We heard from the UN Secretary-General back in the month of April in terms of the SDG progress report, and here is what he said. He sounded an alarm about the lack of progress on Sustainable Development Goals, progress on 50% is weak and insufficient. Meanwhile, we have stalled or gone into reverse on more than 30% of the SDGs. Now, from April to now three months already, can you give us an update on where we are?
秘书长的讲话反映了在 2030 年可持续发展议程陷入了危机。这是对于现实的检验。此外，还有更多令人警醒的数字：在我们有数据可查的 140 个目标中，只贯彻了 12% 的目标。这能反映出相当严重的问题。我们面临的挑战也呈现在我们的其他研究中。例如，联合国开发计划署自1990 年以来一直在发布人类发展指数。自三十年前开始追踪这一数据以来，过去两年，人类发展的总体成就有所下降。在 2020 年至 2023 年期间，由于新冠疫情、气候危机和乌克兰战争的影响，这一下降趋势更加严重。仅在过去几年中，就有1.65亿人口陷入贫困。因此，我们在这方面确实面临着很多挑战。
What the Secretary General has said is a reflection of the serious lack of progress necessary to achieve sustainable development by 2030. This is a reality check. Moreover, more startling indicators emerge: out of the 140 targets for which we have data, only 12% are on track. The problem is quite serious. In some of our other studies, for example, we have indicators that show the challenges we are facing. The UNDP has been publishing the Human Development Index since 1990. In the last two consecutive years, we see a decline in overall human development achievements since we started tracking this data three decades ago. And between 2020 and 2023, this decline is compounded by the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine. 165 million people fell into poverty in just the last few years. So, we really have a lot of challenges in this regard.
These challenges are in front of us, do we have clear solutions?
更具体地来讲，我们看到世界正在前进，但各国前进的速度却大相径庭，因此我认为，这是一个挑战。目前世界上大约有 65 个国家正在以每年 4% 或更高的增长率发展，它们的增长速度还算不错。但同样，约有 65 个国家的增长率低于 2%，这意味着它们的增长水平非常低。另有 55 个国家的总增长率在 2%到 4%之间，这意味着这些国家正在发展，但速度截然不同。目前，更多的发达国家主要通过调整利率，应对过去几年在宏观经济方面面临的一些挑战。因此，它们现在试图降低通货膨胀的利率。然而，对许多发展中国家来说，它们正面对着一些发达国家（如美国联邦储备委员会和欧洲中央银行）货币政策带来的后果。对发展中国家来说，不同的发展速度和利率变化带来的挑战意味着，它们不仅要处理过去积累的超额债务，而且还要应对许多发达国家现今不断上升的利率。它们正背负着高额借贷，以满足未来发展支出。
More specifically, we see a world that is moving forward but at very different speeds, so that is a challenge. Currently, about 65 countries in the world are moving forward at a 4% or more growth rate a year. So, they are moving at a modestly good speed of growth. But again, about 65 countries are moving at less than a 2% growth rate. That means they are experiencing very low levels of growth. About another 55 countries are moving between 2 to 4% of the gross rate. This means these countries are moving, but at very different speeds. Now, more developed countries are dealing with some of the challenges in the macroeconomics that they have faced over the last few years, mainly through adjustments of the interest rates. They are now able to pivot towards trying to lower the interest rates that they have put forward to deal with inflation. However, for many developing countries, they are dealing with the consequences of the monetary policies of some developed countries, such as the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Banks. The challenge of all these different speeds and interest rate changes means that for developing countries, many of them are dealing with the debt overhang they have accumulated in the past, but also now with the rising interest rates in many developed countries. They are facing the high cost of borrowing for future development expenditures.
You have been working in the development area for decades, have you ever seen something like this before?
