Recommendations of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the Summit of the Future

Part 1

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The Summit of the Future is a unique and vital opportunity for the world community to update and upgrade the United Nations (UN) to meet the great challenges of the 21st century. We are midway between the founding of the UN in 1945 and the year 2100. This is a key moment to take stock of the accomplishments and limitations of the UN to date, and to update and upgrade the UN institutions for the balance of the century. The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is pleased to present its recommendations for United Nations 2.0 as a contribution to the upcoming summit. This statement is the work of many individuals listed at the end of this statement.

We take sustainable development to be the guiding principle for our age, as summarized by the five P’s: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships. People signifies the commitment to leave no person, no group, no nation, and no region behind. Planet signifies the challenge of living within the planetary boundaries. Prosperity signifies the commitment to extend the material benefits of modern education and technology to all parts of the world, and to all member states of the UN. Peace signifies the vital commitment by all nations in the nuclear age to live together under the UN Charter and international law, including the duty of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations and the duty of peaceful resolution of conflicts, guided by international law. Partnerships signifies the commitment by all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and business organizations, to work together cooperatively, honestly, and ethically to achieve the shared goals of humanity.

These five P’s also express the core aspirations of the UN member states for the basic pillars of human decency: human rights, as in the foundational Universal Declaration of Human Rights; gender equality, as underscored in SDG 5; the end of extreme poverty in a world of great wealth, as called for by SDG 1; and the end of hunger in a world of dazzling technological breakthroughs in sustainable agriculture, promoted in SDG 2.

We underscore the priority of Peace as the necessary condition to achieve every other objective. If war is the continuation of politics with other means, as was famously written,1 it is also the stark failure of politics. The genius of the UN is that it can avert death and destruction through diplomacy and the commitment of all nations to the UN Charter. We appeal to all nations to resort to diplomacy, negotiation, and international law to resolve grievances that arise between states. When wars are raging or threatening to rage, the Security Council should work relentlessly to identify their underlying political causes, and adopt measures to end or prevent the conflicts in ways that meet the vital and just interests of all parties.

We note that we have arrived at a new phase in global history. The year 1945 marked the end of the Second World War, and the start of the era of decolonization, in which the UN played a major role. It also marked the start of the Cold War and of a world dominated by two superpowers. The 2020s mark the start of a new multi-polar era, in which all regions of the world are achieving significant breakthroughs in education, science and technology. No region yearns for a “hegemon,” that is, for one dominant power. All regions yearn for prosperity, security, peace and cooperation, without one dominant country or region lording it over the others. While vast differences in material conditions still exist across the globe, there are real prospects for the emerging economies, both low income and middle income, to narrow the educational and technological gaps with the richer countries, enabling all parts of the world to enjoy the benefits of modern science and technology. Of course, the convergence to shared prosperity will depend utterly on peace, cooperation, and effective multilateral institutions.

At the same time, the year 2024 marks a crossroads. One path, the wrong path, leads to deepening ecological crises, increasing climate-driven disasters, widening inequalities, spreading conflicts, and even more dangerous new AI-enabled technologies for war, fake news, and state surveillance; while the other path leads to sustainability, the end of poverty, global peace, and the harnessing of digital technologies for human progress for all. The Summit of the Future is a timely and urgent opportunity to choose the path of peace and sustainable development.

A new and effective multilateralism is more important than ever before also because peoples and nations are more interconnected than ever before. No nation can solve the global climate crisis on its own. No nation can make a low-cost and just energy transition on its own. No nation can ensure peace and security on its own. No nation by itself can protect the vital ecosystems – such as river sheds, inland seas, ocean fisheries, rainforests, wetlands, and alpine regions – that they share with neighboring countries. No nation by itself can avoid the potential dangers and pitfalls of runaway technologies, whether advanced biotechnologies that can create new pathogens, or artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can create fake news or provocations to war.

In the language of public economics, the world requires many essential public goods that far transcend the nation state. While national governments are essential to providing many public goods at the national scale, regional groupings such as the European Union, African Union, ASEAN, the Arab League, and many others should be essential actors to providing regional public goods such as ecosystem protection and regional decarbonized energy systems. The UN and its many specialized agencies are essential in providing global public goods and protecting the global commons, such as the legal frameworks for climate action, the protection of biodiversity, the law of the seas, the protection of the ozone layer, the stability of the global financial system, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its covenants, and the peaceful resolution of inter-state disputes.

