George Abualzulof, Senior Human Rights Adviser, United Nations Development Coordination Office (DCO) | USA

George Abualzulof is a Human Rights defender with around 30 years of field focused experience in a variety of Human Rights areas including within conflict, developmental, and post conflict situations. Before joining UN DCO as its Chief of Universal Values Section, Mr. Abualzulof served as the Senior Human Rights Advisor to the United Nation Resident Coordinator Office and the United Nations Country Team in Jamaica MCO since 2018, and the representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Yemen from 2013-2016. In 2016 he was appointed as the director of the Qatar based UN Human Rights Training and Documentation Center for South West Asia and the Arab Region. Mr. Abualzulof worked with UNICEF MENA for 5 years as a justice for children specialists and as the General Director of Defence for Children International / Palestine Section for 10 years. He holds a Master’s degree in Children’s Rights from University of Freiburg and Institute of Children’s Rights in Sion, Switzerland and a BA degree in Social Work and Psychology from Bethlehem, Palestine.


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Event Title: SDGs Conference 2023 Date: Sept 20, 2023


The latest progress of the Sustainable Development Goals halfway through the 2030 deadline

Distinguished guests and dear colleagues;

On behalf of the United Nations Development Coordination Office, I would like to thank Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) for the kind invitation and for organizing this very important SDGs Conference 2023: In the Margins of the UNGA78. I would also like to welcome JWF’s Global Partners and delegations (including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society members, and academics from 15 different countries. 

In 2015, the world leaders made an historic global promise to secure the human rights and well-being of everyone on a healthy, prosperous planet when they agreed to the 2030 Agenda. This promise is now halfway to the 2030 deadline, in deep danger. Instead of progressing towards the 2030 goals, development progress is reversing under the combined impacts of climate disasters, conflict, economic downturn, and remaining COVID-19 effects. 

Tens of millions have fallen into poverty. Over 110 million people are forcibly displaced. Inequalities have worsened, strikingly so for women and girls. More people are being denied healthcare and education. The climate crisis is causing destruction to lives and livelihoods. This collective failure will impact every country and all of us; but the burden falls most heavily on developing countries and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. 

Thus, we must take urgent action now, and the SDG Summit is a vital opportunity to act and break through to a better world. The SDG summit is also a moment to recommit to a vision of the future that ensures no one is left behind and fulfills human rights for all without any form of discrimination. To be able to face these challenges, fundamental shifts in commitment, solidarity, financing, and action must put us back on track to end poverty and inequalities, realize just societies and reset a balanced relationship with the natural world. 

The world leaders, who are gathering in NY these days, must choose to fulfill the promises they have made, and respect their obligations and commitments. There is no place left for failure. As “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023” stipulated: The SDGs are in peril. The world has entered an age of poly-crisis and hard-earned SDG progress is threatened by the climate crisis, conflict, gloomy global economic outlook, and lingering COVID-19 effects. It sounds the alarm and urgently calls for redoubled efforts to get the Goals back on track. 

  • Sounding the Alarm: The world faces big misses across the Goals by 2030 in the absence of significant acceleration.

A preliminary assessment of the roughly 140 targets for which data is available shows that only about 12 per cent are on track; more than half, although showing some progress, are moderately or severely off track; and some 30 per cent have either seen no movement or regressed below the 2015 baseline.

The number of people living in extreme poverty rose for the first time in a generation with the onset of COVID-19. For the first time in three decades, progress in key areas such as childhood vaccination and income inequality between countries has reversed. If present trends persist, by 2030, a staggering 575 million people will remain trapped in extreme poverty and 84 million children will be out of school. It will take nearly 300 years to close gender gaps in legal protection, eliminate discriminatory laws and end child marriage.

  • We are at war with ourselves and nature.

The climate crisis is worsening as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Global temperature is likely to reach the critical 1.5 °C tipping point above pre-industrial levels by 2035. Heat waves, droughts, flooding, and wildfires have become far too frequent. Rising sea levels are already threatening hundreds of millions of people in coastal communities. 

  • Developing countries and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable are bearing the brunt.

The report shows that while the lack of SDG progress is universal, it is often the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who are bearing the brunt of the consequences. Developing countries are also disproportionately affected, all while their voice is not fairly represented in the global governance architecture and in international financial institutions. This must change.

  • We must make the next seven years count – achieving the SDGs depends on it.

We can still turn things around. Since 2015, there have been improvements in key areas, including poverty reduction, child mortality, electricity access and the battle against certain diseases. If strong politics is matched with the technologies and resources and knowledge now available, we can enable a breakthrough to a better future. The report inspires hope by showcasing the progress the world has made and the potential for further advancements. 

  • We must enact a Rescue Plan for People and the Planet.

We must be ambitious to match the scope of the challenges ahead. Fundamental shifts in commitment, solidarity, financing, and action are needed to put us back on track.  The political declaration adopted by the high-level political forum on sustainable development ensures a common understanding among Member States to advance transformative actions leading up to the SDG target year of 2030. The political declaration represents the beginning of a new phase of accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which will need to be complemented by continuous high-level political guidance and national and local actions. This is an opportunity for all of us, citizens, journalists, civil society organizations, the private sector, to advocate for urgency, ambition, and action to realize the Goals.

  • Data drive effective solutions for SDG achievement.

Timely, high-quality disaggregated data are essential. Strengthening data ecosystems is critical to understanding where we stand and what needs to be done to achieve the SDGs. 

  • The 2030 Agenda remains the clearest blueprint of humanity’s highest aspirations.

The SDGs are a blueprint for a more resilient, peaceful, and inclusive future. When historians write about the twenty-first century, they will judge leaders and policymakers by whether they have succeeded in transforming this blueprint into reality. It is now up to all of us to ensure that the Global Goals are achieved – in full and on time. 

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