14 – 16 March 2022, Dubai World Trade Centre, UAE
Successful development requires inclusive partnerships built upon shared values and a common vision of the future with people and the planet at the centre. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an ideal framework for those partnerships.
Global leaders continually reiterate that we can only realise the SDGs with strong partnerships and cooperation. Hence Sustainable Development Goal 17 (SDG 17) on partnerships for the goals “to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a massive blow to progress in the pursuit of all goals. Multilateral and global partnerships were already challenged due to scarce financial resources, trade tensions, technological obstacles and humanitarian crises. Governments have turned inwards to face domestic crises; the private sector has re-determined its priorities and civil society’s diversified preoccupations have lost some of their initial SDG-centred focus. Foreign direct investment is under severe pressure and is expected to drop considerably.
According to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Report on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, the numerous fiscal impacts of the pandemic are leading to debt distress and, in many countries, limiting those investments required for recovery and the SDGs.
The 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN’s flagship platform for follow-up and review of the 17 SDGs, concluded on July 15th, focused on the theme of “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”. Throughout the HLPF, participants reviewed ways to bring the SDGs back on track.
The pandemic has put the spotlight on the crucial role of partnerships. This realisation of the importance of partnerships and global cooperation led the International Advisory Board to decide that the DIHAD 2022 event would focus on SDG 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”.
While all goals are important, we have opted to review ten of these more specifically at DIHAD, all through the prism of SDG 17. We will devote individual sessions to “Zero Hunger” (SDG 2) and “Climate Action” (SDG 13), and a special (half-day) session on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” (SDG 16).
Then we shall have four Sessions that each link up two SDGs, as follows:
- “Good Health & Wellbeing” (SDG 3) and “Clean Water & Sanitation” (SDG 6);
- “Economic Growth and Decent Work for All” (SDG 8) and “Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure” (SDG 9);
- “Gender Equality” (SDG 5) and “Reduced Inequalities” (SDG 10);
- “Life below Water” (SDG 14) and “Life on Land” (SDG 15).
Regarding “Zero Hunger”, we have considered how the impact of COVID-19 has further intensified existing vulnerabilities and the inadequacies of global food systems; hundreds of millions of people could join those already chronically undernourished. It is worth recalling that some 690 million people were hungry in 2019, i.e., 8.9 per cent of the world’s population. The World Food Programme and others on the front line have several suggestions on significantly reducing these numbers, most of which involve enhanced partnerships and cooperation.
In terms of “Good Health and Wellbeing”, the pandemic has reversed the progress made in many areas, including maternal and child health, immunisation coverage and the reduction of communicable diseases. It was hoped that the Global COVAX Initiative would ensure the urgently needed, equitable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. However, statistics show that we are far from where we should be despite some noteworthy contributions (e.g. from the EU, the UAE and the USA). In this respect, partnerships and cooperation should also be enhanced and accelerated.
As far as “Clean Water & Sanitation” is concerned, billions of people worldwide still live without these services, essential as they are in ensuring and protecting human health. We are not on track to achieving this Goal by 2030.
On the subject of “Economic Growth and Decent Work for All”, the pandemic has caused the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression and massive damage to working time and income. Can digitalisation and new technologies help? If so, how else other than through enhanced partnerships and cooperation? The pandemic has hit the manufacturing and transport industries hard, causing declining incomes and job losses in these and associated sectors. The World Bank and some Regional Development Banks are taking laudable initiatives to help Governments mitigate the damage and recover, but it is not enough. The crisis is far from over.
In terms of “Gender Equality” and “Reduced Inequalities within and among Countries”, it is clear that the pandemic, here too, has adversely affected progress made in earlier years. Violence against women and girls has intensified. While playing a critically important role in the response to COVID-19, women remain under-represented in leadership positions in most countries and their rights and needs are often overlooked in recovery processes. The poorest countries and the most vulnerable people are hit hardest, thereby dramatically highlighting the issue at hand. Many organisations attempt to reduce inequalities, and others have these objectives duly mainstreamed into their overall work programmes. However, there too, the global approach should be intensified and accelerated through partnerships.
For “Urgent Action to combat climate change”, the wording is self-explanatory; it is indeed urgent and action is required. The impact of recent and ongoing extreme climate-related events on the SDGs speaks for itself. While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for ensuring the required partnerships and cooperation in this context, the objective during the DIHAD 2022 event is to focus on practical aspects of areas of common concern, thereby identifying and highlighting best practices, promoting new collaborative links among participants and strengthening existing partnering arrangements, for the benefit of those we are collectively dedicated to assisting in our respective aid-oriented endeavours.
The session dealing with “Life below Water” and “Life on Land” is in some ways “cross-cutting” with others, thereby making the point that all SDGs are so very intricately linked. Three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. The oceans, seas and marine resources are under continual threat from pollution, warming and acidification, disrupting marine ecosystems and the communities they support. Marine environments need protection; existing legislative instruments need effective enforcement, and enhanced partnerships and cooperation are a must.
Life on land seems to be equally essential. The protection, restoration and promotion of terrestrial ecosystems, the sustainable management of forests and the combating of desertification and biodiversity loss are but a few of those priority actions we should all jointly dedicate ourselves to. Our survival depends on it.
Lastly, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, SDG 16. As outlined in the Report mentioned above of the UN Secretary-General, millions of people are still living in fragile and conflict-affected countries. At the end of 2019, 79.5 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide. Homicides, civilian deaths in armed conflicts, violence against women and children, human trafficking, and unlawful detentions are but a few of the many tragic occurrences highlighting how far we are from achieving the goal of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. The lack of good governance, including in the ever-vicious circle of poverty and conflict, is a driver of underdevelopment; this too needs to be addressed by the variety of existing global partnerships. While our multiple collective efforts towards “Peace” and “Justice” over time have not been universally successful, we may recall that Albert Einstein is to have said:
“The world will not be destroyed by those doing evil but rather by those who, looking on, don’t do anything.”
At DIHAD 2022, we will once again gather friends and colleagues from national government authorities, international and non-governmental organisations, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, foundations and charities, academic institutions, the media and the private sector. As in previous editions of the conference, we will attempt – duly inspired by our most distinguished opening and keynote speakers – to develop actionable agreed conclusions and recommendations.
On behalf of the International Advisory Board of the DIHAD Sustainable Humanitarian Foundation, my call to action is for you to join us from 14-16 March in Dubai and help build, as well as reinforce partnerships to address global challenges and make DIHAD 2022 a landmark event yet again!
DIHAD is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime-Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.