In addition to providing global public goods, the UN must also help to protect the biosphere and its diversity, critical ecosystems such as the rainforests, the oceans and the atmosphere, and the stable climate of the Holocene, on which civilization has been built, but which is now on the verge of escaping our grasp due to anthropogenic climate change. Achieving sustainable land systems, and crucially, sustainable food systems, is one of the six SDG transformations identified by the SDSN and one of the most complex of the SDG transformations.2

To a great extent, Sustainable development is a long-term investment challenge. To achieve prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental protection, nations and regions require well-designed, well-implemented, and properly governed and financed programs of public and private investment. Major investment priorities include quality education, universal health coverage, zero-carbon energy systems, sustainable agriculture, urban infrastructure, and digital connectivity. All of this requires long-term national and regional plans backed by a Global Financial Architecture (GFA) that is reformed to be fit for purpose. The overwhelming problem with the current GFA is that most low-income countries (LICs) and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) pay an inordinately high cost of capital, much higher than paid by the high-income countries (HICs). The deck is stacked against the LICs and LMICs. These countries urgently need to gain access to affordable long-term capital, so that they can invest at scale to achieve their sustainable development objectives. To bring about the needed financial mobilization, new institutions and new forms of global financing – including global taxation – will be required.

We underscore the enormous responsibility for achieving the SDGs and safeguarding the planetary boundaries of the members of the G21 (the former G20 plus the newest permanent member, the African Union). The G21 represents the preponderance of the world’s GDP, population, forests, landmass, and fossil-fuel production. Given the universality of the 2030 Agenda, the UN system needs to strengthen existing and design new mechanisms to enforce the implementation of the SDGs also within and by the G21 members.

The private sector must be a key driver for sustainable development, including leadership of technological transformations in energy, agriculture, climate resilience, digital economy and urban infrastructure essential for sustainable development. Profits must be the reward for contributions to the common good, not private gains achieved at the public’s expense. Ethical businesses should align with the SDGs and hold themselves accountable to these global goals.

The SDGs highlight the strengths and weakness of the current UN system. The 193 UN member states achieved a great milestone in agreeing to a shared framework for global transformation by 2030, and to 17 overarching goals with 169 specified targets. Furthermore, the SDG agenda has taken hold. Almost all UN member states (188 out of 193) have presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their SDG strategies, and 2 more will do so in 2024, leaving only Haiti, Myanmar, and the United States as the final three nations to have not yet taken part in the VNR process.

On the other hand, the SDGs will not be achieved by 2030, in significant part because of the many shortcomings of the Global Financial Architecture. The severe and ongoing geopolitical tensions have also gravely undermined cooperation among the major economies. Of course, Covid-19 was also an enormous shock to the global economy and to progress on the SDGs.

It has become clear that the UN system needs significant upgrading, in essence, a UN 2.0. We declare this out of our deep commitment to the UN system, and our abiding belief in its centrality for the future we want. We believe that the UN should be strengthened and empowered to underpin the new multi-polar world. Reforms include new UN bodies, such as a UN Parliament, new forms of global financing, and new strategies to ensure observance of international law and peace among the major powers. Ultimately, the UN Charter itself will need to be revised and updated to reflect our 21st century needs and realities.

A new multilateralism that works should be based on five core pillars of UN reform. First, the UN should empower nations and regions to adopt meaningful and comprehensive pathways to sustainable development by 2050. During the transition to 2050, ambitions must remain high for advances in prosperity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. Second, the UN should promote the implementation of the SDG pathways through stronger global agreements and more empowered UN institutions. Third, the UN should have the capacity to finance the SDGs through new global taxes and a renovated GFA. Fourth, the UN should represent We the Peoples by adding new forums of representation, especially a new UN Parliament of the Peoples. Fifth, the UN and its member states should harness the advances in science and technology for the human good, and be ever-vigilant against the potential misuses of advanced technologies including biotechnology, AI, and geoengineering.

In this spirit, we recommend specific reforms in the five major areas of the Summit of the Future agenda: sustainable development and financing for development; international peace and security; science, technology, and innovation; youth and future generations; and global governance.

1. Sustainable development and financing for development

The challenges of sustainable development are profound: at least one billion people caught in deep poverty, billions more facing serious material deprivations, environmental crises continuing to worsen, and global cooperation undercut by deep divisions among the major powers. Yet there are also important reasons for hope. Technological advances are bringing new solutions to the forefront, and low-cost digital platforms can empower even the poorest of the poor, as has been shown throughout Asia and Africa. The SDGs offer an invaluable, if challenging, framework for progress. Governments around the world are successfully fashioning integrated sustainable development strategies and institutional structures to achieve the SDGs.

