UNITED NATIONS—World leaders on Friday unanimously approved an ambitious and costly 15-year blueprint to eradicate extreme poverty, combat climate change and address more than a dozen other major global issues.
Presidents, prime ministers and diplomats from the U.N.’s 193 members stood and applauded loudly after General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft gaveled approval of the development roadmap.
Discussions on how to implement the new goals — expected to cost between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion every year until 2030 — is expected to dominate the three-day summit that will include speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama, China’s President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Egypt, India, Iran, Germany, Britain and France.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that the test will be implementation, calling for action from all people, everywhere, and high-level political commitment.
The agenda “embodies the aspirations of people everywhere for lives of peace, security and dignity on a healthy planet,” Ban said. The goals “are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”
The document — called “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” — sets out 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets. Its overarching aims of reducing poverty and inequality and preserving the environment got strong support from Pope Francis who addressed the General Assembly immediately before the summit opened.
The non-binding goals will succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders 15 years ago.
Despite significant progress, however, the only one achieved before this year was halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, due primarily to economic growth in China.
The broad new goals include ensuring “healthy lives,” quality education for all, clean water, sanitation and reliable modern energy — and achieving gender equality, making cities safe, reducing inequality within and among countries, and promoting economic growth.
Critics say they are too broad, lack accountability and will lead to disenchantment among those in the world most in need of hope.
Supporters say there is no choice but to go big in a world of expanding population, growing inequality, dwindling resources and the existential threat from global warming.
Kenya’s U.N. Ambassador Macharia Kamau, one of the facilitators of negotiations, insisted in early August when the goals were agreed on by U.N. member states that the $3.5 trillion to $5 trillion needed annually is “not unattainable” because most money will come from domestic resources raised in countries, complemented by international development assistance.
But Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said Thursday that “there’s certainly no chance that that amount of money will be available next year,” adding that “we’d be doing very well to have anywhere near that amount of money available by 2030.”
Gates said, however, that if there is new innovation, for instance in nutrition by getting better seeds or a vaccine against tuberculosis, as well as economic growth, “we still think we can meet the goals, even though that specific number will be very, very hard to reach.”