Explanation of Position on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit Political Declaration

Ambassador Lisa Carty
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, NY
September 29, 2023


The United States is pleased to join consensus on the Political Declaration of the 2023 SDG Summit. We appreciate the dedicated and constructive work of the co-facilitators, Ireland and Qatar, and thank General Assembly Presidents Csaba Kőrösi and Dennis Francis for their able leadership in finding consensus on the Declaration.

In his remarks to the General Assembly, President Biden called upon his fellow world leaders to “find within ourselves the courage to do what must be done to preserve the planet, to protect human dignity, to provide opportunity for people everywhere, and to defend the tenets of the United Nations.” He called on us to bring “urgency and ambition” to our efforts to achieve the SDGs. We see the SDG Summit Political Declaration as an important step to that end.

The United States remains committed to full implementation of the SDGs at home and working in close partnership with countries around the world. We have invested more than $100 billion in global development around the world, just over the last two years, including over $43 billion to help end poverty; nearly $35 billion to advance global health; more than $20 billion to drive inclusive economic growth; and more than $15 billion to reduce hunger and build sustainable, resilient food systems. But we know that public investment isn’t enough. That is why we have leveraged limited public funds to mobilize billions more in private sector investments.

Achieving the SDGs will require us all to work together to mobilize significant additional financing for development from all sources, including domestic resources, official development assistance, and private capital. Consistent with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, we must also create the enabling environment to attract private investment and support capital market development.

We must all do this together – with governments at all levels, the private sector, civil society, unions, and local actors each bringing our commitment and respective capabilities to bear. This vital whole-of-society approach must empower stakeholders at all levels, including individuals in vulnerable situations and members of marginalized groups, to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs as full partners.

Achieving the SDGs requires our commitment as Member States to foster societies that respect human rights and worker rights, uphold the rule of law and access to justice, promote gender equality, tackle corruption, and support inclusive, accountable governance for all citizens.

Gender Equality: Advancing gender equality and human rights, and empowering all women and girls is central to being able to achieve the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, including the promise to leave no one behind. We are pleased that this declaration recognizes the importance of gender equality, but we regret that it does not address the urgent need to recommit to the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity amid a growing, coordinated, and highly resourced pushback on the exercise of the human rights of women and girls around the world.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR): Similarly, advancing and respecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for all remains foundational to promoting gender equality and global health. It remains fundamental to accelerating universal health coverage and to expanding preventive care; to advancing girls’ education and workforce opportunities; to achieving gender equality and equity; and to promoting and protecting the human rights of women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. The current global data on maternal mortality provides a stark reminder of the alarming setbacks for women’s health and the urgent need for women and girls in all their diversity to access critical health services. We are deeply concerned that the declaration does not recognize and robustly call for accelerated efforts towards achieving the health- and gender-related targets of the 2030 Agenda.

Climate Change: We also regret that the Political Declaration does not contain more ambitious language on tackling the climate crisis, especially given broad recognition of the negative impacts of climate change our ability to achieve the SDGs. The Political Declaration, for example, does not mention the imperative of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius or the need for countries whose current targets are inconsistent with this goal to urgently step-up and align them with the level of effort necessary to achieve this goal. The best available science has told us that the 1.5-degree C goal is critical if we wish to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

In joining consensus on the declaration, the United States makes the following points of clarification on the text:

Independent Mandates: The UN is critical to our efforts to achieve sustainable development, and it benefits enormously from complementary work in the wider multilateral system and Member States’ bilateral efforts. Achieving the SDGs requires embracing the comparative advantages of different bodies, leveraging their technical expertise, and, crucially, respecting that the legitimacy of these bodies is a function of their independent mandates and governance structures, as recognized in paragraph 58 of the 2030 Agenda.

MDBs/IMF: The multilateral development banks are important sources of development finance and significantly contribute to global poverty reduction and sustainable growth and development. The IMF supports macroeconomic stability and economic growth in developing countries through its policy advice, technical assistance, and lending, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provides guidance on another important source. The MDBs, OECD, and the IMF have their own governance structures, mandates, and decision-making processes that are independent of the UN and are essential to helping ensure that they remain fiscally solvent and able to support the objectives of their shareholders. Moreover, these institutions’ governing bodies include broad country membership at all income levels, including borrowing and non-borrowing members. As such, it is inappropriate – and potentially undermines the intended function of these entities – for the UN to seek to directly influence or to make specific recommendations targeting the MDBs and the IMF.

Debt: The United States is committed to helping countries in debt distress return to debt sustainability and a positive economic trajectory and recognizes the urgency of addressing heightened debt vulnerabilities in low- and middle-income economies. However, the proposal in paragraph 38(t)(iii) for improved international debt mechanisms would undermine ongoing efforts to improve the debt restructuring process. The paragraph does not reflect the progress made on improving the speed and predictability of the G20 Common Framework and, importantly, the commitment to redouble efforts for this progress to continue and be sustained. Paragraph 38(t)(iii) also mischaracterizes the nature of debt vulnerabilities in developing countries, which have been long in development. Finally, countries with unsustainable debt burdens should request restructurings rather than ad hoc debt service suspension, which is only appropriate for temporary liquidity problems rather than restoring long-term debt sustainability.

