĆ DEJANOVIĆ, Minister without portfolio responsible for demography and population policy of Serbia, said that aligning the Goals with the European Union accession process is particularly important for her country as it seeks to join the bloc.  Emphasizing the need for high-quality data at all levels, she said Serbia will be hosting in September a subregional conference on promoting progress on the 2030 Agenda.  Guided by a strong emphasis on Goals 16 and 17 regarding peaceful, inclusive societies and partnership, Serbia is cooperating closely with the United Nations country team and its Resident Coordinator, she said, adding that peace is the basic precondition for progress and development.

KAROLINA SKOG, Minister for Environment of Sweden, said her country has a strong foundation for sustainable development and welfare.  Sweden values peace, inclusive societies and gender equality.  But there is much to be done, she emphasized.  The proper management of waste is at the core of achieving the 2030 Agenda.  Harmful chemicals are everywhere, spreading with global trade.  “This is not healthy, lives are at stake and our planet is in danger,” she stressed, noting various steps Sweden has taken to deal with the issue.  Global trade is changing and the management of chemicals must as well.  Water, which is a shared resource, is also a shared responsibility, she continued, adding that climate change is changing people’s access to water and marine resources.  The security risks associated with climate change are all too real.  She also underscored the important partnership between the public and private sector. 

MARIA UBACH FONT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra, stressed the need to incorporate resilience into development policies.  Andorra welcomes more than 8 million tourists a year, which attests to its sustainability.  Its economy is based mainly on tourism and trade.  Andorra has invested in renewable energy.  Andorra’s people care for the environment which is evident in the Government’s policies.  “The Government is strongly committed to providing quality education to all its citizens,” she emphasized, adding that educating citizenry is key to harnessing a responsible population.  In its first national voluntary review, Andorra noted its Government’s close cooperation with civil society.  The 2030 Agenda has become a common, shared and necessary objective, she said, adding that it could only be achieved through multilateralism.

OBETH KANDOZE, Minister for Economic Planning and Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, said most Goal 6 targets for access to clean water have been met.  However, as only 54 per cent of households enjoy access to improved sanitation, Namibia is scaling up public investment in such infrastructure.  On Goal 7, the country has achieved 50.4 per cent on household access to electricity and is committed to investing more in renewable sources, notably solar energy.  Housing under Goal 11, however, has been a challenge, with skewed land ownership and a lack of serviced land for housing, resulting in the expansion of slums on urban peripheries.  The Government is accelerating housing provisions through public‑private partnerships and it is sourcing financing for rural housing schemes.  On Goal 15, Namibia plays a lead role in addressing desertification, land degradation and drought, he said, adding that the link between these issues and Namibia’s ability to improve food security cannot be overemphasized.

TIANARIVELO RAZAFIMAHEFA, Minister for Internal Affairs and Decentralization of Madagascar, endorsing the statements by the Group of 77 and China, the African Group, and the Group of Least Developed Countries, described a seminar which explored innovative approaches for increasing domestic resources to finance the Goals in a manner that aligned with the legal framework.  A number of communities won prizes in that area and the seminar was an opportunity to take advantage of regional thinking.  Madagascar also has worked to harmonize financial-transfer mechanisms towards local communities, while an equalization fund was set up in 2017 to work on redistribution and balance.  Citing progress in governance, he said Madagascar seeks to institutionalize local dialogue structures, ensuring inclusion of all stakeholders in development plans.  A decentralization observatory also has been set up, as has a local governance index.

NAYEF AL-FAYEZ, Minister for Environment of Jordan, said he comes from a country which has, for decades, demonstrated how investing in human resources and development can translate into prosperity and welfare for all.  Jordan is now setting an example of resilience by trying to meet both the demands of its own population and the many Syrian refugees it hosts.  A resilient and prosperous Jordan requires sustaining peace and security, safeguarding gains and systematically working to reduce all forms of inequality.  This includes gender-based disparities.  Over the past several decades, Jordan has been able to maintain the security of its energy supply by diversifying its sources of imported energy and developing local and renewable energy resources, among others.  Jordan has also given particular focus to improving the resilience of refugee communities through the implementation of energy conservation projects in public institutions.  He stressed the need to close the gap in development financing, calling for a more coordinated partnership between national Governments, donors and various other stakeholders.

