Halfway into the implementation of the SDGs, only 15 percent of the targets are on track and many are going in reverse, Guterres told the opening of the SDG Summit.
"Instead of leaving no one behind, we risk leaving the SDGs behind.Therefore, the SDGs need a global rescue plan," he said, calling for action to reduce hunger, quicker transition to renewable energy, wider spread of the benefits and opportunities of digitalization, better education for children and youth, decent work and social protection, and climate action.
Eight years ago, UN member states adopted the SDGs, which were not a promise made to one another as diplomats but rather a promise to people -- people crushed under the grinding wheels of poverty, people starving in a world of plenty, children denied a seat in a classroom, families fleeing conflicts, parents watching helplessly as their children die of preventable disease, people losing hope because they cannot find a job or a safety net, entire communities literally on devastation's doorstep because of changing climate, noted Guterres.
"So, the SDGs aren't just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere. And they provide the surest path to living up to our obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now in its 75th year," Guterres said.
At the halfway point to the SDG deadline, people around the world are demanding urgent action, he recalled.
"We can prevail -- if we act now; if we act together; if we keep our promise to the billions of people whose hopes, dreams and futures you hold in your hands. Now is the time," said Guterres.
Previously, Dennis Francis, the president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), recalled that 8 percent of the world's population will still suffer from hunger in 2030.
"Can we accept this? Or just because it makes us uncomfortable we pretend they do not exist and we move on?" he said, recalling that the New York summit should not be a forum in which participants "point finger on each person's portion of the blame, nor accept defeat."