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Action for People and Planet - Tackling Global Challenges Together

30 September 2019


Photography by Marla Mossman
Text by


Photo: His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President, Islamic Republic of Iran

Every September, the Member States of the United Nations meet at the General Assembly in New York to discuss the critical issues of global concern. This year, in addition to the general debate, world leaders participated in a series of summits and high-level meetings to boost action on climate change and accelerate progress on sustainable development, aimed at securing healthy, peaceful and prosperous lives for all.




Photo: Displays at the United Nations Headquarters in New York illustrate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Underpinning the action week are the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all world leaders in 2015. The 17 interconnected Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty and hunger, expand access to health, education, justice and jobs, while protecting our planet from environmental degradation.

23 September 2019
Major announcements by government and private sector leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit boosted climate action momentum and demonstrated growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.

Photo: Youth Climate Summit was attended by youth leaders from around the world

YOUTH CLIMATE SUMMIT was held on 21 September attended by youth leaders who vowed to put continued pressure on governments and businesses for urgent action to address the climate emergency.

WHY DOES IT MATTER? ● The world is facing a grave climate emergency. Climate change is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted and is outpacing our efforts to address it. Bold action and far greater ambition are needed to address climate change and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. With global temperatures rising and emissions increasing, all countries need to scale up their nationally determined contributions and put us on the pathway to achieve zero-net emissions by 2050. ● It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, but according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this would require urgent and far more ambitious action to cut emissions. Reaching the goal of 1.5°C would involve to cutting greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050. ● The Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint for the transition needed to a healthier planet and a more just world — for present and future generations. And an ambitious response to climate change is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Action on climate change must protect the health and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable, making sure no one is left behind.


Photo: Climate Summit programs continued in the UN Media Zone

The Summit delivered a major step up in national ambition and private sector action on pathway to key 2020 climate deadline. As recognition mounts that time is running out, youth leaders warn: ‘we will be watching’ Major announcements by government and private sector leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit boosted climate action momentum and demonstrated growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.

65 countries and major sub-national economies such as California committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so.

Over 100 business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets and speed up the transition from the grey to green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined value also over $2 trillion.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in closing the Summit, said “You have delivered a boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition. But we have a long way to go.”  “We need more concrete plans, more ambition from more countries and more businesses. We need all financial institutions, public and private, to choose, once and for all, the green economy.”  

Youth leaders including Greta Thunberg drove home the urgency of greater action by leaders, and their determination to hold leaders to account.

A full list of the announcements and commitments made at the Climate Summit can be found at   

23 September 2019
Trusteeship Council Chamber


Photo: High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

The first-ever High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage launched new efforts to provide access for all to affordable, inclusive and resilient health systems. The meeting galvanized global commitments to ensure health for all, recognizing the strong links to climate action and the fact that health is a human right and a precondition, outcome and driver of sustainable development.

24-25 September 2019

The first UN summit on the progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development closed on a hopeful note, with Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed declaring that the two-day event had been a reminder of “the boundless potential of humanity to create a better future for all”.


Photo: The 17 Sustainable Development Goals painted onto the plaza at the Visitors Entrance to the United Nations

Four years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and with efforts off track for meeting its objectives, world leaders called for a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and announced actions they are taking to advance the agenda. In the political declaration unanimously adopted at the SDG Summit, UN Member States pledged to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the sustainable development objectives by the target date and leave no one behind.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks, urged Member States to live up to their commitments and called on all sectors of society to mobilize for the 2030 Agenda. “We must step up our efforts,” he said. “Now is the time for bold leadership, both individual and collective,” he emphasized, calling for ambitious action by Member States, local authorities, and the private sector, and asking the media, academia and young people to mobilize partnerships and hold leaders to account. “We need to move together, leaving no one behind,” Guterres said.

Actions announced specifically in support of SDG Summit include, among others, Brazil committing to reduce premature mortality caused by non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030; Finland pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035; the Maldives partnering with Parley for the Oceans, American Express, ABinBev and Adidas to create a nationwide framework to deliver on many of the Goals; Mexico pledging to provide access to the internet for everyone including vulnerable communities; Greece committing to green growth through circular economy; the Netherlands doubling the target number of people who gain access to justice through Dutch support in parts of Africa and the Middle East; companies from 25 countries committing to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 as part of the UN Global Compact’s ‘Business Ambition for 1.5 °C: Our Only Future’ initiative; and Project Everyone’s ‘World’s Largest Lesson’ engaging more than 500,000 students in Nigeria in learning about the Sustainable Development Goals.

26 September 2019

The High-Level Dialogue heard from more than nearly 20 heads of state and government and as many ministers, joined by philanthropy and business leaders, including Bill Gates, who sounded the alarm about the insufficient pace in closing the gap in investments that are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The announcements made by leaders demonstrated increased resolve to mobilize resources, generate action and restore momentum to achieve the globally agreed goals to eliminate poverty, promote prosperity and well-being while protecting the environment. In the political declaration, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development,” unanimously adopted at the opening of the UN Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Member States pledged to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the sustainable development objectives by the target date and leave no one behind.

27 September 2019

Heads of State and Government adopted a political declaration that reaffirms their solidarity with small island developing States, which face a unique set of challenges. Five years after an ambitious agreement – the SAMOA Pathway – to support sustainable development in small island developing states, the High-Level Review discussed progress on combating the devastating impacts of climate change, building economic and environmental resilience, and other challenges, and announced new partnerships to support small island developing States.

More Photos from the UN HIGH LEVEL WEEK





Photo: His Excellency Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan maiden address to the UN General Assembly with UN Secretary-General António Guterres








Photo: Naledi Pandor, Minister, IR&C, South Africa addresses the Security Council on Terrorism











Photo: His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (President, REPUBLIC OF MALI) with UN Secretary-General António Guterres








Photo: The Secretary-General with H.E. Mr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (President, REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE) with UN Secretary-General António Guterres



The full list of more than 100 acceleration actions is available here:

More information on Overviews and Outcomes from the High Level Week Summit is available here:

All Photography
@Marla Mossman 2019  
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