Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Remarks at
the 2017 United Nations Public Service Forum
Track 6 - Unlocking the potential of the furthest behind

Mr. Chairperson
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this track on unlocking the potential of the furthest behind.

This theme truly provides the foundation for our work.  It is the essence of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our shared vision of humanity – and speaks to my own enthusiasm for what the 2030 Agenda can do for the people and our one planet.

Indeed, this transformative Agenda aims to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and shift the world development onto a sustainable and resilient path by 2030.

In committing to it, all leaders agreed to leave no person and no country behind. They agreed to pay special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, whether children and youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons, migrants as well as those suffering from discrimination.

Eradicating poverty in all its dimensions, and promoting prosperity in a changing world, is no easy task. Poverty takes many forms and has multiple dimensions. Often, it is associated with a lack of access to basic public services, or with conditions leading to discrimination. People may be trapped in poverty – not just because they lack economic means – but because they are excluded from meaningful participation in society.

Public institutions need to ensure that healthcare, education, employment, water and sanitation are available, accessible, and of adequate quality, without discrimination.

But reaching the SDGs for all people requires not only socially inclusive policies and universal access to public services. It also requires proactive policies to advance on all SDGs. This includes efforts to:

  • achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls;
  • promote sustainable and inclusive growth;
  • ensure productive employment and decent work for all;
  • make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and resilient; and
  • reducing inequalities within and between countries.

It also requires preserving natural resources, preventing and mitigating risks such as conflict, economic shocks or natural disasters and combating climate change.

As an integral part of these efforts, public institutions should proactively reach out to the poorest and most vulnerable. They need to engage them in shaping policies and designing programs that response to their needs.

Indeed, the SDGs will only be considered achieved if they are reached by all segments of the population. That is why the 2030 Agenda is considered the basis of a new social contract between the governments of the world and their peoples..

In delivering on their functions, public institutions should thus be guided by this core promise of leaving no one behind, along with the need for effectiveness, inclusiveness and accountability.


The time is long past when we could justify our inaction by arguing that some people are simply too difficult to reach.  We must innovate, mobilize our best minds and tools, and try new approaches.  We should engage in new partnerships with those NGOs, entrepreneurs, activists and social workers who know and can work with the poorest of the poor, and with those who live in injustice or destitution.

The commitment to leave no one behind requires action at all levels, and by all actors.

And for public institutions, this requires multiple roles going forward, for example to explain and help demonstrate how to:

  • spur national dialogue, develop awareness of the 2030 Agenda, and build consensus on concrete actions for sustainable development
  • ensure that the implementation of the Agenda remains focused on the needs of the people
  • allocate budgets! Public institutions require the means to implement the Agenda
  • build downward accountability and help ensure that governments are accountable to the people on their actions to implement the Goals

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today and tomorrow we have an opportunity to learn about the many great examples of ‘out-of-box’ thinking in public service, and to provide recommendations on how to unlock the potential of those furthest behind.

My colleagues and I are committed to supporting you in this endeavor.

Thank you.

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