Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 21, 2023
Thank you, and good afternoon. I want to start by thanking Nepal, Türkiye, and Belgium for their leadership in organizing this important ministerial.
Colleagues, during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, President Biden called this an inflection point in world history. We are halfway to the 2030 deadline of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And the actions we take in the short term will impact the long-term health of our planet – and the prosperity of all.
The world’s least developed countries are counting on us – especially as humanitarian needs have spiked. Over the past few years, a perfect storm of crises – from climate to conflict to COVID – has forced millions more people into hunger and poverty and set back progress on so many of the SDGs. We are now on track to meet just 15 percent of the SDG targets. And we cannot throw up our hands in defeat – or shy away from this challenge. Now is the time for us all to recommit to all 17 SDGs.
The United States is determined to do our part as the world’s leading provider of humanitarian and development assistance. When humanitarian crises break out, the United States steps up – and provides health services, shelter, food, and other essentials to people in need. And when confronted with a dire global food security crisis, we surged assistance to the most affected countries.
Over the past two years, we committed more than $15 billion – in more than 47 countries – to address global food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine.
At the same time, we are looking to the future – and investing in sustainable, resilient food systems.
I’ll give you just one example. Through our Feed the Future Initiative, we are working with partners in Nepal to produce more diverse and nutritious foods, improve agricultural practices among farmers, and create more inclusive economic opportunities. As a result, Nepal has achieved an estimated 71 percent reduction in poverty, and a 39 percent reduction in stunting prevalence in areas where Feed the Future has worked between 2011 and 2019.
The evidence is undeniable. When we work together – and when we invest in sustainable development – we can deliver real progress.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the United States has provided least developed countries with an annual average of $12.6 billion in bilateral development assistance. That represents around a quarter of our ODA. And we are working to increase private investment in developing countries by bolstering confidence in markets – and by providing political risk insurance and loan guarantees for certain eligible projects, which is why we’re making a major push to revitalize and reform the multilateral development banks, so that they can meet the needs of those countries seeking support.
Our Administration is also working with Congress to unlock new lending capacity for the World Bank and the IMF. Thanks to our strong push, together with our partners, the World Bank will soon enable countries to defer debt payments until after climate shocks and natural disasters. This is a priority because we know the climate crisis disproportionately impacts least developed countries. And we know the climate crisis poses an existential threat to our planet. And we are looking to least developed countries – as leaders and as partners. At this inflection point in history, we must ensure no one is left behind.
And as President Biden said this week – and I quote: “Will we find within ourselves the courage to do what must be done to preserve the planet, to protect dignity, to provide opportunity for people everywhere, and to defend the tenets of the United Nations?
There can be only one answer to this question: “We must, and we will.” None of this work will be easy. Progress will not come overnight. But if we work together, and if we keep the faith, we can create a more just, prosperous, and peaceful future for all.