Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne has called upon world leaders to track the progress of achieving Sustainable Development Goals in order to devise means to achieve the SDG’s faster and achieve them universally.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2019 at the United Nations which he co-moderated with the President of Finland.
“We are almost 10 years away from achieving the SDGs. We are approaching the end of targets we have set; and if we are serious about ending extreme poverty, reducing inequality, providing sustainable energy for all and urgently addressing all issues of the environment, we need to track progress across all SDGs. We must take steps to ensure coordination and collaboration between and amongst countries towards the achievement the SDGs,” the Prime Minister stated.
Prime Minister Browne also highlighted some of the achievements of his government in Antigua and Barbuda as it relates to the SDG’s.
“From the perspective of a Small Island Developing State; Antigua and Barbuda can report some good news. We have been successful in decreasing our child mortality rate, eliminated mother to child HIV transmission, decreased teenage pregnancy and; everyone living in Antigua and Barbuda have access to good quality healthcare.
We have Improved quality education at all levels, including the establishment of a Second Chance Adult Learning Institute and the opening of the Fourth Landed Campus of the University of the West Indies, to facilitate increased university enrollment,” PM Browne pointed out.
The country’s leader also outlined that his government has reduced its debt by 37 percent of GDP during the past five years. He also said that his government has expanded the economy by an average of five percent per annum during the past five years; created several thousand new jobs which has resulted in the reduction of unemployment and poverty.
“My government has successfully introduced new policies and incentives which have facilitated greater inclusion of minority groups to include persons with disabilities and Rastafari; increased gender equity,
car, home and business ownership for the masses, to include the vulnerable. One such program is, our Home Advancement Program For the Poor and Indigent, (HAPPI) housing grant programme,” Prime Minister Browne stated.
He also highlighted the country’s progress in transitioning from fossil fuel to alternative energy sources, with the introduction of approximately 20 Meg’s of solar and wind applications, representing approximately 15 percent of total energy output.
Prime Minister Browne said that while there are successes in Antigua and Barbuda, globally the picture is very different.
“After the success of reducing poverty under the MDGs, we have seen an increase in the world’s poor and a rise in inequality amongst nations. This is mostly driven by climate change and protectionist measures around the world. The reality is, most vulnerable countries are being left behind,” he said.
He said that in order to change this trend, countries must form partnerships in aligning and realigning all global policies together and agree on a more equitable trading system and encourage investment opportunities, that promote sustainable development globally, especially in small island states.
He called on countries to recognize the importance of ODA, concessional financing and the creation of new bespoke financial instruments, to include climate for debt swaps in achieving these goals.
“The likelihood of achieving the SDGs and measuring their progress becomes slimmer every year, without the Means of Implementation – SDG 17. And this can’t just be about governments; the private sector and civil society are important players in financing the SDGs and holding us accountable for these goals,” he said.
The Prime Minister concluded his remarks by calling on all governments to redouble their efforts to achieve the SDG’s by 2030 – “The SDGs are about everyone, everywhere; and for everyone, everywhere.”