9 February 2016

Deputy Secretary-General Asks Leaders at World Government Summit to Become Catalysts, Drivers Charting Road towards Sustainable Development for All

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the 2016 World Government Summit, in Dubai today:

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this impressive gathering for the World Government Summit.  The United Nations is grateful to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for bringing leaders and people together to reform and modernize governance and government.  We simply have to do better — and do it together — to address our shared twenty-first century national and global challenges.  Some of them are the same.  In today’s world, a good international solution is in the national interest.

This event in Dubai has become a welcome annual occasion to promote partnerships across traditional sectors, taking advantage of the innovative, reform-minded and forward-looking environment of the UAE.  We saw the news last night about the reform plans of the leadership.  I was particularly impressed that you have created a Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and that you have appointed a 22-year-old woman as Minister for Youth.

Reform efforts will be crucial now if we are to live up to the two landmark agreements of 2015:  the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Member States kept ambitions high, which means the people of the world have high expectations.

The 2030 Agenda is the most transformative development agenda ever adopted by Member States of the United Nations.  The goals commit us to leave no one behind, guided by 17 interrelated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to “free all human beings from the tyranny of poverty and want, and to heal and secure our planet”.

The goals are strongly connected to vital sectors and themes identified by the Summit:  education, health, technology, labour markets, and of course, sustainability.  We are the first generation in history that has had to think about this planet and exercise responsibility for the next generation.

The SDGs aim to strengthen the global partnership for sustainable development and to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies.  This shared vision offers hope and encouragement at a time when many countries are confronted with crises, conflicts and economic stress.

Our challenge now is to bring to life Agenda 2030 and the Paris accord and to turn these important agreements into realities for people on the ground.  I always carry the UN Charter in my pocket and I remind myself and others of the first three words: “We the peoples”.   We are accountable to the peoples of the world.

I would like to highlight four factors, four guiding principles, that can help make this happen.  The first is universality.  The second is integrating the Agenda in every nation, their planning and their institutions.  The third is using the Agenda as a comprehensive framework and the Goals as interrelated tools.  The fourth is keeping careful track of progress.  Let me say a few words about each.

First, on universality, the SDGs reflect the obligations of all Governments around the world to shape a better future.  The Agenda is to be implemented in all countries, rich and poor, large and small.  The SDGs also reflect the aspirations of million and millions of people — men, women and children all around the world.  The goals are to give a horizon, a hope to people everywhere, especially to those who live on the margins of society or in States ravaged by conflict.

Technology can help, not least in areas like health, energy and communications.  We must address emerging digital divides between genders, generations, urban and rural areas, as well as between countries in peace and countries in crisis.  I am glad this Summit focuses on these crucial technological challenges.

Second, on integrating the SDGs into national planning.  Our experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) highlighted the central role for national Governments in sustainable development.  Governments are key in setting the direction and creating the conditions for the implementation of the SDGs.

Government leadership can unleash social and human capital by bringing voices and ideas into play from home and abroad.  Government leadership can shape the environment for the national and international business community to innovate and invest.

Several Governments already are framing national strategies and planning on the basis of the SDGs.  Other Governments have begun this process.  I urge them to vigorously continue to do so and to shape national-owned objectives and policies with the SDGs as starting points.

Innovations grounded in tradition, such as Dubai’s “Smart Majlis”, are excellent steps in this direction.  Crowd-sourcing, peer-reviewing, as well as inputs and insights of citizens and consumers can help enrich national decision-making.

Third, on the SDGs being a comprehensive framework.  The SDGs build bridges between peace and security, development and human rights — the three pillars of the United Nations — but also of nations.  They are interrelated and interdependent.

The same goes for the SDGs.  Advancing on one SDG will stimulate and trigger progress on others.  The SDGs are, by nature, cross-cutting and mutually reinforcing.  The SDG Agenda, therefore, calls for a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, involving all areas and levels of government, as well as of other partners.  The Agenda calls for a unified approach that brings together development and humanitarian efforts.  It also calls for the pursuit of peaceful societies, strong institutions and rights-based development policies.

Coordinated action within and between national, regional and international institutions has never been more needed, including with the Bretton Woods institutions.  We in the United Nations recognize this and are ready for cultural and operational change on our part, both at Headquarters and in the field.  Also, Member States are now more and more focusing on how we can work better among Governments, the private sector and civil society in both development and humanitarian work.

The SDGs and the Paris Agreement illustrate that tackling one issue practically always positively affects other sectors.  This has been widely recognized by large sections of the business community.  They know, for instance, that low-carbon and sustainable production and consumption can be both profitable and be the right thing to do for people and the planet.

Excellencies, dear delegates, let us remember there is no standard model for our work ahead.  Every nation and institution has to develop what they consider the most effective methods and mechanisms for the road ahead.

What matters is the effectiveness, transparency and inclusiveness of the government programmes.  Apart from political will and effective governance, technology can bolster the ability to strengthen institutions.  Quantitative models can help to create “scenarios” and identify future pathways.

There is room to improve such models with respect to SDG areas like health, inequality and gender.  Some countries will benefit from additional capacity to use such tools.  There are great opportunities here for partnership and innovation.

I also see great opportunities for partnerships which help build country capacities to plan, deliver and review policies to implement the SDGs.  This should be part of the strengthened global partnership.  This we pledged to realize at the September Summit and at the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development.

My fourth point concerns keeping track of progress.  In Agenda 2030, UN Member States committed to regularly review implementation of the SDGs at the country level, also involving civil society and other actors.  In some countries, Governments have gone to legislative bodies to explain how they intend to achieve the SDGs.  Legislative bodies and audit institutions should ideally have the space and capacity to follow and ensure accountability for such commitments.

Building national statistical capacity should also be an integral part of development policies.  Quality data is necessary to provide evidence for institutional and policy changes.

Agenda 2030 also commits countries to present national reviews at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development next time in New York in July.  The Secretary-General recently called on all countries to champion bold approaches for the first [High-Level Political Forum] reviews.  This meeting in Dubai will give impetus to the countries who volunteered to conduct reviews in 2016 in preparation for the July meeting in New York.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Agenda 2030 is an historic achievement by the Member States of the UN — you should all be proud of this diplomatic and statesman-like work.  It is also an invitation to collaborative action between and within nations.  It highlights the interrelationship between the various facets of our societies and our lives.  It gives us a dynamic tool to make collective progress towards a healthy planet and a life of dignity for all, which we need so much to see.

Agenda 2030 offers a unique opportunity to rally all countries, civil society, the business community and the academic world around the quest for a more fair and equitable world.  We must not miss this historic opportunity to do the wise and right thing, in our own interest and for humanity.  This Summit in Dubai on “Shaping Future Governments” can serve as a catalyst and driver to concretely and together chart the road ahead to a life of dignity for all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.