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Sep 25, 2015

World leaders set to adopt broad U.N. goals to tackle global woes

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Leaders from nearly 200 nations were poised on Friday to adopt a sweeping plank of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change in the most comprehensive effort ever by the United Nations to tackle the world's ills.

Adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, caps three years of brainstorming and negotiations with input from nearly every corner of the world, organizers say, and provides a roadmap for countries to finance and create change.

The 15-year objectives aiming to create conditions for sustainable growth and shared peace and prosperity replace the previous U.N. action plan, the Millennium Development Goals.

Addressing the United Nations on Friday, Pope Francis called the adoption of the SDGs "an important sign of hope."

"Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions," said the Pope as the Vatican flag flew for the first time outside the United Nations headquarters.

He said world leaders must follow through with "a will which is effective, practical, constant, with concrete steps and immediate measures" to protect the environment and end social and economic exclusion.

"The simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods," he said.

The United Nation's 193 member nations were scheduled to adopt the SDGs on Friday after an opening ceremony with performances by Colombian singer Shakira and Benin's Angelique Kidjo, both of whom are U.N. goodwill ambassadors. Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai will also speak.

Supporters say the SDGs go much further than the previous U.N. goals plan by addressing root causes of issues such as poverty and looking at means as well as ends. They also are intended to be universal and not just for the developing world.

The adoption of the goals is far from a rubber-stamp event, said Amina Mohammed, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Rather, she and other U.N. officials will be listening intently to world leaders speaking during the three-day SDG summit which wraps up on Sunday.

"My greatest worry is that we don't get clarity in terms of the commitments from leaders to this agenda," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The problems are huge so the response has got to be huge."

Once the summit ends, the task is getting the goals, along with their 169 accompanying targets, incorporated into programs, policies and parliaments in member nations.

"Now implementation is everything," said Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and former New Zealand prime minister.

"These goals will or won't happen depending on whether governments decide to take them seriously."

But Clark added that she sees the goals as "a sign of hope for the world".

Much is riding on the SDGs and their future, Mohammed said.

"If we miss this opportunity, it's not the end of the world but it's going to be a far more miserable world, and nobody's going to be very happy with that," she said.

Implementation of the new goals, requiring trillions of dollars in investment, will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators to be agreed by March 2016. – Reuters