New York, 25 September 2023 – From 18-19 September 2023, governments around the world gathered in New York for the 2023 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit, in a bid to accelerate transformative action towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Around the Summit and the High-level Week of the General Assembly, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms. Ghada Waly, participated in several events aimed at underscoring the importance of action on peace, justice, and strong institutions (i.e., SDG 16) in order to leave no one behind.
At a keynote address during a Business Leaders Summit focused on anti-corruption, Ms. Waly noted that corruption diverts resources, undermines human rights and the rule of law, enables crime and exploitation, and fuels crises – thereby hampering sustainable development.
“Corruption is bad for business in the long run, incurring costs through unfair competition, distorted markets, and a loss of trust in institutions.”
But business integrity can be a powerful force to preserve and restore trust.
“It prevents corruption from infiltrating entire sectors and creeping into institutional culture. It stops the stifling effect of corruption on competition and reduces legal, financial, and reputational risk for companies,” Ms. Waly said.
“Leaders like you can set the example by adopting business integrity standards that go beyond legal and regulatory requirements set by government authorities,” she urged.
At a high-level event celebrating global HIV progress to end AIDS and advance the SDGs, Ms. Waly delivered a statement on behalf of the 11 co-sponsoring organizations on the UNAIDS Committee.
Hailing the substantial progress made in reducing new HIV infections and protecting the livelihoods of those living with HIV/AIDS, Ms. Waly noted that robust HIV responses have contributed substantially to building health security; realizing women’s rights; and building partnerships.
Nevertheless, there has been uneven progress in reducing new HIV infections – and thereby achieving SDG 3, which includes the promise made by Member States to achieve the end of AIDS by 2030.
“The majority of new infections are among key populations,” Ms. Waly said. Yet HIV prevention services for these populations “are still insufficiently available or entirely absent in many countries, while punitive laws and social stigma and discrimination remain widespread.”
Moreover, data on people who inject drugs, who are at risk of developing HIV/AIDS, is minimal. Only two per cent of people who use drugs worldwide, meanwhile, live in countries where they have adequate access to harm reduction services.
Financial investments in key population programmes, as well as political will, lag far behind needs.
“In closing, reaching SDG 3 to end AIDS as a public health threat will not signal the end of the multisectoral response to HIV but rather the achievement of a status that will have to be sustainably maintained and monitored,” Ms. Waly concluded.
In the belief that the leadership style of women can be transformational to achieving the SDGs, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed hosted a Women Rise For All lunch.
In informal remarks, Ms. Waly reflected on how the world needed more women, especially in leadership positions, in the justice sector. For instance, according to UNODC data in 2019, women represented only 18.6 per cent of positions in higher courts.
She also highlighted findings from the new UNODC, UN Development Programme, and UN Human Rights report on progress towards SDG 16, including that the situation for women across SDG 16 indicators is worse than for men.
Ms. Waly then shared UNODC’s experience in promoting women as agents of change in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice, anti-corruption efforts, counter-terrorism, and tackling organized crime. Examples she cited included support for over 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to strengthen their criminal justice responses to gender-based violence, along with the Women in/for Justice campaign to support increasing women representation/leadership in the justice sector.
At a meeting aimed at protecting children’s rights in the digital environment, Ms. Waly underscored that “we all have a responsibility” to protect children from the “disturbing new avenues for exploitation and abuse” created by the Internet.
“UNODC, through its Global Cybercrime Programme, is providing technical assistance and capacity building to national authorities, civil society, and the private sector in preventing, detecting, and prosecuting online child sexual abuse and exploitation, and stands ready to continue supporting Member States in this critical area,” Ms. Waly stated.