Working together on a resilient basis for the Sustainable Development Goals
The world is now halfway through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and accelerating the transition from promise to progress has never been more important. In fact, in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Report 2022, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that with “cascading and interconnected global crises, the stated aspirations…are in jeopardy.” The SDG financing gap was valued at $2.5 trillion pre-Covid-19, with an additional $1 trillion needed for Covid-19 spending in developing countries.
As heads of state gather this week in New York for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), they face several pressing global challenges. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – set out when the 17 goals were adopted by UN member states in 2015 – remains a cohesive roadmap for action around the world. It establishes a shared vision of the urgent need to work together to improve the well-being of everyone, everywhere, and sustain our planet for the future. It also highlights the role that technology must play in creating a more equitable world.
The Agenda 2030 technology recognized as a “means of implementation” for the SDGs, as well as global partnerships that bring together “governments, civil society, the private sector, the UN system and other actors”. The Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation said: “Of the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs, not a single one is detached from the implications and potential of digital technology. Technology can be a positive force to transform our world and people’s lives when developed and used in a reliable, responsible and inclusive way.
Microsoft has been committed to the SDGs from the start and remains steadfast in its efforts to make them a reality. This is consistent with our history of supporting and promoting the Charter of the United Nations in accordance with our mission: to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We have engaged with UN agencies to help achieve virtually all of the SDG goals, including our work on connectivity, digital inclusion and humanitarian crises, and our participation in the UN Global Compact since 2006. Microsoft President Brad Smith reiterated the need to “join with governments, industry and civil society on the 17 UN SDGs” when he was named the 2021 SDG Advocate.
Our report Microsoft and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals shares examples of how digital technology, innovation and partnerships are key to advancing the SDGs. For example, we are partnering with UNICEF to advance SDG 4 – “quality education” – through The learning passport, a digital platform created to address the challenges of access to quality education faced by millions of children and young people in times of disruption, such as war, crises and displacement. It is a portable education, accessible online, offline and on mobile devices; the platform is now available in 26 countries. To support SDG 8 – “Decent work and economic growth” – Microsoft launched a digital skills initiative in June 2020 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on workers around the world; by the end of 2021, 42 million people have acquired essential digital skills through the programs. We have also made bold commitments on SDG 13 – “climate action” – including working on the Carbon Appeal with the ClimateWorks Foundation, UNEP and more than 20 other leading organizations to address the reliability and interoperability of carbon accounting for the planet.
But we must do more. Building on Microsoft’s 20 years of collaboration with the UN, a team was created in 2020 to deepen and expand the company’s commitment to the mission of the UN and its agencies, multilateral and regional institutions, development banks, governments, local communities and stakeholders. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this team for Microsoft as Vice President of United Nations and International Organizations Affairs (UNIO). We aim to help address today’s global challenges and advance the SDGs through the responsible development, deployment and governance of digital technology. This UNIO team will focus on achieving the SDGs and inclusive economic growth; encourage evidence-based policymaking to facilitate digital transformation; and accelerate the adoption of digital technologies to support international systems and their missions.
The scale and complexity of the challenges facing the world today – pandemic recovery, food security and climate change – demand that the world come together in a multilateral effort to leverage our respective knowledge and find innovative solutions. . Throughout my career, I have been involved in multilateral work: seeing Nelson Mandela, accompanied by Graça Machel, tell the G7 finance ministers the urgency of taking action to support development in Africa in 2005, until during my time as Dean of Ambassadors at the OECD. I appreciate the value of multilateral processes – especially when informed by multi-stakeholder insights based on evidence and practical experience – and when they focus on inclusive and sustainable economic development as clear outcomes.
Two issues are central to our work to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs: the critical importance of supporting progress in least developed countries (LDCs) and the need to address issues at the intersection of technology and the society.
LDCs are facing unprecedented challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic: climate change, global recession, rising energy costs and food insecurity. At the same time, they must foster inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery and growth. Along with the important role of official development assistance for LDCs, private sector investment will be essential for these countries. We are strengthening our commitments to work with the UN to help expand the reach of its private sector and identify innovative solutions to the most pressing problems with our co-chairing of the 5th UN Conference on the LDC Private Sector Forum in 2023. Doha meetings, we have worked with companies from various sectors to outline the key challenges facing LDCs in connectivity, blended finance, skills, multi-stakeholder partnerships and good governance, and provide recommendations on what is needed to stimulate increased private sector investment to continue progress towards the SDGs. In close partnership with colleagues at Microsoft Tech for Social Impact, we will continue to deepen our work on empowering UN organizations to appropriately use technology to solve major societal challenges and advance the SDGs, while placing greater emphasis on digital development of LDCs.
For digital technology to provide a resilient foundation for achieving the SDGs, critical issues at the intersection of technology and society will need to be addressed. The industry must work with governments, civil society, the technical community and other stakeholders so that together we can create a trusted digital foundation that can lead to inclusive economic opportunity and protect fundamental human rights – and enable a more environmentally sustainable future. This is an important undertaking for our team – providing the UN, international organizations and governments with perspective on the role of digital technology in achieving the SDGs, while helping to put in place policy frameworks that will promote responsible development and facilitate the systemic adoption of these technologies.
For example, Microsoft participated in the launch of the UN and World Bank program Joint call to action on the need for new investments in data in April 2022. We highlighted the work of our data scientists to address global challenges, including mitigating the impact of the pandemic, addressing environmental challenges and supporting responses to disasters and other humanitarian crises. We also shared lessons learned from our collaborations on open data and best practices to help bridge the “data divide”. We will continue to work with the UN and the World Bank in their efforts to strengthen data systems and improve the capacities and policies of countries and organizations globally to produce, share and consume high-quality data from responsibly, helping governments to enable measurement and achievement. of the SDGs.
We know there is a real opportunity for organizations and governments to use digital technology responsibly to do more with less, and to make more efficient and responsible use of scarce resources while building a more resilient foundation for the future. Microsoft is happy to contribute to Secretary-General Guterres’ “Sustainable Development Goals reminder” as mentioned in the UN talks on our joint program and work with the UN and other international organizations to continue to build a resilient foundation for achieving the SDGs and to continue delivering on promises of progress.
Tags: COVID-19, SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Affairs Team, United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, UNIO, United Nations