我们已经认识到了许多挑战的周期性，比如过去的危机。但我想说的是，这一次的情况似乎真的很严重。根据联合国和联合国开发计划署的研究，40%的发展中国家正处于困境中。它们濒临无力偿还债务的境地，更不用说借贷的资本了。举例来说，仅偿还债务就占许多发展中国家预算的 10%以上，有时甚至高达 20%。这使它们几乎不可能投资于他们每天需要处理的事情，更不用说数字化转型、能源转型等对发展至关重要的转型。
I think we have seen cyclical challenges of many problems, such as the issue of crisis in the past, but I would say that this time around, the situation seems to be really serious. Based on our studies in the UN and in UNDP, 40% of the developing countries are facing the question of that distress. That means they are on the verge of not being able to repay the debt service charges or let alone the capitals of the borrowing. Many developing countries are paying more than 10% or sometimes 20% of their budgets just for that service, for example. This makes it almost impossible for them to not only invest in what they need to deal with every day, let alone spend money for critical transformations that are needed, such as digital transformation, energy transition, and so forth.
They are actually held back by the debts of yesterday, preventing them from planning for tomorrow while at the same time suffering today.
The multiple crises of the last few years have put so much pressure on all countries, but the most undeveloped countries who have had to increase budgetary expenditure, to deal with the impact of crises, such as increasing social protection expenditures, the cost of medical services for their population, to deal with the diseases of the Covid-19, and so forth. This multiple crisis of the last few years is something that we have not seen before.
From the UN perspective, how do you see the urgency and the desire coming from what many call the global south, mainly developing countries and emerging economies trying to seek a bigger voice in global governance, and also trying to make sure their issues are being heard while at the same time, solutions can be sought globally？
可持续发展目标议程，即 2030 年可持续发展议程，是一项全球议程，联合国所有国家都已批准。目前正处于今年 9 月即将举行的可持续发展目标峰会的筹备阶段，成员国之间就许多领域缺乏进展、对 2015 年制定的目标重新作出承诺展开了大量讨论。就在本月初，成员国就可持续发展目标峰会的政治宣言达成一致。该宣言重申了他们对《2030 年议程》和可持续发展目标的愿景。他们呼吁采取必要的转型行动，以弥补最后的进展，加快可持续发展目标的实现，提供充足的资金，并提高能力，帮助发展中国家实现对世界人民的承诺。这需要政治承诺。正如我前面提到的，发展中国家如今面临的最大挑战之一是融资问题，即充足的发展资金。
The SDGs agenda is the 2030 development agenda. It's the universal agenda, so all countries of the United Nations have endorsed it. This was in the lead-up to the SDG summit in September this year. There has been a lot of discussion among member states about the lack of progress in many areas and recommitting themselves to the goals that they have set up in 2015. In early August this year, just earlier this month, member states agreed on a political declaration for the SDG summit. This declaration reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. They called for transformative actions that are needed to make up the last progress, acceleration of SDGs, adequate financing, and capacity development to enable developing countries to materialize the promise that has been made to the people of the world. There is a political commitment for this. As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest challenges today that developing countries are facing is the question of financing. Adequate development financing.
这方面，联合国秘书长提出了可持续发展目标激励措施，通过一系列具体行动以应对发展融资问题 。他在可持续发展目标激励措施中提倡的第一个方面是，世界各国，特别是二十国集团的主要发达国家和主要发展中国家，通过采取一些具体措施，如降低长期借款成本和进一步暂停偿债，解决发展中国家的债务困扰，并在借贷协议中自动规定，如果发生某些事件，借贷国将免除偿债义务。这是解决债务问题的一个方面。具体解决方案的另一个方面是，要求多边开发银行在其现有资产负债表的范围内，扩大杠杆作用，提供更多贷款。他呼吁多边开发银行将贷款从每年 1000 亿美元增加到 5000 亿美元。
Here, the Secretary General of the United Nations has put forward a proposal, what he calls the SDG stimulus, that focuses on the question of finance through a number of concrete actions. In the first area that he called for in this SDG stimulus is for the world, especially the G20 major developed and major developing countries, to support the resolution of debt distress of developing countries by taking a number of concrete measures, such as lowering the cost of long-term borrowing and further suspending payment of debt servicing, to build automatically in lending agreements that relieve borrowing countries the obligations to pay if certain events take place. This is one area to deal with the debt issue. Another area in which he proposed concrete solutions is to ask multilateral development banks to leverage more of what they can to lend more within their existing balance sheets. He calls for multilateral development banks to increase their lending from $100 billion a year to $500 billion a year.