1.1 The SDG Agenda should remain the core of global cooperation to 2050

The SDGs were initially set for the fifteen-year period 2016–2030, following the fifteen-year period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is clear that the SDGs will not be achieved in the original time frame. There are four reasons. First, many of the objectives – such as the transition to zero-carbon energy systems – necessarily require a horizon to 2050. Second, despite the commitments made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (2015) to align financial flows with the sustainable development agenda, the needed reform of the GFA has not yet been achieved. Thus, the emerging economies have faced chronic shortfalls in financing the SDGs. Third, a series of global crises, including Covid-19, and wars in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world, not only directly impeded SDG progress but also significantly heightened tensions among the major powers and undermined the global cooperation needed to achieve the SDGs. Fourth, national and global governance of the SDGs have been deeply impaired by social polarization, powerful lobbies, lack of empowerment (or actual disempowerment) of civil society and academic institutions, and my-country-first policies that have imperiled global cooperation.

For all these reasons, we strongly urge that the Summit of the Future recognize the pivotal role of the SDGs in aligning national, regional and global policies, and commit to the SDG framework until 2050, so as to reinforce the efforts already underway and to recognize the time horizon needed to reorient the world economy to sustainable development. The new horizon of 2050 does not mean a slackening of effort. Rather, it means improved long-term planning to achieve highly ambitious 2050 goals and milestones on the way to 2050.

We also call for coherence in the international policy framework, notably around trade and investment policies. Protectionism is on the rise in the major economies, and if unchecked by multilateral rules could stifle the opportunities for economic development in the emerging and developing economies. The multilateral trade system under the WTO should therefore be supported and strengthened to align with the SDGs and climate agenda. The current system of investor-state dispute mechanisms should be overhauled so that it is not used as a bludgeon to slow or stop the transition to clean, green, and sustainable technologies.

We call on the Summit of the Future to establish follow-up inter-governmental mechanisms to extend the SDG agenda to mid-century with highly ambitious timelines, updated goals, and the systematic implementation of enhanced means of implementation, as discussed throughout this statement.

1.2 The Sustainable Development Agenda should be properly financed

At the essence of achieving sustainable development is investment in the capital of every individual and economy worldwide. These capital assets include human capital (health and education), infrastructure, enterprise capital, intellectual capital (scientific and technological know-how), and natural capital. Societies achieve sustainable development through balanced and bold investments in these forms of capital. The greatest differences in economic and social indicators across nations, and in progress towards the SDGs, results from differences in the stocks of capital per person in the population, which in turn have resulted from past history, political institutions, geographical factors, and other determinants. Yet in the richest countries, with high capital assets per person, vested interests continue to block transitions from unsustainable to sustainable technologies (for example, regarding the role of fossil fuels).

The greatest challenge and opportunity for the poorer nations is a rapid increase in productive capital per person, based on dynamic investments in education, health care, infrastructure (power, digital, water and sanitation, transport, housing, and others), business capital, and protection of nature. By bold and well-designed investment programs, the poorest countries can end extreme poverty and make rapid strides towards the SDGs. The single most important investment of all, quantitatively and qualitatively, is education. With higher education, and a supportive business and regulatory environment, many other things follow: improved technologies, better decision making, healthier and more satisfying lives, and the ability of economies to attract domestic and international business investments.

All evidence developed by academia, the Bretton Woods system, and UN institutions is that there remains a massive shortfall in the pace of investments needed for the poorer nations to achieve the SDGs. Perhaps even more shockingly, this shows up in the shortfall of primary and secondary education, where poorer countries are unable to finance universal access as called for by SDG 4 (Quality Education). The result is hundreds of millions of children either out of school entirely or in classrooms with 60–100 students per teacher and meager or non-existent school supplies.

In order to mobilize the needed investment flows for human and infrastructure capital, the GFA must be reformed and made fit for sustainable development. The major objective is to ensure that the poorer countries have adequate financing, both domestic and from external sources, and at sufficient quality in terms of the cost of capital and the maturity of loans, to scale up the investments required to achieve the SDGs.

There are five complementary strategies to reform the GFA. The first is to increase the scale of financing from official sources, including bilateral Official Development Assistance and multilateral financial institutions, including multilateral development banks. The IMF should be empowered with the resources and the mandate to serve as a true lender of last resort for member states caught in a liquidity crisis. The second is to increase the scale and performance of national development banks that are mission-oriented and fit for purpose for providing patient, long-term financing to achieve the SDGs. The third is to institute global taxation, for example, on CO2 emissions, air and sea travel, financial transactions, and other international goods and “bads,” in order to mobilize sufficient global resources to provide the necessary global public goods. The fourth is to reform the private capital markets and their regulation (including the system of credit ratings) to support larger private flows of capital into the low-income and lower-middle-income countries. The fifth is to restructure existing debts, including debt-for-SDG swaps, debt-for-Nature swaps, lower interest rates, and much longer maturities consistent with the time horizon to achieve sustainable development.

