Address by H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly at the UN “Society for All: Equity and Inclusion for a Sustainable Future”
9 August 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the United Nations for the 20th Session of the Youth Assembly!
I want to thank the Permanent Missions of Kenya, Portugal and Sri Lanka, the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, and other programme partners for organizing this Assembly.
The theme you have chosen – “Society for All: Equity and Inclusion for a Sustainable Future” – could not be more relevant.
Let us all remember, as we sit here in the comfort of these surroundings, that close to 700 million people around the world are living in extreme poverty. And let us remember that around 800 million people are suffering from hunger, a third of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition, and nearly 1 billion people do not have access to safe water. Any way you look at them, these are very sobering statistics.
At the same time, just eight men on this planet own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the global population. This fact alone demonstrates the pressing need for a more equitable and inclusive world if we are going to achieve sustainability.
Reining in rampant inequality has to be a global priority if we are going to achieve the better world envisaged by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Indeed, reducing inequality within and among countries is one of the central goals of the Agenda.
The 2030 Agenda, with its 17 interconnected and mutually-reinforcing Sustainable Development Goals, provides humanity with a universal masterplan to transform our world for the better. It sets out to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, to build peaceful societies, and increase global prosperity. It is dedicated to countering growing inequality; while at the same time protecting our natural environment and averting the worst impacts of climate change.
Realising the vision of the Agenda will require us to tackle the true nature of inequality and exclusion. We have to address the many drivers, including the social constructs that disadvantage and marginalise people in our communities and exclude them from social, economic and political opportunity.
We need to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices, and instead promote legislation and action that ensures sustainable development outcomes reach our most vulnerable populations. Such action includes improving access to health, education and decent employment for women and girls, minorities, refugees, migrants, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and those discriminated on the basis of age.
We will also have to examine the economic structures that are exacerbating global inequality.
To do this we must improve transparent governance; strengthen our monitoring of global financial markets; and adopt wage and social protection policies. And we need to introduce regulatory frameworks to align the global financial system with sustainable development, and shift investments towards sectors that advance inclusive economic growth and SDG implementation.
It is time for us to acknowledge the intergenerational impacts of biodiversity loss and environmental destruction through the lens of inequality. It is in this light that we should view the catastrophic effects of climate change which are already causing rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, severe storm surges and forest fires. The days are gone when it is morally acceptable to continue stealing from the future of our grandchildren.
And talking about the responsibilities of generations; let me say that the vast potential of the 1.8 billion young people across the world is the central force that must drive us to achievement of the sustainable development goals.
To this end, we have to prioritise initiatives to ensure young people are empowered with the education, the skills and the opportunities they need to secure decent employment, and fully participate in the process of decision-making required to achieve the SDGs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To create an equitable and inclusive world, we all have to play our part.
Thus I wish to leave you today with the following call to action:
Join with the international community in our efforts to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda!
Be voices to amplify the message of the SDGs across our world!
Be educators and serve as examples who represent what sustainable living embodies!
And be active citizens who demand urgent and responsible change from those around you!
The SDGs are the key to achieving a sustainable future for all, and the youth of today have the most to gain or lose from their success or failure. The willingness of your generation to take up this challenge will define the outcome of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
I wish you well in this great endeavour and thank you for your attention this evening.