Meeting of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

As delivered

Statement of H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), with participation of members of Committees on Foreign Affairs, Fisheries and Development at the European Parliament

4 May 2017


European Parliament addressMs. Adina-Ioana Vălean, Chair of Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety,

Distinguished members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to address you all today.

I wish to thank the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety for organising the opportunity for me to meet with members of the European Parliament, and for facilitating the participation of members of other Committees in this discussions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Each and every day, the United Nations General Assembly works to address the most pressing challenges of our time.

The breadth and complexity of these challenges are enormous.

They range from issues related to international peace and security, to addressing the largest refugee and migration crisis since World War II; from countering the spread of terrorism and violent extremism to providing support to more than 125 million people across our world in need of humanitarian assistance. We grapple with the promotion of human rights and gender equality, we are driving action to achieve sustainable development and of course we are all working to combat climate change across our world.

No doubt, all of these issues are ones that you also address here at the European Parliament, for, with the unprecedented scale of global challenges facing our world, no country or continent is left unaffected.

Europe has been hit by a spate of deadly acts of terrorism, by flows of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and insecurity, by the impacts of extreme weather fuelled by climate change, and by the kind of political turbulence so often resulting from times of great uncertainty.

Addressing the global challenges that drive so much of this unsettling developments requires our unity and solidarity, for common challenges demand collective responses.

To this end, I wish to express my gratitude to the European Union for its long-standing contribution to international development as the world’s largest development and humanitarian actor.

The spirit that drives this contribution will have to continue if we are going to succeed in our efforts. All of us, as individuals, communities, nations and multilateral organisations, are called upon to find and to implement the global solutions required to achieve a future that is safe, secure and prosperous for our children and grandchildren.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides us with the universal masterplan to achieve that future.

Effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda, together with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, will transform our world, by eliminating extreme poverty, building peaceful and inclusive societies, advancing gender equality, protecting our natural environment, including the Ocean, and combatting climate change.

The Agenda and its 17 SDGs are ambitious. But they have to be, for the challenges, as I have said, are enormous.

Turning these ambitious global commitments into action requires all partners – from across Government, the UN, regional and multilateral organisations, civil society, the private sector, and the scientific and philanthropic communities – to work together to implement the SDGs.

And in this, the European Union has a critical role to play – firstly, by promoting the universal character of the SDGs and ensuring that they are implemented within the borders of the EU itself; secondly, by the EU using its regulatory, financial, and trade instruments and policies, its market standards, and its climate, infrastructure and energy policies in support of SDG implementation; and thirdly, by delivering on the 0.7 percent of GDP for ODA commitment, and thereby providing international support for SDG implementation in countries across the world.

And here I want to thank the European Union for its leadership in advancing global efforts to address climate change.

Efforts made by the European Union and its Member States to promote implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, are both welcome and encouraging.

This includes the European Parliament’s work to remind all EU institutions and EU Member States of their global commitments, and of the domestic and international action that they must now take.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we are to drive implementation action at the speed and scale necessary to achieve the SDGs by 2030, there are a number of key steps that must be taken. Many of these are of particular relevance to the European Union.

In addition to forging new and innovative strategic partnerships, we must tap into innovation and technology to drive the catalytic action needed to achieve sustainable peace and development. We have moved from a linear progression in technology to an exponential one.

So while you consider the impact of disruptive technologies and working methods on job markets and production methods, I would urge you to also look at how new technologies can be harnessed  to serve our efforts to shift to more sustainable production and consumption patterns.

To reach the growing demand arising from the ballooning of the world’s population we will have to mobilize unprecedented volume of resources if we are to achieve the SDGs. Doing so will require a transformation of the global economy. Two weeks ago, to help advance discussions on this issue, I convened a High-Level SDG Financing Lab at UN Headquarters.

Among the key findings of that meeting were: firstly, that the financing needed to fund the SDGs already exists around the world, but globally the financial systems need to be aligned to sustainable development; and secondly that while the SDGs already make sound economic sense to business, with SDG implementation having the potential to generate trillions of dollars in market opportunities, there is a great deal more to be done to connect global financing with bankable and sustainable projects.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I encourage you all to consider ways that the European Union can help drive the global transformation called for in the 2030 Agenda. I urge you to push to ensure that your ODA has the transformative impact foreseen by the 2030 Agenda.