1.3 Countries and regions should produce medium-term sustainable development strategies

Sustainable development in general, and the SDGs specifically, require long-term public investment plans, transformation pathways, and a mission orientation to provide the public goods and services required to achieve the SDGs. For this purpose, all nations and regions need medium-term strategies to achieve the SDGs. These strategies, with a horizon to the year 2050, and in some cases beyond, should provide an integrated framework for local, national, and regional investments to achieve the SDGs, and for the technological transformations needed to achieve green, digital, and inclusive societies. Medium-term SDG Frameworks should be presented and updated annually by each nation at the ongoing High-Level Political Forum, and systematically and critically reviewed by peer countries and by the UN system.

2. International peace and security

2.1 The core principles of non-intervention should be reinforced and extended

The greatest threat to global peace is the interference by one nation in the internal affairs of another nation against the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. Such interference, in the form of wars, military coercion, covert regime-change operations, cyberwarfare, information warfare, political manipulation and financing, and unilateral coercive measures (financial, economic, trade, and technological), all violate the UN Charter and generate untold international tensions, violence, conflict, and war.

At the same time, individual nations should abide by the international law to which they have subscribed. It is the responsibility of the UN as a whole, to ensure collective mechanisms for enforcement of the law, while no individual nation nor group of nations outside of UN processes should interfere in the internal affairs of other nations in the name of enforcing global rules.

For this reason, the UN member states should resolve to end illegal measures of intervention by any nation or group of nations in the internal affairs of another nation or group of nations. The principles of non-intervention, enshrined in the UN Charter, UN General Assembly Resolutions, and international law, should be reinforced along the following lines.

First, no nation should interfere in the politics of any other country through the funding or other support of political parties, movements, or candidates.

Second, no nation or group of nations should deploy unilateral coercive measures, as recognized repeatedly by the UN General Assembly.

Third, in a world operating under the UN Charter, there is no need for nations to permanently station military forces in foreign countries other than according to UN Security Council decisions. Existing overseas military bases should be reduced dramatically in number with the aim of phasing out and eliminating overseas military bases over the course of the next 20 years.

2.2 The UN Security Council and other UN agencies should be strengthened to keep the peace and sustain the security of member states

The UN Security Council should be reformed, expanded, and empowered to keep the peace under the UN Charter. Reform of its structure is described in section 5 below. Here we emphasize enhancing its power and tools, including super-majority voting to overcome the veto by one member; the power to ban the international flow of weapons to conflict zones; strengthened mediation and arbitration services; and enhanced funding of peacebuilding operations, especially in low-income settings.

The Security Council should actively encourage collective security, in which national borders are respected and the great powers are actively discouraged by the Security Council from pulling smaller nations into dangerous geopolitical contests. The scourge of proxy wars must be actively resisted in our new multi-polar setting, especially by avoiding “bloc” politics and military alliances that press or encourage smaller countries to “choose sides” in big-power rivalries, thereby exacerbating the tensions among the big powers.

The Security Council should also be attentive to requests from member states to support them in preserving internal peace when it is threatened by global illicit arms flows, transborder drug trafficking, international organized crime, external debt insolvency, or other factors that undermine the capacity of the state to carry out its core functions.

In addition to the UN Security Council, other key instrumentalities of global peacekeeping, human rights, and international law should be strengthened. These include the authority and independence of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, the functionality of and support for UN-based humanitarian assistance, especially in war zones, and the role of the UN Human Rights Council in defending and promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2.3 The nuclear powers should return to the process of nuclear disarmament

The greatest danger to global survival remains thermonuclear war. In this regard, the ten nations with nuclear weapons have an urgent responsibility to abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty mandate under Article VI “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” All nations, and especially the nuclear powers, should ratify and comply with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

2.4 Systematic monitoring of UN-based multilateralism

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network has launched a new index of UN-based multilateralism (see Part 3). As with the challenge of the SDGs, strengthening multilateralism requires metrics and monitoring. The SDSN UN-Mi shows that the United States is currently the country least adherent to UN-based systems. Other major powers also have significant scope for improvement in their multilateralism, according to the data presented by SDSN. We believe that all countries need to be accountable to their peers for adherence to the UN Charter, rules, norms, and procedures.