We are seeing a lack of funding coming from developed economies to developing ones. Earlier on the climate change issue declared by the G20 over the past few years has not been realized. The other thing is the issue of interest rates by developed economies, in the US and also in Europe, that is as some economists argue the root cause of many of the problems that developing countries are facing these days. Without addressing the root causes, how would the problems be addressed sufficiently?
我想这个问题的回答还是很复杂的。首先，请允许我谈谈官方发展援助问题。传统上一谈到发达国家帮助发展中国家，人们就会立即想到官方发展援助问题。但事实上，官方发展援助资金每年约为 1450 亿美元。从绝对值来看，比去年有所增长，但这一增长主要是由于发达国家对新冠疫情的应对，以及为应对俄乌冲突后果而支出的费用。因此，通过官方发展援助开展的实际发展合作并没有大幅增加。即使每年向发展中国家提供 1400 亿美元，也是远远不够的，因为发展中国家的规模也在扩大。因此，官方发展援助的相对重要性已经发生了变化。
I think the answer to this question is complicated. First, let me talk about the question of Official Development Assistance. You mentioned the financing from developed countries for developing countries, and traditionally, the question of ODA immediately comes to mind when you talk about developed countries helping developing countries. But the fact is that the ODA is at about 145 billion dollars a year. It has not really increased much, and there's been some increase over the last year in absolute terms. But this increase is mainly due to the responses of developed countries to the Covid-19 crisis and expenditures at home to respond to the consequences of the war in Ukraine. So, the real development cooperation through this ODA has not increased substantially. This being said, even with $140 billion a year to developing countries, it is not sufficient by any means, because the size of developing countries has also increased. Therefore, the relative importance of ODA has changed.
How does the UN look at these ever-stronger desires and voices coming from the Global South? How are their voices likely to work into the agenda and the pathway toward 2030? This is a big question I guess that the midpoint summit in the UN is likely to address and should be addressed.
Yes, it is a fact that there are quite a few regional or other multilateral organizations and initiatives that are developing very fast, BRICS, for example, my understanding is that more than 20 countries have applied to be members of the BRICS. At the same time, the G77 and China also have a very strong and distinctive voice in the United Nations. So are other regional groupings. And I would think the United Nations is still the place where all voices can be heard. And all voices have a stage to have their voices heard. So the United Nations is still the most representative international organization that can provide space for these voices. For all the problems that we talked about earlier, the lack of SDG progress, and we are talking about more specific issues such as the backlash of women's empowerment and gender equality in the world. UNDP just published a report about it recently. For all these problems, we, the world, urgently need multilateral solutions, because bilateral solutions or regional solutions are not adequate. For the issues that the BRICS are discussing, G20 are discussing, or other regional groupings are discussing, at the end of the day, you need the support of all membership of the United Nations for this to have international legitimacy. I don't think there is a contradiction between what the regional or other international groupings are pushing for. If they are rooted in the Agenda 2030 and in the SDGs, I think we are on the same page. So, we need the synergies of all in our voices so that the world is developing to be more prosperous for everybody. Leaving no one behind and to be more peaceful.
Not only multilateral groupings or mechanisms but also individual countries. Some of them are providing new ideas and solutions to their partners. Since we are based in Beijing, I'll just provide an example from China. China has been providing initiatives such as the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative while at the same time working with partners on development issues through the Belt and Road Initiative. These are inspirations coming from one country with its partners around the world. So, how do you see these efforts coming from individual countries, including China, one of the largest developing countries globally? Furthermore, how do you envision these efforts providing new momentum for discussions and implementations within the UN and other global mechanisms?
我认为，国家个体，特别是较大的和新兴的发展中国家正在采取自己的举措来支持全球发展，这是一种促进。我认为这是健康的，我们知道 2030 年可持续发展目标的挑战是全球性的，解决办法也需要是全球性的。秘书长已经明确表示，我们需要一个挽救可持续发展目标的计划，因此需要每个人的努力，帮助我们面对挑战。您提到了中国的一些倡议，比如全球倡议，政府已经非常明确地表示这些倡议与支持实现可持续发展目标是一致的，我认为这是受欢迎的。
I think this is only nurture that individual countries, especially larger and emerging developing countries are taking their own initiatives to support global development. I think it is healthy and we know that the challenges of the SDGs at general 2030 are global, and the solutions also need to be global. The secretary general has said very clearly that we need a rescue plan for the SDGs, so we need the effort of everyone to actually help us deal with the challenges we're facing. You mentioned the initiatives of China such as Global Initiative which the government has said very clearly that is aligned to support the achievement of the SDGs, so I think this is a welcome.
