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Story | Community
8 December 2019

Real-world impact of global sustainability push not showing, UN chief tells QF audience


Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General says “we are not seeing the change that we need” in working toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

A lack of evidence that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are being achieved and making change happen has been highlighted by one of the organization’s leading figures during a talk at Qatar Foundation.

Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, told the audience at the latest edition of the Education City Speaker Series that “business as usual” will not be enough to address the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are designed to lead to transformation in vital aspects of our society.

Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, was the guest at the latest edition of Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series.

Speaking at Qatar National Library, she revealed her belief that the hardest SDG to meet will be gender equality – and that she hopes a woman will become the next UN Secretary-General.

Mohammed, who addressed the topic of ‘Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Impact During the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs’, was speaking at an event held on the sidelines of the Doha International Conference on Disability and Development. And she said: “Since 2015, we have had unprecedented engagement with the SDGs.

“Across the globe, we have seen governments, scientific communities, the service industry, media, and many other sections of society being eager to embrace the goals. At high-level UN political events, we see evidence of plans and initiatives being drawn up.

“But what we are not seeing is evidence that this engagement of the contribution is making to the real world. We are not seeing the change that we need.”

In her talk, attended by Her Excellency the Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, Ambassador Alya bint Ahmed Al Thani, as well as school students, academics, and members of the wider community, Mohammed suggested ways in which societies can effectively align their actions and efforts with the aims of the SDGs.

Many local and regional governments are struggling to monitor the progress toward the SDGs.

Amina J. Mohammed

“The first priority is localization, by supporting local governments and local communities, and delivering on the SDGs,” she said. “With the right policies in place, the work of local leaders can be elevated.

“However, with localization comes two critical bottlenecks that local governments face. One is data, knowing who is where and doing what in order to invest; and the second is finance. Many local and regional governments are struggling to monitor the progress toward the SDGs.”

We need to tell stories that resonate and connect with the challenges people face daily.

Amina J. Mohammed

Mohammed also emphasized the importance of public mobilization, saying most people across the world are still not aware of the SDGs. “We need to engage people by rethinking how to communicate the goals,” she said.

“We need to tell stories that resonate and connect with the challenges people face daily. We need to find the right messengers and influencers to reach audiences.”

On the topic of empowering youth, Mohammed advised young audience members to “Get that education – it’s the most powerful tool. And use your voice with that knowledge.

“We have seen young people question leaders at the UN, making them very uncomfortable. So use your voice, but remember your voice needs to have purpose.”

Asked by moderator Folly Bah Thibault, a presenter at Al Jazeera English, for her thoughts on Qatar’s efforts towards addressing the SDGs, Mohammed said, “For Qatar, it is imperative that it addresses many of the issues around energy use. And during my visit to the country, I have seen the efforts being made to diversify.

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“Qatar has to become greener, and it also needs to look at moving away from single-use plastic, especially as a big population will be visiting Qatar during the FIFA World Cup™. If the country can set standards for being green, it would be fantastic. Transitions are important, and Qatar is on that path.”

Focused on bringing together experts from a range of fields to discuss the biggest issues and topics shaping today’s world today, the Education City Speaker Series provides a platform for Qatar’s community to have conversations with thought-leaders and change-makers from all over the world.

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