H.E. Mr Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at Permanent Representatives Committee
8 May 2017, Nairobi, Kenya
Your Excellency Mr James Kimonyo, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to UN Habitat and Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations, Nairobi
Your Excellency Ms. Julia Pataki, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representative to the UN Environment Programme and Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, Nairobi
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour to be here today to address the Permanent Representatives’ Committee.
I would like to thank the Government of Kenya and the United Nations Offices in Nairobi for the warm hospitality that has been extended to me and my team since our arrival.
I am delighted to be back in Africa for the second time in two months, having visited Senegal, Ethiopia and Egypt in March.
During that trip, one of the prevailing messages I heard from leaders of Government, the UN system, the African Union, civil society, and the private sector, was of their grave concern at the catastrophic famine and drought currently unfolding across parts of the Continent, particularly in North-East Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and in neighbouring Yemen.
The scale of the unfolding tragedy struck deep, and on my return to New York I convened an informal briefing of UN Member States at which all stakeholders were encouraged to contribute to the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on famine response and prevention.
It is a call that I repeated last week during meetings in Europe, and one which I will be conveying to others throughout my term as President of the General Assembly.
While crises such as the famine demand our urgent humanitarian responses, they also demonstrate how quickly hard-won development gains can be reversed, and why it is so critical that urgent action is taken to secure the longer-term changes required to make our societies resilient and sustainable.
Doing so is the great calling of our time, even as we face global challenges of an unprecedented scale.
These include the seemingly intractable peace and security threats with which we grapple, along with the largest refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II.
From the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism, to the social unrest caused by the pace of population growth, urbanisation, and rising inequality, around the world we see these pressures cause social unrest and widespread disillusionment with political systems.
All the while we are assailed by large-scale environmental destruction, land degradation, desertification, and the devastating impacts of severe weather events.
So where do we turn to right all these wrongs? What is humanity’s response to all these challenges, these obstacles to sustainable development, peace, and prosperity we so earnestly desire for our children and grandchildren?
Excellencies, dear colleagues
In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Africa’s own Agenda 2063, and the mosaic of other universal multilateral agreements, we have a road to follow that leads away from the precipice of unsustainability towards which we are currently heading. If fully implemented, they are the masterplan for us to achieve a future that is safe, secure and prosperous for all. As responsible agents of this masterplan, the challenge now before us is how to drive transformative global action on the scale needed to effectively implement our commitments.
It is particularly here in Africa that we must face and overcome the challenge, for this continent is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s Least Developed Countries, more than half of the global population of people living in extreme poverty, and 9 out of 16 UN peacekeeping missions.
The 2030 and 2063 Development Agendas are ambitious. What better spur to action! For only through high ambitions are high achievements secured. So allow me to suggest some key steps to drive a smart and integrated approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Firstly, we must prioritize sustaining peace as a development and economic imperative, and pursue it in an integrated effort to prevent future conflict, protect human rights, and achieve sustainable development for all.
It was with this in mind that on 24 January, I convened a High-Level SDG Action Event at UN Headquarters on synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Sustaining Peace, and at which the critical nexus between sustainable peace and development was reaffirmed by all. The mantra is established that “there can be no sustainable development without sustaining peace, and there can be no sustainable peace without sustainable development”.
Secondly, we must forge innovative strategic partnerships that bring together Governments, the UN, multilateral organizations, civil society,, academia and especially the private sector, to drive collaborative and coordinated implementation efforts to leverage the comparative advantages of all partners.
Thirdly, we must drive scaled-up resource mobilization efforts to secure the unprecedented volume of resources needed to achieve the SDGs.
In this regard the cutting edge work by the UN Environment Programme has been instrumental in shaping the global discourse on greening of the global financial system.
To progress this discourse, last month in New York I convened a High-Level SDG Financing Lab that brought together key partners to discuss concrete ways to mobilize the resources needed to support the world’s long-term sustainable development objectives.
Among the key findings were that: the financing needed to fund the SDGs already exists, but that global financial systems need to be better aligned to sustainable development; and that while the SDGs make economic sense for business, more needs to be done to connect global financing with bankable and sustainable projects.
Discussions on finding new and inclusive ways for the public and private sectors to join forces in partnering, financing, and delivering on the ground continue, including at the United Nations, and I encourage all of you be part of this growing conversation.
Fourthly, we must recognize the destructive impacts that climate change is already having on our efforts to build sustainable peace and development – not only as an existential threat in itself, but as a multiplier of other threats including food insecurity, water shortages, loss of livelihoods, the displacement of populations, and as a driver of regional instability.
To highlight the deep interlinkages between climate action and sustainable development, on 23 March I convened a High-Level Meeting on ‘Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda’. The event brought together key climate stakeholders to advance the global discourse on ways to ramp-up urgent climate action that leverages mutually-reinforcing opportunities for SDG action.
My own country, Fiji, will take on the Presidency of COP23 and is dedicated to raising ambition on climate action
Fifthly, we must embrace an inclusive approach in our efforts, so that no one is left behind. This includes by pursuing specific efforts to empower women and girls as equal agents of change, by reaching out to minority communities, and by investing in education and skills development. This will be central to the High-Level Event I am convening on 28 June in New York on delivering universal access to quality and equitable education.
And sixth, finally, in order to maximize the catalytic action needed to achieve sustainable peace and development, we must harness innovation and technology.
To this end, on my return to New York, I will be convening an SDG Action Event on Innovation and Connectivity on 17 May. This High-level Event will bring leading innovators together with Member States and others to explore how we can best use the power of technology to accelerate SDG implementation.
Excellencies, Ladies end Gentlemen
Driving a universal push to implement all 17 SDGs is the essence of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.
In addition to the series of High-Level SDG Action events mentioned, in August I will convene a High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
Before then, less than four weeks from now, stakeholders from around the world will gather in New York for The Ocean Conference.
I am sure I do not need to tell you the extent to which the Ocean is in trouble – that destructive fishing practices and senseless subsidies are driving fish-stocks to tipping points of collapse, and that at current rates 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.
The Conference is in effect the only universal forum dedicated to mobilizing the global efforts necessary to reverse the cycle of decline in which the health of the Ocean is currently caught. The conference will reinforce our endeavours through faithfully implementing SDG14 – the Ocean goal.
It will to be held from 5 to 9 June, will bring together representatives of humanity from all around the world. 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 civil society, the private sector, academia and the scientific community.
Over the five days of the conference, a high level plenary will stretch across the full week, 7 partnership dialogues will be held on solutions to achieve the specific targets of SDG14, and 150 side-events will be convened.
I urge all of you to ensure your countries and organisations participate at the Conference at the highest possible levels, and that you wait no further 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.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
If we are to realize a world where extreme poverty is eliminated, in which people live in peaceful and inclusive societies, where prosperity is increased and inequalities eradicated, in which the environment is protected, and the effects of climate change are mitigated, we must put our shoulders to the wheels of implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Even when faced by laggards and recalcitrants, we must hold up the multilateral agreements to which the great mass of humanity subscribes. It is in fidelity to these fundamental agreements that we place our hope for the securing of a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable future for all.
I thank you.