I saw you visit to India earlier and certainly now you are here as a private citizen visiting China, but certainly you're already working in the office. So how do travels like these be able to provide you with more ideas and reality check about how developing countries and the global south are working today?
I think the reality, as I mentioned earlier, is that the world is changing. In the past, when it comes to development cooperation, it was about developed countries, OECD countries, the Development Assistance Committee countries providing financing and technology solutions to developing countries. While this is still critically needed, the size of the economy and the capacities of developing countries have also increased substantially over the last 14 years. So, the nature of development cooperation, the nature of international cooperation, has been changing. What this means to us is that we also need to look at our role today in supporting the achievement of the SDGs. For example, what UNDP is trying to do is to look at the complexities of today's development challenges and also try to achieve impact at scale. All the problems we've been talking about, like the gender backslide and gender-based violence, are so serious today. Based on our latest studies, women in the world, on average, can only achieve 72 percent of the potential of men when it comes to achieving their own potential. Moreover, in many countries today, we're asked to deal with challenges such as cities' landfills being 20 years ahead of schedule, leaving a city of 10 million people with no place for solid waste. So some governments ask for our assistance. And when it comes to climate challenges, when it comes to urban issues, no problem is simple; no single ministry can solve any of these problems. The issues are interconnected, the SDGs are interconnected.
What we're trying to do is okay, what can we do in this situation, because the traditional, let's say, single point-based solutions, our governments most likely don't need us, they have their own capacities today. But the challenge that we're all facing is the sense of being stuck today. The governments feel we're stuck somewhere. We're not making progress when we have all the solutions, even we have money. And a lot of people use, for example, they are stuck because they're not seeing the opportunities for their future. So how do we deal with these kinds of challenges? In some countries, for example, we've been asked to deal with the question of depopulation, people are leaving their countries for jobs and so this is not a simple issue, right? It's not just about aging, sometimes aging is one source of depopulation, but the fact that educated citizens are leaving their country seeking opportunities elsewhere reflects complex challenges at home. What the UNDP is trying to do is to work with our governments through a system-change approach to deal with these kinds of challenges that call for a different approach, for example. So, I can elaborate more at a proper time. We're also working at scale to support our governments to deal with the question of financing. For example, we are supporting at this time 85 countries in the world to develop what's called Integrated and National Financing Frameworks (INFF) that seek to put all sources of financing together to support their stated development priorities, for example. So there are a lot of other issues we're trying to do to achieve impact at scale, to deal with the complexities of today's development challenges.
At a time when we have so many problems in the world as we mentioned some of them earlier, people put a lot of pin and a lot of hopes and aspirations to organizations such as the United Nations. But as you also mentioned that people are disillusioned by the feeling of being stuck and also by the lack of progress going on right now. You have seen the UN while working as a member of the staff evolve over the years. From a historic perspective, how do you see where the UN is? Is this a life-and-death situation that UN is facing right now?
It's a very hard question to answer. Take the SDG summit as an example. I mentioned this SDG stimulus plan that the Secretary-General has put forward to address the question of financing. But for the SDG Summit itself, the UN is also putting forward another set of initiatives called the high-impact initiatives in different areas of transformation that the UN believes can stimulate and accelerate the achievement of SDGs. Such as education, there has to be a strong push for education. Jobs, our study has shown that jobs are critical for inclusive growth, and not just growth, inclusive growth that everybody has the opportunity. The areas of energy transition which provide energy to 700 million people today, I believe still don't have electricity, but also create great jobs in the process. These high-impact initiatives also include some of the enablers such as digital transition, governance, and others. So, there's a set of initiatives that the UN is putting forward to take concrete actions immediately after the SDG summit so that the next seven and a half years are not business as usual. But this is what the UN can do. But to the other part of the question, the impact and the scale of the solutions also depend a lot on our country governments.