New York: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal Alibrahim, told the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that investing in youth holds the key to unlocking sustainable socioeconomic growth.

As the world seeks to build back stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic amid increasing geopolitical and socioeconomic uncertainty, a concerted effort to find common ground and focus on delivering sustainable development for all is urgently needed, Alibrahim said in a virtual address to the forum.

Alibrahim added that as part of its efforts to accelerate sustainable development in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia recently established the Steering Committee for Sustainable Development (SCSD), which includes 18 government entities as members who are tasked with overseeing the implementation of the UN’s SDGs in the country. He explained that the SDSC is also responsible for mainstreaming the thinking around the SDGs into policymaking, improving Saudi’s economic performance and social development, and enhancing its local capabilities and knowledge.

Alibrahim said: "Saudi Arabia is working to put sustainable development at the heart of its evolving economy. We remain determined to continue working closely with the international community to proactively contribute to achieving our shared global goals, because we recognize that no one nation will develop sustainably, until all nations are enabled to develop sustainably.

"If we can show agility in the face of adversity, we will discover that there is resilience in coordinated action, and there is opportunity in collaborative innovation."

He added: "By uniting as one, connected international community of responsible global citizens, we can coordinate an inclusive response to our greatest challenges."

He also added that, in June 2022, the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP) signed the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022-2026 to further strengthen its partnership with the UN on achieving SDGs in Saudi Arabia.

Regarding the five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in focus at this year's HLPF, Alibrahim said of SDG4 access to education that the Kingdom is committed to continuously investing in the education of the country’s burgeoning youth demographic.

To that end, the government of Saudi Arabia has allocated SAR185 billion of the 2022 budget to education, which represents 19% of the total spend. This figure means it is the biggest share of the entire Saudi government budget, while also being the highest allocated budget percentage to education among all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

As for SDG5 (gender equality), he noted that Saudi Arabia has already surpassed a 30% target rate of female labor force participation by 2030, putting it ahead of schedule on critical socioeconomic development matters.

Alibrahim reiterated that safeguarding the biodiversity of life on Saudi’s land and in the sea is crucial, noting how the Saudi Green Initiative was launched to reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tons per annum, plant 10 billion trees locally and increase the number of protected areas to more than 30% of total land area.

The UN, represented by its Economic and Social Council, organizes the annual HLPF to follow up on national and global progress on the 17 SDGs outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda.