Previewing the UN General Assembly: A Global Community of Actors

Thursday, September 5, 2019 - 3:50 pm
Kaysie Brown

Previewing the UN General Assembly: A global community of actors

The world faces pressing challenges that require global responses – the climate crisis, entrenched inequality, migration, and more. But with international cooperation increasingly at risk, actions taken at the local level are ever more vital. 

The upcoming high-level week of the UN General Assembly will put these issues front and center on the international agenda and mobilize action on the challenges that matter to Americans and to people around the world.

This year, the high-level week of the UN General Assembly will feature five major meetings on important issues, from climate to health to inequality. The common thread across the week is a focus on pushing forward solutions that will create a fair future for people and the planet. Here is an overview of the week:

  • The Climate Action Summit, hosted by the UN Secretary-General on September 23, will feature concrete announcements from countries and companies about how they plan to step up climate action. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and urgent action here will underpin progress across a range of issues, from health to hunger. Preceding this summit is the Youth Climate Summit on September 21 where hundreds of young climate activists will connect with decisionmakers and share ideas to safeguard the planet.
  • The High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage will also take place on September 23, and will advocate for greater action and commitment to ensure that all citizens have quality and affordable health care by 2030. With at least half of the world’s population lacking access to essential health services, action taken here to address the barriers to coverage would have broad effects across social and economic issues.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals Summit on September 24-25, is the first high-level check-in on the worlds progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of ambitious, universal promises to end extreme poverty, tackle inequalities, and protect the planet by 2030. Recent reports make clear that we are behind on reaching these goals, so this summit is a key moment to step up action and ambition as we head into 2020, the 10-year countdown to the SDGs.
  • The High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development on September 26, will bring together representatives from government, business, and finance to discuss how to mobilize the resources and partnerships we need to accelerate progress on sustainable development. How we spend our money reflects our priorities, and right now, the world needs to increase the resources it invests in achieving the SDGs and the Paris agreement on climate change.
  • The High-Level Midterm Review of the Samoa Pathway will close out the week on September 27. Small island developing states are a microcosm of the challenges facing the world today. They are among the most vulnerable to threats like climate change and face some of the greatest barriers to meeting the SDGs. The meeting will review progress on the plan – known as the Samoa Pathway – to better support these important states.

These summits come at a crucial juncture for the world, and it is clear we need to do better to bend trajectories toward success. The challenges are daunting.

While today the global prevalence of extreme poverty is the lowest-ever recorded in human history, progress has been uneven and is slowing. At the current pace, hundreds of millions, and in some cases billions, of people will be left behind on issues like nutrition, education, and access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Additionally, the world is struggling with a slowing economy and rising inequality. Justice is at the core of the SDGs, but 5.1 billion people lack meaningful access. And we are increasingly experiencing the devastating effects of climate change. Today, around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, which is the highest number in human history.

The good news is that we’re seeing more partners– from cities to non-profit groups to students – step up on sustainable development and climate change.

Citizens around the world are increasingly pressuring their governments to pursue climate-smart and sustainable policies. Cities too are leading the charge, reviewing their progress against the SDGs and making bold climate action commitments. And philanthropy, especially community philanthropy, is increasingly carrying the torch when others have stepped back.

Tackling these challenges requires global pressure, but equally it means local action. In the United States, these issues are resonating in powerful ways and foundations, companies, universities, and the philanthropic community are taking important steps to make progress for their communities and for the world.

The UN General Assembly is a time for the world to come together to commit to ambitious action. It takes a global community of actors, from the local level to international, to tackle these global challenges together.

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