Statement by his H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly for the 71st Session, at Bringing Awareness and Action on the SDGs to the Classroom: A Presentation of Students’ Experience with the World’s Largest Lesson
14 July 2017
Your Excellency, Ms. Ofeliya Kaneva, President of the State Agency for Child Protection of Bulgaria
Mr. Kennedy Mayong, Charges d’Affairs of Malaysia
Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF
Mr. Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Nord Anglia Education]
Distinguished hosts and convenors, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon to you all.
It is a pleasure to address you on a subject that is dear to my heart and to hear from governments and students about how you have turned SDG learning into SDG action.
I commend the organizers for bringing together this global cast of participants.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As many of you know, I am a firm believer in the need for logic of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to be taught to you people.
Since the day my grandchildren accompanied me onto the stage for the opening meeting of the 71st session of the General Assembly, I have repeatedly underlined that young people have the most to gain or lose from the success or failure of the 2030 Agenda. As such, I believe they have the right to know, but also that they will prove to be the critical factor in the transformation needed for us to succeed.
In November last year, I wrote to the Heads of Government of every UN Member State to urge them to include SDG learning in the school curricula of their countries. Response to that letter has been very positive.
I also wrote to the deans of over 4,000 institutes of higher education calling on them to recognize that the SDGs must be integral to the teaching at their institutions.
Over the course of the year, my SDG emissaries, led by Ambassador Dessima Williams, have travelled to education meetings and institutions of learning around the world to echo this message.
And then just last month on 28 June, my office convened an SDG Action Event on Education, at which this subject was focused on and at which a series of exhibitors showed how SDG learning is being tailored to different contexts.
The feedback we have received from all these efforts, has been positive with many governments telling us that they are benefitting in particular from the UNICEF supported World’s Largest Lesson.
If I could address for a moment the students among us today – Indira, Lisa, Hannah, Sabrina, Sammi, Arthur, Osman and Luca – you are an example to your peers in using what you’ve learned to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. You are fitting representatives of the 1.8 billion young people in our world.
The SDGs must become part of your generation’s DNA. They must be incorporated into your daily individual choices, so that the necessary changes in consumption patterns occur, so that collective wisdom and political will bring about a more inclusive, just and sustainable world.
If we are going to improve the conditions for the almost 800 million people who do not have enough food to eat; if we are to end conditions under which some 16,000 children under the age of 5 die every day, mainly from preventable causes; and if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change; then your voices must be heard and your actions must become a catalyst for sustained global change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the first lessons of the SDGs is that they are deeply interconnected. They demand integrated policies and programmes that recognize that progress on one Goal often relies on progress on others.
The two goals you will be presenting on today are a prime example of this interconnectedness – SDG 2 on Hunger and SDG 3 on health and well-being.
Addressing malnutrition, for example, is one of the main targets of SDG2, and until it is addressed, it will remain the single largest contributor to disease in the world.
Similarly, without good health, the world’s poor will struggle to maximize the benefits of sustainable agriculture, upon which most of them depend.
And of course better health, food security and improved nutrition and indeed quality education, are the foundations upon which productive societies are built and through which poverty can be eradicated.
As you advance your discussions today, be mindful that we have a mere 13 years left to realize the SDGs.
A greater sense of urgency must now drive the SDGs. And we must grow the SDG movement far beyond the well-trod environments of international policy-making.
I therefore leave you with a simple ask: Share your knowledge about the SDGs with the world.
Educate your families, your neighbours and your friends. Tweet about your projects; encourage your peers to do the same. Highlight the interconnections between all 17 SDGs.
Help us to build a global community of SDG actors that will carry us through to a better world by 2030. Be the best you can be as communicators, consumers and citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To quote 18 year-old Saul Mwame of Tanzania who delivered opening remarks at the aforementioned High-Level SDG Action Event on Education, “education is liberation”.
And education about the SDGs is one of the most powerful tools we have to put humanity on the right path to liberation from all that ails our place upon this planet.
I thank you for your attention.