'SDGs were chosen because world economy isn't functioning normally': Prof. Jeffrey Sachs delivers keynote speech at 3rd annual UAE Public Policy Forum
Source: ASDA'A BCW for MBRSG , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Tue January 29, 2019 11:52 am

UAE. "The 17 SDGs were chosen because the world economy isn’t functioning normally,” noted renowned economist, public policy analyst, and Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, while delivering a keynote speech by videoconference on day two of the 3rd annual UAE Public Policy Forum.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, the Forum is organised by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) in collaboration with the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) on January 27-28, 2019, at the InterContinental Dubai – Festival City, under the theme “Accelerating SDGs Implementation: Future Policy Roadmap”.

“The world adopted the sustainable development goals because the global economy was only fulfilling one of the three main objectives of sustainable development, which are economic development, social justice, and environmental sustainability,” Prof. Sachs explained. “Globalisation did a good job with the first objective: The global economy grows between 2% and 3% every year, so the global economy doubles in size every 20 years and is now worth $100 trillion – that’s $17,500 per person.”

“That said, the second and third pillars were not fulfilled,” he continued. “On social inclusion, we have a dramatic widening of inequality among the world’s richest and poorest – including within individual countries. That is because technology favours those with good education and advanced skills, leaving others behind. Artificial intelligence, information technology and the digital revolution called upon more skilled workers, leaving behind those who lack basic education, which, unfortunately, is a major portion of the world’s population.”

“The third pillar is the environment. We are failing in that regard on three major points, the first of which is climate change, which is becoming more dramatic all around the world. The second point is the massive loss of biodiversity due to global warming, while the third is rampant pollution,” Prof. Sachs noted, deducing that for these reasons, economic growth was not enough to compensate the other 2 objectives.

We, at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, have found it useful to think about 6 major transformations to work on to achieve the SDGs, the first of which are Education Skills and the Future of Jobs. Technological transformations drive up the need for excellence and advanced skills; low-skill jobs are becoming more automated and low-skill workers need to develop other skills to work alongside advanced systems. Education is therefore key for sustainable development.

The second transformation is Health for All; the UAE is already advanced, but we need to promote universal health coverage and modern systems that use advanced technologies and AI in diagnostics and treatment. The Arab region is one of the most air polluted in the world because of heavy dependence on fossil fuels as well as sandstorms; this is extremely debilitating for health. This is not to mention that the GCC – much like the USA – suffers from high obesity.

Third is the Energy Transformation; Earth is warming, and we are on a trajectory to exceed 1.5 degrees in 20 years, we might even be on a trajectory to exceed 2 or 3 degrees. This creates catastrophic warming, rapid rise of sea levels, extreme drought and weather – we need to get global warming under control. The Gulf is the centre of the oil and gas industry, but it is also uniquely blessed with solar energy. The chance to become a renewable energy superpower is great; the GCC will remain the bulwark of the fossil fuel industry, but can also become a leader in phasing out fossil fuels.

The fourth transformation is Sustainable Agriculture in terms of land use, biodiversity, the use of chemicals, and the use of fresh water. All over the region, surface waters and lakes are disappearing, and sandstorms are becoming intense, making sustainable agriculture critical. Fifth is urbanisation and sustainable cities. We are an urban world; we are heading for 70% urban population in the middle of the century, because this is where the economy is heading: farms can now produce with fewer or no farmers, mines without miners, etc. We need to build cities dependant on public transport, renewable energy, and green areas.

The sixth and final transformation is the deployment of information and communication technology – particularly with the advent of 5G and AI. We will furthermore be eliminating all use of cash in the future, with all policies, healthcare, and education done online.

“Implementing the SDGs faces many challenges in design, planning, finance, clear thinking, and politics,” Prof. Sachs said. “It is a big struggle and we are not yet winning this struggle, even though the goals are universal and shared. The UAE is working hard on many fronts to be a pioneer and a leader in that regard; authorities here are thinking very hard about happiness and renewable energies.”

“The SDGs need to be achieved not only in one country but in the broader Middle East region, which is extraordinarily diverse, having some of the poorest and richest places in the world,” he concluded.

“The UAE plays a unique role in the regional economy and a key role in the world economy. With that in mind, we viewed the UAE as the logical place for setting up the SDG Centre of Excellence for the Arab Region, bringing other countries from around the region in to brainstorm and find solutions.”

 

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