3. Science, technology and innovation and digital cooperation

3.1 Enhancing the multilateral governance of technological risks

The world is experiencing unprecedented advances in the power, sophistication, and risks of advanced technologies across a range of sciences, technologies and applications. These include biotechnology, including the ability to enhance pathogens and to create new forms of life; artificial intelligence, including the potential for pervasive surveillance, spying, addiction, autonomous weapons, deep fakes, and cyberwarfare; nuclear weapons, notably the emergence of yet more powerful and destructive weapons and their deployment outside of international controls; and geoengineering, for example proposals to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans, or to deflect solar radiation, in response to anthropogenic climate change.

The world has become painfully aware in recent years that the dramatic advances of these technologies lack substantive regulatory oversight at the national and global levels. To the contrary, these technologies are being developed and deployed in secrecy by military agencies, intelligence agencies, and private companies, often with no or little oversight by the public or representative institutions. A debate continues as to whether the Covid-19 pandemic was in fact an accidental disaster originating in cutting-edge “gain-of-function” research on dangerous pathogens, highlighting the indisputable dangers posed by the manipulation of dangerous pathogens using new, cutting-edge biotechnologies.

Digital technologies are being rapidly and pervasively militarized, including quantum computing, AI, cyberwarfare, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic missiles, electronic warfare, undersea warfare, uncrewed vehicles, as well as multi-domain capacities including missile attack, cyber, space, and electronic warfare. Digital technologies threaten fundamental values of personal privacy, enable untraceable targeted discrimination by states, and pose the threat of overbearing state surveillance.

We therefore call on the UN General Assembly to establish urgent processes of global oversight of each class of cutting-edge technologies, including mandates to relevant UN agencies to report annually to the UN General Assembly on these technological developments, including their potential threats and requirements of regulatory oversight.

3.2 Universal access to vital technologies

In the same spirit, we also call upon the UN General Assembly to establish and support global and regional centers of excellence, training, and production to ensure that all parts of the world are empowered to participate in the research and development, production, and regulatory oversight of advanced technologies that actually support sustainable development (rather than hyper-militarization). Universities in all regions of the world should train and nurture the next generation of outstanding engineers and scientists needed to drive sustainable development, with expertise in structural transformations in energy, industry, agriculture, and the built environment. Africa in particular should be supported to build world-class universities in the coming years.

3.3 Universal access to R&D capacities and platforms

More than ever, we need open science for scientists in poorer countries and regions, including universal free access to scientific and technical publications, to ensure fair and inclusive access to the advanced technological knowledge and expertise that will shape the global economy and global society in the 21st century. UN normative instruments such as the UNESCO 2019 Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) can effectively contribute to global digital cooperation and knowledge sharing.

We also emphasize the crucial role of public financing in R&D. While it is true that private-sector, profit-oriented R&D is a key feature of the global knowledge economy, a strong public role in R&D has also proven to be vital, especially to support basic science and those areas where the public good is vitally at stake, including environmental sustainability and the urgent needs of the poor that are systematically bypassed by the profit motive alone. A vivid example is the case of tropical disease burdens of high prevalence among very poor populations, where market incentives alone are utterly inadequate to mobilize the needed R&D efforts.

4. Youth and future generations

The most important capital of any society, by far, is its human capital. The universal access of the population to quality education, nutrition, health and lifelong learning is the single greatest determinant of the ability of each nation and region to end poverty, achieve social inclusion, and attain environmental sustainability. The returns on investment in human capital, in direct economic benefit not to mention societal benefit and gains in personal wellbeing, are the highest returns available to any society. Despite the centrality of human capital for sustainable development, and despite the availability of know-how, technology, and the organizational means to ensure that no child is left behind, the current neglect of the world’s children is startling and shocking. Hundreds of millions of children are being left behind, in poverty and destitution, because of a lack of access to education, nutrition, healthcare, and job skills.

We therefore call on the Summit of the Future to prioritize the access of every child on the planet to the core investments in their human capital, and to create new modalities of global long-term financing to ensure that the human right of every child to quality primary and secondary education, nutrition, and healthcare is fulfilled no later than 2030. We recognize the crucial need for gender equality (SDG 5) to ensure that girls as well as boys are enabled and encouraged to reach their full potential. We encourage public measures to strengthen the family and the capacity of families to provide the nurturing, nutrition, safe environment, early childhood stimulus, and learning environment, that are vital to enabling children to achieve their full potential. We stress the need for the community to ensure access for young people to mental health services when needed and protection against violence and digital abuse.

The financing gap to achieve universal access to human capital is on the order of $200 billion per year for education and $200 billion per year for healthcare and nutrition, and therefore less than one-half of 1% of world output. These sums are entirely manageable. The multilateral development banks in particular should immediately step forward with greatly increased long-term low-interest financing for human capital investments at the scale required and called for by the SDGs, and notably SDG target 3.8 (universal health coverage) and SDG target 4.1 (universal completion of schooling at least through upper-secondary).