ALEXANDER CHITEME, Minister for Development Planning of Zambia, described his Government’s efforts to improve sanitation, which has contributed to a reduction of diarrheal illnesses among children.  It is also aiming to increase to 15 per cent by 2030 the proportion of energy generated by renewable sources, reducing Zambia’s dependence on hydro-electricity, as the country is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Noting rapid urbanization in Zambia, he said a campaign to upgrade slums is under way with a focus on clean water and improved sanitation.  On Goal 15, he said the Government is putting measures into place to help rural communities better manage their lands.  He went on to emphasize the need for quality, reliable and timely data and to appeal to developed countries to honour their commitments.

NABEELA F. TUNIS, Minister for Planning and Economic Development of Sierra Leone, associating herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said her country’s new President is committed to a New Direction Strategy that is aligned with the Goals.  She noted several key milestones achieved so far, including an increase in the proportion of children with disabilities enrolled in primary schools.  An ongoing constitutional review process is meanwhile addressing a range of justice-related issues.  With local businesses, the Government is exploring innovative approaches to affordable housing.  Emphasizing that the political atmosphere in her country had improved tremendously, she said its development partners on the ground deserve recognition for their efforts to transform the economy, build resilience and achieve the Goals.

KIM EUNKYUNG, Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea, associating herself with the statement delivered by Indonesia, also on behalf of Mexico, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, spelled out the measures being taken in her country to improve sustainability.  That included expanding the production of energy from renewable sources and efforts to reduce plastics use.  The Republic of Korea is also cooperating with international organizations to help developing countries.  With the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, the Republic of Korea is helping affected countries to combat desertification.  Through the Global Green Growth Institute, it is supporting climate change adaptation and implementation of the Goals, she said.

GEORGE GYAN-BAFFOUR (Ghana) said that her Government is taking steps aimed at enhancing the protection of water resources, while efforts are also being made to promote renewable energy through the implementation of the Renewable Energy Act and the National Energy Policy.  Ghana is seeking to adopt and implement a renewable energy master plan aimed at scaling up renewable energy penetration by 10 per cent by 2030; promoting clean rural household lighting; expanding market-based cleaner cooking solutions; and doubling energy efficiency to 20 per cent in power plants.  To enhance the safety and resilience of cities and urban areas, Ghana is implementing a national urban policy framework and action plan.  Furthermore, the Government is putting in place interventions to protect and promote the sustainable use of land-based resources, including assigning conservation status to forests and wetlands, mainstreaming biodiversity in development planning and strengthening environmental governance, among other steps.

CAMILLE ROBINSON-REGIS, Minister for Planning and Development of Trinidad and Tobago, said that Trinidad and Tobago’s Vision 2030 recognizes that to achieve development, a whole-of-society approach must be in place, allowing all persons to lead healthy and productive lives.  The Government has undertaken several initiatives to create a society in which the basic needs of all people, especially women and children, are met.  Guyana is an oil- and gas-based economy.  Approximately 97 per cent of the population has access to electricity and about 93 per cent of the nation’s 1.4 million people have access to water in their homes and communities.  The Government is developing a new national integration water resources management policy.  It has also developed a strong ecological code of conduct aimed at streamlining the country’s international commitments into national legislative frameworks.

ISSA DOUBRAGNE, Minister for Economy and Development Planning of Chad, said that without concerted follow-up it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the various development goals.  Chad has drafted two development documents to steer its course in the middle- to long-term.  “This is the vision for the Chad that we want,” he added.  In July 2017, the Government approved the two documents, which led to the holding of various workshops that have cemented support for the Sustainable Development Goals.  Chad is also drafting its first voluntary national review, which it hopes to present next year.  He underscored the important role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in helping Chad implement the 2030 Agenda.  He said that terrorist attacks and climate change in the Lake Chad region have had very serious effects on the already vulnerable population that lives there.  Stressing the need to mobilize pledged resources, he added:  “It is vital for my country that these promises be kept.” 

MAMA KANNY DIALLO, Minister for Planning and Economic Development of Guinea, emphasized the need to achieve the Goal on ensuring drinking water and sanitation for all, adding that her Government has made progress on this matter.  The Government is focusing additional efforts on increasing the share of access to drinking water from 69 per cent of the population to 76 per cent by 2020.  The Government is also seeking to improve energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources.  Guinea believes that the Sustainable Development Goals are the cornerstone of ensuring global progress, she continued, noting various meetings held with myriad stakeholders.  All parties must “make good” on the commitments made.

