Talking points by Francoise Jacob, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Serbia.
Thank you for inviting me, and congratulations to the organisers for bringing in such a diverse crowd of participants. As a UN official, I love to see that the ownership over Agenda 2030 has really extended to a large number of stakeholders. I have to say that last year, during the multiple social dialogs and my visits in Serbia, I was impressed by the level of knowledge about SDGs beyond the crowd present here, among many municipalities, some of the private sector, in schools, etc. So congrats also to the Platform SDG for All for spreading the agenda.
A few words from the global level: 2 global and regional reports have been issued in the past few weeks, one from the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and the annual global sustainable report . We can share both if you are interested. For the second year in a row, the world is no longer making progress on the SDGs, partly due to slow Covid recovery in poor countries, and to protracted and new conflicts. The world is going from one short term extreme emergency to the other, while facing long-term threats such as climate change, pollution and the extended loss of bio diversity. These multiple and simultaneous crises have diverted policy attention and priorities away from medium and long-term goals such as the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement but also reduced available international funding for sustainable development.
How is Serbia doing in all this turmoil when it comes to agenda 2030? Not too bad actually! In the SDR, Serbia ranks 35 out of 163. Allow me to say, we can do much better, and this is the purpose of the discussion today. Very briefly, Serbia is doing well on reducing poverty and to some extent, inequalities, on quality education, it has improved on gender equality, health and decent jobs, and it is sort of going along on many other indicators. More will be disclosed in the panels.
One area I would like to mention is data. The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us, and multiple data providers to innovate and build new forms of information sharing; these should be leveraged and scaled up to promote SDG impacts by 2030 and beyond. Thanks to the multiple efforts from Serbia statistical office, GIZ, the UN and other partners, we have a much more granular picture of SDGs indicators. At the start of 2021 we had 93, today we have 117, including 8 new ones related to the environment. Now we should work together on establishing ambitions, on planning and monitoring better.
Let me turn briefly to financing the SDG. Here in Serbia, I believe that the issue is not a lack of financing. There are many public and private options available, including with development banks. This country is increasingly shaping a dynamic financial market, with new products and regulatory frameworks. The challenge in Serbia is to ensure that all the existing and potential financing flows are truly geared around the realisation of SDGs, including on climate change and social inclusion. One of the biggest endeavours for the new government will be to ensure that all the policy & legislative work developed last year – that was indeed a huge effort – is actually translated into reality, all the way to the local level. And here I want to point out the critical role of budgeting at both national and local level, the critical role of the ministry of finance, We have seen in the past few years how gender informed budgeting is a game changer in ensuring gender equality. We need to do this for key SDGs. And of course of the regulatory and monitoring bodies need to be strengthened, empowered and a lot more effective and strategic.
My fifth point is on the engagement with Citizens. Platforms, dialogs, etc…have been useful tools in 2021 to engage the conversation on multiple development topics. We must continuously strengthen the trust between stakeholders, their respective strategic intents and contributions, we must agree on common goals, pushing in the same direction, while embracing differences and diversity as a source of wealth rather than obstacles. Knowledge must be shared extensively so that opinions and decisions are informed and evidence based, and dialogs must be nurtured for empowerment and ownership of all.
Let me conclude with a few words on the future.
The green agenda has to be at the center of everything, beyond and above the energy transition: how we prioritise and build infrastructure and industries, how we shape our cities, how we teach our children and build the skills, how we produce our food. Green is not a collateral project any longer. Healthy people on a healthy planet are the absolute pre-conditions for long term prosperity and peace A lot more remains to be done on the urban agenda, sustainable food systems, decent jobs, on sustainable consumption and production, and most importantly, the involvement of the whole private sector. This is an agenda of opportunities for the country, an agenda that can allow all citizens, including the youth and elderlies, to shape a better future for all. This also means a greater integration of the government policies. Ahead of the heads of state SDG summit in 2023, accelerating SDG progress including the positive impact for the poorest and most vulnerable, should be a major priority of development plans and reforms.
And finally: Peace is both a pre-condition to achieve Agenda 2030, and an expected result. The United Nations will continue to call for peace and dialog in these most trying times for Europe and beyond. Peace is what citizens want, peace is our biggest gift to preserve.