SDG Stimulus: We appreciate the Secretary-General’s calls for renewed global ambition to accelerate progress on the SDGs as outlined in 38(t)(iv), however we disagree with some of the specific proposals in the proposed SDG Stimulus and moreover underscore that several of the recommended actions are appropriately addressed in fora outside of the UN. As previously noted, it is not appropriate for the UN to direct or influence those independent bodies. Additionally, we feel that the Stimulus does not sufficiently reflect the hard-won consensus in the Financing for Development agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda that accompanied the SDGs in 2015, including regarding the important role of supportive policy, domestic resources, and private capital mobilization.

Illicit Financial Flows: The United States reiterates its concern that the term “illicit financial flows” lacks an agreed-upon international definition. In this context, we understand the “recommit[ment] to preventing and combating illicit financial flows” refers to Member States implementing their existing obligations and commitments to prevent and combat corruption and money laundering, terrorist financing, and other forms of illicit finance through robust implementation of the Financial Action Task Force recommendations and best practices enshrined in the existing international architecture.

SDRs: Paragraph 38(t)(vii) should recognize that pledges have reached the total global ambition of $100 billion in voluntary contributions of special drawing rights (SDRs), or equivalent, for countries most in need. The United States remains committed to seeking Congressional authorization to lend up to $21 billion to the IMF trust funds. The United States is not in a position to channel SDRs to the MDBs, but we support other countries choosing to do so if a technically sound option exists. Additionally, it is critical that the text respect the autonomy of the IMF’s independent governance structure and decision- making bodies. At this time, the United States does not support a new general SDR allocation. The current global environment calls for more targeted solutions, including IMF lending based on economic reforms, progress on sovereign debt restructuring, and robust policy and technical support from the international financial institutions.

IFI Reform: With respect to paragraphs 38(t)(viii) and (ix), the United States has been highly responsive to calls for support and reform, including through its launch and championship of MDB evolution, which is moving the institutions at pace to be more responsive to borrowers and to global challenges. Because of our tireless work with partners across the system, we are making significant progress and MDB evolution has been a cornerstone shared outcome of multiple high-level gatherings, including the Paris Summit for a New Financial Pact and the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

Through our joint efforts with other shareholders on MDB evolution, the MDBs, where the United States is a shareholder, could unlock $200 billion in new lending capacity over the next decade through implementation of the recommendations of the G20 Capital Adequacy Framework (CAF) Review already adopted or under consideration. The United States, together with other country shareholders across the MDBs, continues to press for implementation of further CAF reforms that could unlock significant additional financial capacity.

It is unfortunate that paragraph 38(t)(viii) does not better capture these important efforts underway or the critical role that the MDBs play in global poverty reduction and sustainable growth and development. We believe this was a missed opportunity to highlight these ongoing efforts to “evolve” the MDBs, and immense amount of work underway – including with our leadership – to make the international financial architecture work better for developing and emerging economies.

Regarding paragraph 38(t)(ix), we underscore that decisions about capital and resource allocation are the purview of the respective governance bodies of each MDB, which includes shareholders from borrowing and non-borrowing countries, and we believe it is vitally important that the MDBs fully explore all means of leveraging their balance sheets and pursuing innovative measures to boost financial capacity.

Trade and Tech Transfer: We underscore our position that trade language negotiated or adopted by the General Assembly has no relevance for U.S. trade policy, for our trade obligations or commitments, or for the agenda at the WTO, including discussions or negotiations in that forum. While the UN and WTO share common interests, they have different roles, rules, and memberships. This includes calls to adopt approaches that may undermine incentives for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not both voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

Intellectual Property: The United States firmly considers that strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property provides critical incentives needed to drive the innovation that will address the health, environmental, and development challenges of today and tomorrow. The United States understands, with respect to this declaration that references to dissemination of technology and transfer of, or access to, technology refer to voluntary technology transfer on mutually agreed terms, and that all references to access to information and/or knowledge are to information or knowledge that is made available with the authorization of the legitimate holder. The United States underscores the importance of regulatory and legal environments that support innovation. The language in these areas concerning technology transfer, does not, from the U.S. perspective, serve as a precedent for future negotiated documents.

In closing, as Secretary Blinken stressed in his remarks at the Summit, “the United States remains unwavering in our commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030” and to make good on our pledge to leave no one behind. Doing so demands that we “redouble our collective efforts to address debt, mobilize more financing, unlock inclusive growth, and support the foundations of thriving societies: health, food security, education, gender equality, good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”