INTERVIEW-World leaders must show us the money to hit goals on poverty, inequality - UN adviser

by Belinda Goldsmith | @BeeGoldsmith | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 20 September 2016 23:01 GMT

A woman holds her child as they wait to receive supplementary food at a distribution centre in Gelcha village, one of the drought stricken areas of Oromia region, in Ethiopia, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

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Jeffrey Sachs: "We live from crisis to crisis ... and the United States is probably the worst of these right now in that we have no clear direction, no clear long term policy"

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON, Sept 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World leaders need to ramp up investment to achieve a set of global goals agreed a year ago to combat poverty, inequality, and make the world a safer place by 2030, according to a key adviser on the United Nation's blueprint for the future.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist, is special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signed by the U.N.'s 193 member states in a blaze of publicity with backing from the Pope to Shakira.

But a year on and studies are giving poor progress reports to the ambitious, broad set of 17 goals with 169 targets that were adopted after three years of brainstorming.

A U.N. report this month warned the world was set to miss the 2030 deadline to ensure all children had access to secondary education by more than 50 years due to a lack of funding.

A series of modelled estimates published by medical journal The Lancet said unequal access to health services and poor quality care for pregnant women threatened to sideline a goal to cut maternal deaths by 68 percent to 70 per 1,000 live births.

Sachs said the knowledge was there to solve some of the world's most pressing problems - to bring maternal deaths down to near zero, save millions of children every year, and to decarbonise the energy system - but not the investment.

"What we don't have is the attention span, the systems, the politics, to shift a modest amount of our annual output in the direction needed," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

"When problems go unsolved this creates the potential for conflict and potentially devastating conflict ... the current trajectory we are on is so dangerous."


Sachs called on world leaders meeting in New York this week to ensure the global goals - and funding to achieve them - were built into all future planning and given the appropriate global attention as well as global resources.

Some 135 heads of state or government are expected to attend the annual United Nations' General Assembly in New York with the refugee crisis and climate change among the top issues.

Sachs said some progress had been made in the past year to put the SDGs on the world agenda but most countries were nowhere far enough, focused enough, or financed enough to achieve them with attention diverted by the current slew of world crises.

"Whether it is Brexit or the U.S. elections or war in Syria or the refugee crises, these are impediments to longer-term strategic thinking, planning and action that we desperately need," he said.

"We live from crisis to crisis .. and the United States is probably the worst of these right now in that we have no clear direction, no clear long term policy."

Sachs said the week provides an opportunity to further discuss what can - and must be done - by each country to incorporate the global goals into policy.

He said two to three trillion U.S. dollars a year from a total world economy of $110 trillion were needed to achieve the global goals.

"When countries have their planning conferences, when they discuss budgets, it is important that the SDGs are part of that," he said.

"This is really about changing the direction of global finance and global politics .. (as) the normal way in which the world is changing is not safe and we can choose deliberately and cooperatively a different course."

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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