As we bid farewell to a momentous and turbulent 2017, let’s look back at some of the promising progress reported by the UN that brings hope for a better future.
“The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development recognizes the importance of international tourism in fostering better understanding among people everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world. It is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
In January 2017, the UN kicked off the first-ever UN World Data Forum in South Africa with the goal of improving people’s lives through better data. UN DESA Statistics Division and the South African government organized the 4-day gathering and it resulted in a global action plan – The Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data. The plan calls for policy leaders to make commitments to boosting capacity, as well as to foster innovative ideas and solutions to improve collaboration and crisis management. Better data can mean better lives.
During 24th April to 5th May, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was held at UN Headquarters in New York. The Forum pointed out progress in realizing the rights of indigenous peoples since the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ten years ago, but also voiced serious concerns about lack of implementation in many countries and emphasized the need for concrete action at the national and local levels. The world’s indigenous people were in the spotlight throughout the year, as they celebrated the 10th anniversary of the landmark – UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In June, 193 Member States of the United Nations gathered at the first-ever Ocean Conference, which marked a global breakthrough in the sustainable management and conservation of the ocean, bring the world one step closer to implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 14. The conference resulted in the outcome document – Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action, and close to 1,400 voluntary commitments for concrete action. Now comes the time to turn these pledges into reality, to galvanize new partnerships, inspire international cooperation and mobilize resources for ocean action.
Also in June, the unprecedented Conference on Rights of Persons with Disabilities was underway at United Nations Headquarters to ensure the full implementation of the landmark treaty – The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
SDGs two years on … where are we? In July, the UN High-Level Political Forum to review the progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) opened to a record number of participants, with 44 countries reporting on their progress under the Voluntary National Reviews. While UN DESA’s 2017 SDGs report showed that progress on the Global Goals was uneven and the pace of progress must accelerate to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
In November, there was renewed urgency on climate action with the UN Climate Conference (COP23) held in Bonn, Germany. International and regional Youth NGOs, civil society actors, and young people from 114 countries gathered to discuss climate change in a programme comprised of more than 225 single events.
Another environment-related event – the One Planet Summit, was held in December in Paris. A list of commitments and announcements were made during the One Planet Summit, which will help to keep global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees and, in turn, safeguard the meeting of the 2030 SDGs.
Looking back at seven decades of global statistical collaboration, many accomplishments have been made and there is new data for population, migration and economy that helps us better understand the world today and prepare for the future. Among others, we learned what the global population is and how it will continue its growth, how many international migrants are there in the world and where they are headed, and what our world economic situation and prospects are for the nearest future.
Looking forward, in 2018, the world will continue to face multiple complex challenges and threats. “We have to realize that economic globalization has gone too far to turn back now,” says Liu Zhenmin, appointed as the new head of UN DESA this year. “For better or for worse, we are all part of it and instead of isolating ourselves, we should look for ways to make globalization work for everyone and leave no one behind. Ultimately, this is what the 2030 Agenda is striving to accomplish.”