The 2015 United Nations General Assembly was one of the most significant meetings in recent history. The 193 member-countries of the United Nations (UN) agreed an ambitious 15-year plan for the sustainable development of the planet, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that apply to every country in the world. Priority has been given to addressing the needs of the poorest people – a priority for The Salvation Army for the past 150 years. (Visit www.salvationarmy.org/isjc for more information on the SDGs.)
Commissioner William Cochrane, International Secretary to the Chief of the Staff at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters, attended a high-level meeting of faith leaders, UN and World Bank executives to develop an action framework to end extreme poverty. Building on the Moral and Spiritual Imperative Statement signed by General André Cox and more than 50 other world faith leaders since April 2015, the action framework focuses on three key areas to 'end extreme poverty' – evidence of what works; advocacy to keep this a global priority; and partnerships to encourage people to work together towards this important goal.
Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, Director of the International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) and International Accountability Movement Coordinator, addressed the meeting, noting: 'While the initial focus is on ending extreme poverty, this will be impossible without also addressing inequality, environmental damage, gender inequality and other key issues affecting the world’s poorest people. Increasingly, we recognise the importance of all 17 SDGs and the need to view them as indivisible. We cannot pick and choose – they must all be achieved to ensure that no one is left behind.'
Dr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, stressed the importance of faith groups, saying: 'I urge you, as faith leaders, to use your enormous influence as bridge-builders, as proponents of the universal values that connect all faiths and traditions, and as role models who speak out against hatred. At a time of rising extremism and discrimination against migrants and refugees, that role is more important than ever. Without exception, our faiths call on us to reduce inequality and reach out to those who are furthest behind. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to do just that. Your engagement and support will be crucial.'
During the UN General Assembly, UN Global Education Envoy Dr Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK, presented Dr Ban Ki-moon with 10 million #UpForSchool signatures, calling for education to be made available to all. Almost every Salvation Army territory and command helped collect signatures for the petition, and The Salvation Army’s contribution was recognised during a celebration in New York Town Hall – just off Times Square – where more than 1,000 young people, campaigners, celebrities and leaders gathered to support the demand to world leaders to recognise the right of every child to get an education – no matter who they are or where they were born. The Salvation Army was publically thanked for collecting more than 70,000 signatures.