As we attend to the needs of the young, we should also of course recognize the significance of aging and extended lifespans for the old. The expansion of life expectancy is one of the glories of modern know-how, and in countries where life expectancy continues to lag far behind, the leading countries should help with urgency to promote improved public health outcomes. Yet we must also take steps to ensure that these longer lives are lived in good health and wellbeing. Chronic diseases, loneliness and the isolation of elders could weigh heavily on the future, unless we nurture the needed “care economy” for an aging population.

4.1 Universal education for sustainable development and global citizenship (paideia)

In adopting the SDGs, the UN member states wisely recognized the need to educate the world’s children in the challenges of sustainable development. They did this in adopting Target 4.7 of the SDGs:

4.7 By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Target 4.7 is, in effect, the call for a 21st century paideia, the ancient Greek concept of the core knowledge, virtues, and skills that should be attained by all citizens of the Polis. Today, we have a global polis – a global citizenry – that must be equipped to foster and promote the values of sustainable development and the respect of human rights throughout the world. We call on the Summit of the Future to reinforce Target 4.7 and to bring it to life in education for sustainable development around the world. This includes not only an updated and upgraded curriculum at all levels of education, but training at all stages of the life cycle in the technical and ethical skills needed for a green, digital, and sustainable economy in an interconnected world.

4.2 Council of youth and future generations

A young person born today is most likely to live into the 22nd century, assuming the vital conditions of peace, access to healthcare and education, and an adequate and universally achievable material standard of living. Young people of course have the greatest stake in achieving sustainable development by mid-century and securing a world of peace and social justice. Young people also have special perspectives and skills that will be vital to the success of sustainable development. They are digital citizens, growing up in the digital age; they are global citizens, growing up in a world that is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. And they are highly vulnerable to the choices that governments make in the next few years. The environmental and geopolitical threats raise the specter of dire and irreversible losses unless the proper policies are adopted.

For this reason, the voices of youth are essential. The empowerment of youth, through training, education, mentorship, and participation in public deliberations, can foster a new generation that is committed to sustainable development, peace, and global cooperation. A new UN Council of Youth and Future Generations can strengthen the UN’s activities in training and empowering young people, and can provide a vital global voice of youth to meet today’s complex challenges. We therefore call on the Summit of the Future to support the establishment of a new UN Council of Youth and Future Generations as a UN General Assembly subsidiary body under Article XXII. We also call on the existing UN organs – ECOSOC, the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council, and others – to actively promote the voices of young people in their sessions, proceedings, and practices.

5. Transforming global governance

5.1 There should be the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly

Around the world, civil society, scholars, and citizens have called for strengthening global institutions by establishing representation of We the Peoples in the UN. We propose as a first instance to establish a “UN Parliamentary Assembly” as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly according to Article XXII of the UN Charter (“The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.”). The new UN Parliamentary Assembly would be constituted by representative members of national parliaments, upon principles of representation established by the UN General Assembly. In some manner, representation could be organized on the basis of “Degressive Proportionality,” meaning that every UN member state would have at least one representative, with the number of representatives based on the population of the UN member states, and with a maximum number of representatives for the largest nations. Ideally, the size of the UN Parliamentary Assembly would be such as to enable in-person meetings at the UN General Assembly as well as virtual public sessions throughout the year.

The UN Parliamentary Assembly should have oversight of the UN budget, and be vested with specific powers regarding the collection and disposition of international taxation (see section 1.1 above).

5.2 Other UN subsidiary bodies should be established

Invoking the powers under Article XXII, the UN General Assembly should establish new subsidiary chambers as needed to support the processes of sustainable development, and the representativeness of UN institutions. The new chambers might include, inter alia:

A Council of the Regions to enable representation of regional bodies such as ASEAN, European Union, Africa Union, Eurasian Economic Union, and others;

A Council of Cities to enable representation of cities and other sub-national jurisdictions;

A Council of Indigenous Peoples to represent the estimated 400 million indigenous peoples of the world;

A Council of Culture, Religion, and Civilization to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation for cultural diversity, religion, and civilizations;

A Council of Youth and Future Generations to represent the needs and aspirations of today’s youth and of generations to come (see section 4.1 above);

A Council on the Anthropocene to support and enhance the work of the UN agencies in fulfilling the aims of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (including the Paris Climate Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) and the environmental objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals.

5.3 The UN Security Council should be reformed in membership and powers.

Its effectiveness is the paramount requirement for global survival. In recent decades, however, the Security Council has been gravely hampered by widely recognized shortcomings in its composition, the overuse of the veto power, and the insufficiency of its tools to address threats to the peace. There has been a long debate on how to reform the UN Security Council. We urge the UN member states to reach a consensus to move forward on this critical issue.

