Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Elizabeth Morgan | UN SDGs Summit – off-track goals and CARICOM financing calls

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2023 | 12:06 AM
President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at United Nations headquarters.
President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at United Nations headquarters.

We are at the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly which actually began on September 5. The president of this session is Ambassador Dennis Francis, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago. As preparations continued for the high-level meetings, the major UN alliance of developing and emerging countries, the 134-member Group of 77 (G77) had their summit in Cuba, September 15-16, under the theme ‘Current Development Challenges: the role of science, technology and innovation’.

From this summit, it was reported that with the current multidimensional crisis of which developing countries are the main victims, the G77 called for honouring commitments to transfer of technology and for a new global order.

Many of those attending the G77 Summit, including Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Chair of the CARICOM Council of Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, moved on to the UN in New York for the two-day Sustainable Development (SDGs) Summit, which commenced on Monday, September 18. This summit marked the halfway point to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs adopted in 2015. National development plans, including Jamaica’s Vision 2030, are linked to these SDGs.

As a reminder, the 17 SDGs are 1. End poverty 2. End hunger, including food security, 3. Good health and well-being, 4. Quality education, 5. Gender equality, 6. Clean water and sanitation, 7. Affordable and clean energy, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, 10. Reduced inequalities, 11. Sustainable cities and communities, 12. Responsible production and consumption, 13. Climate action, 14. Life below water, 15. Life on land, 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17. Partnerships for achieving the goals (which includes trade and development financing).

The last SDGs Summit was held in 2019. I refer to my Gleaner article of September 25, 2019 on the UN summits. Since that review, there has been the global COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the intensification of climate change with their impact on the global economy, creating the multidimensional global crisis. The mantra, during the pandemic years, was “building back better”, which includes implementing the SDGs with associated national development plans.


The SDGs Summit considered the Global Sustainable Development Report which has the title ‘Times of crisis, times of change: Science for accelerating transformations to sustainable development’. In 2019, the world was not on track to meeting the SDGs. Since then, the current report points out that challenges have multiplied and intensified. While there have been some advances, progress has been halted in many areas, partly as a consequence of the crises – the ongoing pandemic, rising inflation and cost-of-living, and planetary, environmental and economic distress, along with regional and national unrest, conflicts, and natural disasters. As a result, overall progress towards the 2030 deadline has been severely disrupted in the last three years.

The report states that the world is far off track. This means that national development plans are off track. Without urgent course correction and acceleration, humanity will face prolonged periods of crisis and uncertainty, triggered by and reinforcing poverty, inequality, hunger, disease, conflict and disaster.

There is a call for urgent action, which requires that all countries are on board, to accelerate implementation of the SDGs, if no country is to be left behind, and to achieve the required transformation. Financing the SDGs from domestic and international resources is required through bold leadership.


SDG Goal 17 speaks to partnerships for implementation which includes funding. Implementing the goals requires significant funds which could be about US$4.2 trillion per year for all developing countries in all sectors. It was envisaged that some of this financing would come from increased trade flows and from overseas development assistance (financing for development). However, work in the World Trade Organization had not gone according to plan to further liberalise trade, especially in the interest of developing countries. Free Trade Agreements are also not proving effective for some CARICOM countries. Private sector investment in social projects is not forthcoming. Financing for development from external sources is another difficult area as funds projected are not realised. There is, therefore, a severe funding gap and one which is not being filled by private investment.

Countries in CARICOM, which have heavy debts and are designated small and vulnerable, are calling for several sources of financing. CARICOM countries, with other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), are calling for financing for climate change action (SDG 13). US$2 trillion could be required by SIDS for climate change adaptation and mitigation. A group of SIDS are seeking legal opinions from UN legal bodies on climate change to hold major carbon emitters accountable.

CARICOM countries are also endeavouring to have their middle-income status reassessed for concessionary financing – to get longer and cheaper loans. Recall that Barbados has led the way, through the Bridgetown Initiative, on matters related to financing. PM Mia Mottley partnered with President Macron of France to host last June’s Paris Summit for a new Global Financing Pact, advocating reform of the multilateral financial system.

In addition, CARICOM countries are calling for payment of trillions of dollars in reparations for historical chattel enslavement by former colonising countries. The proposals from advocates are for money negotiated to be applied to national development projects originating from enslavement. One assumes that these ‘development’ projects would be linked to the SDGs and national plans.

So, there is a CARICOM quest for financing on different fronts and it remains to be seen from where success will come.


I noted that the UN has plans for a Future Summit to be held in New York, September 22-23, 2024 as a follow-up to this SDGs Summit. The objective is to breathe new life into the multilateral system to deliver the promises of the UN Charter and the SDGs. Preparations for the Future Summit have been in progress and a meeting is scheduled for September 21. I understand that Jamaica is one of the co-facilitators. With all that is happening in the global economy and in the CARICOM region, it will be very interesting to see how this agenda unfolds, especially in the quest for reform, transformation, and financing.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com