Over 100 NGOs call for Rishi Sunak to attend the upcoming UN SDG Summit

Over 100 leaders of UK NGOs have called on the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak to attend the UN SDG Summit in September as part of the UN General Assembly and endorse the negotiated SDG Political Declaration.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister today (Friday 25 August), 108 UK aid and development leaders highlight the UK’s central role in agreeing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015 and call for a renewed effort by the UK government to deliver on its commitments to the SDGs and to show global leadership.

The 2023 SDG Summit marks the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda and a new phase to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

The leaders have directly called on the Prime Minister to “walk the talk and show leadership by turning these commitments into action” and “rebuild the UK’s reputation as a trusted partner to lower-income countries and global actors.”

The Prime Minister has not yet publicly committed to attending the summit or the wider UN General Assembly in September, thus potentially being the first PM to miss the gathering in a decade. However, government officials have today confirmed that he will not be attending, as first reported in the Financial Times today.

This follows Sunak’s notable absence at the Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris in June. By not attending the UN General Assembly and SDG Summit, this will be the third global development-related event that the PM will not have attended since becoming the Prime Minister in October 2022. This lack of interest by Sunak signifies the UK is losing its influence on the global stage.

Calling on the Prime Minister to attend, Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive of Bond, the UK network for UK international development organisations, said: 

“The UK played a central role in finalizing the SDGs back in 2015 but recently we appear to have stepped back from leadership on globally agreed goals. We need that same commitment in 2023, from the very top of government. The upcoming UN SDG Summit is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to show leadership on the global stage and rebuild the UK’s reputation as a trusted partner to lower-income countries, and this requires being present as a starting point.”


Gwendolen Hines, CEO of Save the Children said: 

“At a time where the world is grappling with multiple, compounding crises driven by climate change and inequality, political leadership is crucial. We urge the UK government to play its part in securing a strong, action-oriented political declaration at the SDG Summit. This will help drive transformative action to meet the SDGs so that all children can grow up in a safer, fairer world”

Dr Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, said:

“Without urgent action, the future of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is in peril. A recent UN report shows that progress on reducing poverty and inequality has derailed and we know that marginalised groups like people with disabilities are being hardest hit. This Summit is the opportunity to get back on track, and we are calling world leaders to speed up action on the SDGs, attend and make commitments, and play their part to ensure no one is left behind.”