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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 22 September 2014 - Deputy Secretary-General's Opening Address to the High-Level Side Event : Good Governance, Democracy and the Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

Great to be with you and I thank Botswana, Norway and IDEA for organizing this High-level Side event to the General Assembly General Debate. And I salute your countries’ commitment to good governance, democracy and the rule of law.

This meeting comes at an important moment in history. We are in the final stretch towards the closing of the MDGs.  And we have a year to forge a bold and ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

It is not an exaggeration to say, I would say, that the MDGs constitute the most successful anti-poverty campaign in history. At the same time, new challenges have emerged. Inequality is on the rise.  Conflicts are increasingly tangled with sectarian hatred, organized crime and acts of terrorism.

The potential of popular discontent and vulnerability – often caused by effects of climate change, such as floods, drought and soaring food prices – to trigger social unrest and violence is growing.

These new challenges have been taken into account in an extensive consultation to define the post-2015 development agenda. The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the General Assembly have received valuable proposals from the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, also from the Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and the Structured Dialogues on Technology.

Inputs have also been received on an unprecedented scale from civil society, the private sector, young people, women’s groups, legislators and many other stakeholders, many of you here today. Almost five million people all over the world have expressed their views through the consultations and what we called the MyWorld survey. And of course now the next stage for us – Secretary-General, myself and Amina Mohammed, who is here – we will of course then have the obligation to produce a synthesis report at the end of the year, which we hope will be a good contribution to the negotiations starting next year. Where of course the SDGs Working Group’s input is a very important basis for the talks.

Now, as Member States embark on the final year of negotiations, now is a good moment to pause and reflect on why people from all regions of the world ranked honest and responsive government as their third priority, right after health and education. Think about this.  I am convinced that they understand – people understand – that good governance, democracy, the rule of law, and, not least, well-functioning institutions are critical for development.  And they understand what accountability means in practice.

This intuition – I would say, this common sense – of people around the world matches a key lesson learned from the MDGs: weak governance, ineffective or unfair justice and security institutions, and lack of stability, are barriers to development progress everywhere. Where the rule of law is not firmly established, poverty and marginalization are exacerbated.

People around the world want honest, responsive and effective governments that deliver public services without discrimination, without exclusion or corruption. They expect authorities to manage natural resources sustainably and fairly. And people everywhere long for peace, security and respect for human rights.

Several governments are leading the way by developing governance and rule of law targets and indicators, and incorporating them in their national development plans.

Over the last 15 years, there has been an increase in the demand for support to help countries establish inclusive governance, strengthen the rule of law, and assist countries emerging from conflict.

The UN has tried to answer this call. We are helping national authorities to build social cohesion and mechanisms for dialogue. We are empowering people to exercise their rights, and seek redress and obtain basic services.

This work has clearly proven that governance and the rule of law are critical enablers of progress – and important development outcomes in their own right.

The experiences of Member States, regional organizations and civil society provide a strong basis for refining targets and developing indicators in this area for the post-2015 development agenda.

The General Assembly has repeatedly affirmed that democracy, good governance and the rule of law are essential for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. Member States have also repeatedly stated that effective, transparent, accountable and democratic institutions are needed for sustainable development.

The Open Working Group’s proposal for the Goals – the next generation of Goals – includes a Goal on peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The targets that are proposed address critical areas such as reduction of violence, corruption and organized crime, and representative decision-making.

Governance is about more than building institutions – it is about empowering people to engage with decision-makers and institutions – and to hold them accountable. 

When the poorest and the most vulnerable secure their rights, have access to legal protection, and participate in decision-making, then they will drive progress in their communities and our world. And institutions, as well as what I’ve just mentioned, are not a guarantee – it’s an element that makes more certain that we hold on to the goals that we decide upon. It gives a stability and structure to our work, and I hope very much that the Member States will retain that extremely qualitative value of the work ahead.

Governance in this broader context will be an important driver of progress across all dimensions of the next global development agenda. And that agenda must be – must be – truly transformative and people-centred. Rule of law, governance and solid institutions underpinned by respect of human rights will be central to achieving a life of dignity for all. 

Thank you very much.

Statements on 22 September 2014