JOSEPH HARMON, Minister for State of Guyana, said the Green State Development Strategy provides Guyana with a long-term vision and guide for economic, social and environmental development.  The country’s transition to a “green State” will provide the foundation for improved human well-being and society equity, while significantly reducing environmental and ecological risks.  Guyana is committed to moving towards close to a 100 per cent clean and renewable energy supply by 2025, and pushing to increase solar power in its energy mix as a member of the International Solar Alliance and in partnership with Italy and Norway, while also maintaining extremely low levels of deforestation.  Although there is no substitute for nationally owned and led enterprises, partnerships, international cooperation, capacity-building and technology transfer remain indispensable.

MOHAMED EBRAHIM YOUSIF ALMUTAWA, Minister for Cabinet Affairs of Bahrain, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to implementing the Goals by meeting the needs and requirements of all citizens and residents without exception.  Noting that his country had just submitted its first voluntary national review, he said the Forum provided an opportunity to evaluate the ways that Bahrain is pursuing development with international and local partners.  Describing his country as a small developing State with many challenges to overcome due to limited resources and climate change, he emphasized the need to reactivate partnerships.  He also hoped for greater efforts to mobilize more sources of financing.

FRANCISCO GUZMÁN ORTIZ, Head of the Office of the President of Mexico, described the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change as the “road map for the planet”.  For Mexico, the 2030 Agenda is a State commitment.  Yesterday his Government presented Mexico’s second voluntary national review with a view to sharing experiences.  Mexico is gradually making progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda at the local level.  His country hopes that the reform of the United Nations development system will allow Member States to highlight the indivisibility of the Goals.  He said Mexico also agrees with the Secretary-General on the need to strengthen the Economic and Social Council’s deliberative function, and it welcomes the Secretariat’s initiative to look at the impact of innovative technology, including artificial intelligence, on the Goals.

AMY AMBATOBE NYONGOLO, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that access to drinking water is still below his Government’s target.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo has prioritized access to electricity, which also remain low, with approximately 19 per cent of the population having access to services.  The goal is to provide access for 75 per cent of the population by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050.  Hydroelectric plants are currently being constructed.  There are also a number of socioeconomic challenges facing the country.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is covered by 155 hectares of forest, making it the second-largest holder of biodiversity after the Amazon rain forest.  Various plans have benefitted from technical partnership, albeit some of the latter have been lacking.  Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires the provision of adequate resources, he stressed.

SERGIO BERGMAN, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, said that his country has signed the Paris Agreement on climate change and other relevant pacts.  At the heart of sustainable development is a human-rights approach.  All 17 Goals must be looked at together.  Business has an important role as well.  “Nothing is profitable if it is not sustainable,” he stressed.  He then turned the floor over to his colleague to present a report, which, she said, includes viewpoints of organizations highlighting their challenges and opportunities.  States bear a responsibility to translate international commitments into national priorities.  States will not be successful without necessary alliances.  That includes cooperating with the private sector, academia and civil society.  She also stressed the need to bolster efforts to implement all three dimensions, namely, the economic, social and environmental.

SUPARAT DEVAKULA, Special Envoy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his Government has introduced the Sustainable Development Goals to all its citizens.  It also sees the importance of science, technology and innovation as an effective means to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  He emphasized the need to address climate change.  He also expressed gratitude to everyone who supported and provided help to successfully save the young boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.  “Indeed, this 18-day saga exemplified how best mankind could combine forces to overcome all obstacles that hinder the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

OTMAR ODUBER, Deputy Prime Minister of Aruba, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands, said the Kingdom is committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda at home and abroad by collaborating with others.  He noted his country’s ambition to have a fully circular economy by 2050, with waste being used as raw material for new products.  There is a strong business case for sustainability, demonstrating that economic prosperity and a healthy environment can go hand in hand.  EMMA CLEMENS, youth delegate of the Netherlands, added that young people around the world are working to achieve the Goals.  However, only 10 delegations to the Forum — mostly from Europe — have youth delegates, she said.  It is the responsibility of all Member States to bring all young voices to the Forum.

JENS FROLICH HOLTE, State Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said conflict and fragility, depletion of natural resources and climate change are all having an impact on vulnerable populations, leading to large flows of refugees and migrants.  With the right policies, however, poverty in all its forms can be defeated.  Emphasizing the need for good ocean management, he drew attention to Norway’s role in establishing, with the World Bank, a trust fund to tackle marine litter.  Global and domestic financing are needed to ensure quality education for all children, he said, adding that corruption and illicit capital flows pose serious threats to security.  He underscored the need for a strong and legitimate multilateral system and, in this regard, welcomed the Secretary-General’s reform efforts.  The 2030 Agenda is a rousing call for change and Norway is heeding that call, he stated.

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