25 September 2015: UN agrees to "Leave No-One Behind."

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25 september 2015

Hans Zomer blogs from the UN Summit in New York where world leaders are meeting to agree the new Global Sustainable Development Goals

A group of representatives of Irish NGOs have arrived in New York where, today, the193 member countries of the United Nations will formally adopt a new global agreement designed to coordinate efforts to build a better world.

A similar agreement, reached 15 years ago, prompted an unprecedented global alliance of governments, NGOs and business leaders to reduce extreme poverty and hunger. These "Millennium Development Goals" showed that the world can achieve tremendous progress on intractable issues such as illiteracy, hunger and extreme poverty, once there is a global framework in place to guide decision making.

Anti-poverty campaigners and world leaders alike hope that this new set of priorities will build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals - which have seen poverty levels halved, and deaths in child birth halved since 1990 - and spawn a new global movement that will eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. They argue that the world has shown that global agreements do work, even when they are not legally binding.

However, there are plenty of difficulties ahead. In July, a global summit focusing on the question who should pay for the new agreement (the "Financing for Development" talks in Addis Ababa) poorer countries accused richer nations of being unwilling to pay their fair share and of deliberately keeping inernational negotiations about taxation out of the UN and in the more select club of the OECD members.

In addition, the new agreement is much broader than the issues covered by the Millennium Development Goals, and includes areas such as energy use, city planning, income inequality and climate change.

The new Global Goals to be agreed tomorrow are an ambitious statement that every country is in fact a "developing country" and that no one country can be deemed to be "rich" unless everyone can benefit. The new global framework shows clearly that extreme poverty is not merely a matter of concern for charities, but an issue that must be addressed in everyone's interest.

As such, these new Sustainable Development Goals are a global game changer. But only if the global community keeps up the pressure.

Whereas a country's track record under the Millennium Development Goals was the stuff of big statistical reports at inaccessible UN libraries, the monitoring of the new Global Goals must become part of the public debate in every country. Local and national governments, citizen groups, schools, companies and people everywhere must all be part of the global implementation plan. Helped by the technology to make data available, citizens around the world must be encouraged to ask "the powers that be" what they are doing to help achieve the goals.

The Global Goals provide a welcome level of ambition on the part of our world leaders. By agreeing the goals, we are giving ourselves a unique chance to make history. The work to make sure each of us can play our part starts now.

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