|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Says Rio+20 ‘Once-in-a-Generation Moment’, Chance for World
Leaders to Rise above Differences, Show True Global Leadership
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the high-level debate on the “State of the World Economy and Finance and Its Impact on Development”, in New York, 17 May:
We meet during testing times. Every day, we read about the ongoing crisis in the euro zone. Elsewhere, people speak of “recovery” — but it is a largely jobless recovery. Since the financial and economic crisis began, 200 million people have lost jobs and income. In too many places, poverty and inequality are on the rise. Hard-won development gains are under threat. Most of our discussions over the next day and a half will focus on these very immediate issues — and how to deal with them. But today I want to talk about the big picture.
Let us face the facts: the old model is broken. We need to create a new one — a new model for dynamic growth. Growth that is equitable, growth that can be sustained within planetary boundaries, growth that will benefit current and future generations. This is the focus of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next month in Rio de Janeiro. Rio+20 is our opportunity to establish a new paradigm for growth — building on what works, discarding what does not. We need nothing less than a revolution in our thinking about the foundations of dynamic growth and the well-being of future generations. A new paradigm based on stable economies and decent jobs and opportunities for all.
Twenty years ago, the Earth Summit laid out a road map for sustainable development. We have not followed the map. Since then, our world has changed. Threats that were foreseen two decades ago are today’s reality — a clear and present danger: a more fragile environment; a rapidly warming world; growing scarcities of natural resources; more and more people in need of food, energy, water and decent jobs. In this time of global challenge, even crisis, business as usual will not do. That is why I have made sustainable development my top priority.
At Rio, we have an opportunity to set forth a far more encompassing vision for the future we want, and we have an opportunity to deliver on it. At Rio, we need to agree on a process to establish Sustainable Development Goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals after 2015 — sustainable development goals that will lay the foundations for dynamic economic growth, respect for the planet and social equity. We need a framework for more sustainable consumption and production, agreement to eradicate hunger, new momentum to ensure universal access to drinking water and preserve scarce resources, and a focused effort to improve life in the world’s cities. We must also find better ways to measure progress that goes beyond gross domestic product.
It is time to take a collective stand. It is time to recognize that human capital and natural capital are every bit as important as financial capital. It is time to invest in people. Rio+20 is about people and their future.
Let me say, here and now, that I am deeply concerned with the pace and ambition of the negotiations. But I am pleased that the Bureau for the Rio+20 Preparatory Process has agreed on additional negotiating days. We have just over a month until Rio. We must use every moment. A successful outcome in Rio will reverberate throughout the world. It could set the stage for broad-based, equitable and dynamic growth and development for a generation.
Worldwide, more than 400 million new jobs will be needed over the next decade. That means that policy-makers must get serious, now, about generating decent employment. We must also deal with the growing problem of inequality, which was rising even before the crisis. The hardest hit are women and young workers. Failure to address the jobs and inequality crisis will undermine social cohesion and create political instability. From the Arab Awakening to the Occupy Wall Street movement, we have seen people taking to the streets in protest. Too often, gains towards prosperity and sustainable development are threatened by unstable markets and volatile energy and food prices.
Looking ahead, six areas will be crucial in making a sustainable recovery from this crisis. First, global markets must work for all people, not just elites. Second, we must tame volatile food and energy prices. Third, we must increase the resilience of countries to financial shocks. Fourth, we need more stable and better regulated financial sectors. Fifth, let us commit to greater financial inclusion. This means universal access, at a reasonable cost, to a wide range of financial products. Sixth, as countries struggle to get their fiscal houses in order, we must not imperil the vulnerable by cutting development aid. In focusing on budget deficits, let us not lose sight of the jobs deficit and the investment deficit.
These are the steps we need to take — right now — to recover from the ongoing economic and financial crisis. But we also need to take another step — a big step towards leaving the past behind and creating the future we want. A month from now, more than 100 world leaders will gather in Rio. They will be joined by an estimated 70,000 leaders from business, non-governmental organizations, and social action groups. It is a truly historic opportunity, a unique moment when ordinary people and their leaders can come together, in common cause and with common will, to make the decisions that will shape their common future.
This is the moment for world leaders to rise above their differences, the moment to show political will and true global leadership. For clearly, we must unite around a shared vision for the future. A vision for equitable human development, a healthy planet, an enduring economic dynamism that will carry us far beyond the troubles of today. In short, we need to follow the road map towards sustainable development and a sustainable future. The choice is between the crises of yesterday — or the opportunities of tomorrow. This is a once-in-a-generation moment. Let us seize it. Thank you very much.
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