For my part, I am deeply committed to doing all I can to bring key stakeholders together to share ideas, broker partnerships, and drive universal efforts to implement all 17 SDGs.

To this end, I have convened a series of High-Level SDG Action events at the UN. Their subjects have focussed on relating SDG implementation to Sustaining Peace, to Climate Action, and to Finance. The next in the series will be held on 17 May on Innovation and Connectivity and then on 28 June on Education.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are two other matters I would like to bring your attention to that will be of particular importance to the UN General Assembly in the coming months.

The first is the holding of The Ocean Conference one month from now, when representatives of humanity from all around the world will gather in New York. I specifically say representatives of humanity, because as well as the many Heads of State and Heads of Governments, Ministers and other senior representatives of Member States who will be present, the conference will also be attended by the largest ever gathering of Ocean specialists, activists and experts from the private sector, from civil society, NGO’s, academia and from the scientific community. For the five days of the conference from 5 to 9 June, 150 side-events will be held, a plenary will stretch over the full week, and 7 partnership dialogues will be held to address the specific targets of SDG14.

I am sure I do not need to tell you the extent to which the Ocean is in trouble. You all know that destructive fishing practices and senseless subsidies are driving fish-stocks to tipping points of collapse, and that there will be more plastic in the Ocean than fish by 2050. From Ocean acidification to degraded coastal ecosystems, the list of woes we have placed upon the Ocean is long. The need for urgent action is clear.

It is thus that the conference is being convened, as the only universal forum dedicated to mobilizing global efforts necessary to reverse the cycle of decline in which the health of the Ocean has become caught, by supporting the faithful implementation of SDG14, the Ocean goal.

As well as raising global consciousness on the parlous state of the Ocean’s health, the conference will have three key outcomes: first, a strong Call for Action declaration, the wording of which is currently being formulated by the Member States of the UN; secondly, a report on the action solutions emanating from the conference’s 7 partnership dialogues; and thirdly, the register of voluntary commitments that will serve as a work plan going forward for those on this planet who are committed to working to support SDG14 and conserve life in the Ocean.

I am confident the European Union and its Member States will be participating in strength at the Conference and I call on you as Parliamentarians to also be present. I also urge you to activate interested parties in your constituencies, be they state or province governments, civil society, or the business sector, to register voluntary commitments on the website of The Ocean Conference. Now is the time to register and be seen to be amongst those who are active in the global push to support the noble aims of SDG14.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second matter, I wish to draw to your attention is migration.

For the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved in the next 14 years, we must break free of old ways of thinking, partnering, financing, and delivering on the ground. And we must ensure that the benefits of sustainable development reach everyone, so that no one is left behind.

“Everyone” includes the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our societies, including refugees and migrants.

Across our world, and I emphasise the global breadth of this issue, far too many refugees and migrants have been subject to racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. They have suffered social and cultural isolation, been restricted from pursuing educational and economic opportunities, and have had to live with discrimination, exploitation and abuse.

To address the many challenges of international migration, UN Member States are currently working to develop a global compact on migration, one that will improve global governance and strengthen international cooperation on migration.

The preparations for this global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, as well as for a global compact on refugees, are well underway, and I encourage you to support the achievement of ambitious outcomes in this regard.

As you may be aware, over the course of the next 6 months, my office will be organizing a series of thematic discussions on the global compact in New York, Geneva, and Vienna, which will be followed by a preparatory meeting in Mexico in December. Following that meeting, a draft global compact on migration will be presented for negotiations among UN Member States in 2018, for adoption at an intergovernmental Conference, possibly to be held prior to the General Debate of the United Nations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As esteemed parliamentarians of the European Union, your powerful voices resonate both within and outside Brussels and Europe.

I therefore encourage you to use the platforms at your disposal to support the work of the United Nations on the critical issues that we all face together. None is more critical than the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It represents the best hope we have to secure humanity’s ongoing place on this planet. The great 19th century European leader Count Otto Von Bismarck told us that the difference between a politician and a statesman, is that the latter are politicians who think of the welfare of their grandchildren.  So I ask today that you take on the broader view and join the global movement to ensure the full and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda, both here in Europe and across our world.

Once again, I thank you.

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