Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Opening remarks
42nd Annual Forum “Intelligence on the World, Europe and Italy”

Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would first like to express my sincere condolences to those affected by the tragic earthquake that devastated central Italy last week. I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction caused by this terrible disaster. I pray for a quick recovery and hope that all those affected are able to return to their peaceful lives as soon as possible.

Today, I have the honour to speak to you on the very important topic of Sustainable Development. As I heard from other keynote speakers, there is a wide consensus that development without peace is not possible and peace without development could not be sustained.

Before I move to my remarks, I wish to deliver a message from the Secretary-General himself, who unfortunately cannot be here today due to prior commitments.

“I am pleased to send greetings to the 42nd annual “Intelligence on the World, Europe and Italy” forum.  Last year, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 universal, integrated and indivisible Sustainable Development Goals designed to stimulate action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.

Now, we must move quickly to implement this vision and build on the momentum already generated among governments, the private sector and civil society.  Your sustained engagement is crucial.  I count on you to work together with all actors, including the United Nations, to achieve the Goals and their multiple targets.  We all have a stake in the SDGs.  We need transformational change in all countries to ensure that prosperity is equitably shared and the planet’s natural limits are respected.

I urge all government representatives here today to translate your commitment to the SDGs into national action plans through an inclusive and consultative process with all stakeholders.  I also invite you to present your progress to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017 and to share your country’s experiences in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

The private sector also has a key role to play in building a sustainable future.  Achieving the SDGs will require significant investment, the development of new technologies and the creation of new markets and jobs.  We must work together to ensure that people, economies and ecosystems can all thrive.  To advance this effort, the United Nations has convened the Financing for Development Forum, the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, and the SDG Business Forum.  I encourage you all to participate and share your ideas.

In the lead-up to the adoption of the SDGs, millions of people and many civil society organizations and businesses participated alongside governments in the most inclusive process the United Nations has ever conducted.  The responsibility now lies with these same actors to work in harmony to make the Sustainable Development Goals real for all people and nations so this generation and those to come may enjoy peace, dignity, prosperity and opportunity on a healthy planet.  I wish you a productive Forum.”

You have just heard in the message from the Secretary-General that the main priority ahead of us is clear; we need to move quickly to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

I wish to expand on what the Secretary-General has said, by addressing three important issues: firstly, the universal and inter-related nature of the SDGs; secondly, creating new ways of working together to achieve the SDGs; and thirdly, the means of implementation to achieve the SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals at first glance seem like a vast agenda covering many facets of economic, social and environmental policy. Indeed, the design of the SDGs was grounded in the recognition that to achieve one dimension of progress, we must also advance the other dimensions, and that the goals are universal, applying to everyone and every country, rich and poor. This was an important aspect of the SDGs recognized by UN Member States.

The interrelated nature of the SDGs emphasises the notion that we do not have the luxury to focus only on economic growth, or social development, or  environmental conservation. We must address all these dimensions as part of a coherent whole if we are to achieve sustained prosperity.

The SDGs are also universal in that they apply to everyone. Every country faces the challenges of reducing pollution, creating jobs for its young people, and delivering quality healthcare and education for all.

If we cannot do it alone, how do we achieve the SDGs together?

The Secretary-General has emphasized that 2016 is the year that implementation of the SDGs starts.

The challenge that countries, businesses, and civil society organisations must confront is the creation of new ways of working together. We have heard loud and clear that business as usual will not be enough. The 2030 Agenda demands new ways of working and a change of mind-set from all actors.

It inspires us to look closely at the inter-linkages between sectors and break down the silos that stop us from working together.

It calls on all stakeholders to participate in this agenda, and calls for new partnerships to achieve what we have not been able to achieve previously.

We must also forge a renewed collaborative commitment to infrastructure, which is critical to create a rising tide to lift those who have been left behind. It is encouraging to see the One Belt, One Road initiative aligning its priorities with the SDGs. This collaborative project will leverage infrastructure to enable multiple countries to move towards reaching the SDGs together.

At the international level, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda centres on the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The HLPF also serves as a platform for exchange of ideas, knowledge and best practices, with participation from civil society and the private sector.

At the national level, the Secretary-General has encouraged all nations to develop national action plans to turn their global commitments into local realities, and work collaboratively with civil society and the private sector through national mechanisms.

Given the important role that science, technology and innovation play in implementing the SDGs, the 2030 Agenda called for a Technology Facilitation Mechanism. The first multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the SDGs was convened in June to discuss cooperation on these issues. The forum’s findings will also feed into the HLPF every year.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which covers financing for development, represents an important supporting plank of the SDGs. The first annual Forum for Financing for Development follow-up (FfDf) was hosted by DESA in April this year. It recognised the importance of investing in the SDGs, by the public and private sectors, and its discussions feed into the HLPF.

The HLPF also offers the opportunity for national governments, the private sector, and stakeholders to report on their progress in implementing the SDGs. This year’s HLPF also featured the inaugural SDG Business Forum, where business executives were able to report on what they have done to advance the SDGs, and come up with new solutions for the private sector to create shared value.

The United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, on 19 September, represents another important opportunity for Member States and other key stakeholders to examine the important linkages between the various dimensions of the new development agenda.

When properly managed, international migration can be a driver of sustainable development, supplying workers to fill gaps in the labour markets of destination countries while generating enormous flows of remittances that are help drive development in origin countries. This is the situation for the overwhelming majority of the world’s migrants.

Yet, too often, large movements of migrants and refugees occur in response to political violence and other disasters. Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including its call for peaceful and inclusive societies, will help to address the root causes of forced displacement. Our goal must be to create conditions in which the decision to migrate is always a choice, and never a necessity.

I invite everyone here today to participate in the UN processes to share their ideas and best practices. I also encourage you to work collaboratively at the national level to turn ideas and innovations into a more sustainable future for all. Thank you.

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