Specifically, we call on the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to adopt urgently needed reforms of the Security Council structure and processes. These should include:

The addition of India as a permanent member, considering that India represents no less than 18% of humanity, the third largest economy in the world at purchasing-power parity, and other attributes signifying India’s global reach in economy, technology, and geopolitical affairs;

The adoption of procedures to override a veto by a super-majority (perhaps of three-quarters of the votes);

An expansion and rebalancing of total seats to ensure that all regions of the world are better represented relative to their population shares;

The adoption of new tools for addressing threats to the peace, as outlined above in section 2.2.

6. Conclusions

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) applauds the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary General, and the UN agencies in promoting a unique and invaluable reflection on the shared future of humanity. The Summit of the Future is a remarkable occasion to strengthen our bonds on a planet challenged by poverty amidst plenty, widening social inequalities, dire environmental threats, and the horrific costs and grave dangers of war. The SDSN represents more than 2,000 universities, think tanks, national laboratories and other organizations committed to sustainable development in all parts of the world. As a global network, we are committed to doing our part through education, training, research, policy analysis, convening, and collaborative efforts of all sorts, including this statement to the world’s governments, to promote sustainable development, peace, and the future we want.

List of signatories

Jeffrey D. Sachs
President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University
Emmanuel Adamakis
Elder Metropolitan of Chalcedon
Mohammed Al-Sabah
President of Sabah Al-Salem Foundation
Anthony Annett
Visiting Scholar, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University
Luiz Augusto Galvão
Senior Researcher, Fiocruz Center for Global Health
Chandrika Bahadur
Chief Executive Officer, The Antara Foundation
Gustavo Béliz
Former Secretary of Strategic Affairs, Argentina; member, Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS)
Sergio Besserman Vianna
President, Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden Research Institute, Brazil; Board member, SDSN Brazil
Zulfiqar Bhutta
Founding Director, Institute for Global Health and Development, the Aga Khan University, South-Central Asia, East Africa and United Kingdom; Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Eugenie L. Birch
University of Pennsylvania
Irina Bokova
Former Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria
Helen Bond
University Professor, Howard University
Rocco Buttiglione
Professor of Philosophy, Instituto de Filosofia Edith Stein, Granada (Spain)
James Chelang'a
Moi University, Kenya
Kieth Rethy Chhem
CamTech University, Cambodia
Jacqueline Corbelli
Founder, US Coalition on Sustainability, SustainChain™
María Cortés Puch
Vice President for Networks, SDSN
Ramu Damodaran
Senior Fellow, CSEP
Jack Dangermond
President, Esri
Vibha Dhawan
Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
Bineta Diop
Founder and Chair of the Board, Femmes Africa Solidarité
David Donoghue
Distinguished Fellow of ODI; co-facilitator for 2030 Agenda negotiations
Gonzalo Fanjul
Policy Director, Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal)
Sybil Fares
Advisor on Middle East and Africa, SDSN
Maria João Filgueiras Rauch
Network Manager, SDSN Portugal
Xiaolan Fu
Oxford University
Stuart Gibb
Director, Environmental Research Institute, The University of the Highlands and Islands
Ken E. Giller
Emeritus Professor, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Enrico Giovannini
Former Minister of Labour and Social Policies, Italy
Ana Marta González
Professor of Philosophy, University of Navarra, Spain
Charlotte Kendra Gotangco Gonzales
Ateneo De Manila University
Ian Greer
President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University
Andrew Haines
Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
James Hansen
Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Columbia University
Olli-Pekka Heinonen
Director General of the International Baccalaureate
Naci Inci
Rector, Boğaziçi University
Naoko Ishii
The University of Tokyo
Vuk Jeremić
Former President, United Nations General Assembly
Pavel Kabat
Secretary General, Human Frontier Science Program
Norichika Kanie
Chair, SDSN Japan, Professor, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University
Kerry Kennedy
President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Young-Mok Kim
Former Diplomat, South Korea
Niclas Kjellström-Matseke
Chairman, Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation; Founding Partner, 17 Asset Management
Kouakou Koffi
Président Université Alassane Ouattara, Bouaké, Côte d’ivoire
Phoebe Koundouri
Professor, Athens University of Economics and Business; Professor, Technical University of Denmark; Chair, SDSN Global Climate Hub; Co-Chair, SDSN Europe; President, EAERE
Eato Kozakou-Marcoullis
Former Foreign Minister, Cyprus
Samuel Kweku Hayford
University of Education, Winneba, Ghana; Member, Networks Strategy Council
Markoa Kyprianou
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus
Guillaume Lafortune
Vice President, SDSN; member, Grenoble Center for Economic Research (CREG)
Zlatko Lagumdzija
Former Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Upmanu Lall
Arizona State University and Columbia University
Frannie Leautier
Partner and CEO, SouthBridge Investments
Woo-Kyun Lee
Professor, Korea University; Co-Chair, SDSN-Korea
Klaus Leisinger
Global Values Alliance
Carol Leonard
Emeritus, St Antony's College
Adalberto Luis Val
Brazilian National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA)
Patrick Maluki
University of Nairobi, Kenya
Julia Marton-Lefèvre
Co-Founder of Villars Institute
Marianna Mazzucato
Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, Founding Director, Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), University College London (UCL)
Gordon McCord
School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego
Rodrigo Medeiros
SDSN Brazil
Francisco J. Meza
Director, Institute for Sustainable Development, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Miriam Mirolla
Academy of Fine Arts, Rome
Vijay Modi
Columbia University
Oscar Molina Tejerina
Provost, Universidad Privada Boliviana (UPB); Chair, SDSN Bolivia
Tae Hoon Moon
Emeritus Professor, Chung Ang University, Seoul; Co-Chair, SDSN, Republic of Korea
Miguel Ángel Moratinos
Under-Secretary-General, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
John O’Halloran
President, University College Cork
Ngozi Odiaka
Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria; Co-Chair, SDSN Nigeria
Soogil Oh
The Cyber University of Korea
Seth Ohemeng-Dapaah
Country Director, Millennium Promise, Ghana
Joaquim Oliveira
Counsellor, CEPII; President of the Board, CIREM
Serik Orazgaliyev
Nazarbayev University
Leire Pajín
International Development Director, ISGlobal (Barcelona Institute for Global Health)
Costas N. Papanicolas
Founding President, The Cyprus Institute, Co-Chair SDSN Cyprus
Antonio Pedro
Deputy Executive Secretary (Programme Support), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Antoni Plasència
Barcelona Institute for Global Health; University of Barcelona
Labode Popoola
University of Ibadan; Chair of SDSN Nigeria
Riccardo Pozzo
Tor Vergata University, PASS
Stefano Quintarelli
Copernicani NPO
Sabina Ratti
Chair, SDSN Italy
K. Srinath Reddy
Distinguished Professor of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India
Aromar Revi
Founding Director, Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS)
Angelo Riccaboni
University of Sienna, Co-Chair UN SDSN Europe, Parigi
Katherine Richardson
University of Copenhagen
Johan Rockström
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
Joanna Rubinstein
President and Chief Executive Officer, World Childhood Foundation USA
José Saniger
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
HH Muhammad Sanusi II
Emir of Kano
Aleksandra Schellenberg
Global Head, Legal Sustainable Finance
Guido Schmidt-Traub
Jasmina Selimović
Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; University of Sarajevo
Ismail Seragelidin
Founding Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Marco Simões-Coelho
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
David Smith
University of the West Indies
Vera Songwe
Brookings Institution
Jennifer Stengaard Gross
Co-Founder, Blue Chip Foundation; Director, The William, Jeff, and Jennifer Gross Foundation
Jatna Supriatna
Co-Chair, SDSN Indonesia; Professor of Conservation Biology, Universitas Indonesia
Nicolaos Theodossiou
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; Chair, SDSN Black Sea
John Thwaites
Monash University
Emma Torres
VP for the Americas, SDSN
Rocky Tuan
Vice-Chancellor and President, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Kevin Chika Urama
Chief Economist, African Development Bank Group (AfDB)
William Vendley
Secretary General Emeritus, Religions for Peace International
Virgilio Viana
International Institute for Environment and Development
Martin Visbeck
Kiel University
Patrick Paul Walsh
University College Dublin
Yuqing (Philo) Wang
Senior Manager, SDSN
Wing Thye Woo
Vice-President for Asia, SDSN
Lan Xue
Tsinghua University
Hiro Yoshikawa
NYU Steinhardt
Ali Ahmad Yousefi
Chancellor, Kateb University, Kabul, Afghanistan
Stefano Zamagni
Prof. of Economics, University of Bologna; Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
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The Sustainable Development Report (formerly the SDG Index & Dashboards) is a global assessment of countries' progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a complement to the official SDG indicators and the voluntary national reviews.

All data presented on this website are based on the publication Sachs, J.D., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2024). The SDGs and the UN Summit of the Future. Sustainable Development Report 2024. Paris: SDSN, Dublin: Dublin University Press. 10.25546/108572

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