All Development Efforts Must Begin by Identifying Most Vulnerable, Understanding How to Empower Them, Secretary-General Tells Zürich Conference

SG/SM/17483-ENV/DEV/1626
22 January 2016

All Development Efforts Must Begin by Identifying Most Vulnerable, Understanding How to Empower Them, Secretary-General Tells Zürich Conference

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Zürich Development Conference, in Zürich today:

The United Nations office in Geneva is the second largest United Nations headquarters, only next to United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Thank you for all your strong support to the United Nations, including your very generous support for the Strategic Heritage Project which will make this very historic UN building sustainable and environmentally hospitable.  Switzerland is also the birthplace of international humanitarian law.

I know you share my outrage at terrible violations around the world.  I have strongly denounced these breaches of international humanitarian law, most recently in Syria, where I warned that starving people is a war crime.  While we work to end impunity and heal traumatized societies, we are also responsible for addressing the root causes of these troubles.

Last year was a momentous and historic in terms of gaining agreement on how to tackle those root causes.

Switzerland played a key role in the development of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Its negotiators were active in promoting SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] 5 on the empowerment of women and girls, SDG 6 on access to water and sanitation and SDG 16 on good governance.  Those are just three important goals which Switzerland delegations have contributed the most.

I am especially grateful to Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter — and his staff — for engaging throughout this process.  He has also shown valuable leadership on challenges to international peace and security.  I particularly welcome his mediating role in Ukraine as Chairman of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] and I thank you for your strong support for my Special Envoys for Syria and Yemen where they have been holding negotiations.  I sincerely hope that negotiation among and between the parties will be held as soon as possible.

One of your nationals, Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gass, who is here with us, was deeply involved in the process of shaping this inspiring and integrated vision of sustainable development.  I thank you again.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a triumph of multilateralism at a critical time in human history.  All countries, civil society and interest groups collaborated effectively.  They forged a transformative vision of the way forward for the planet and all people.

While we are excited, grateful to Member States, the United Nations has been reaching out to the world.  We have contacted at least 8 million people, starting from young people, boys and girls, groups of vulnerable people, women, labourers and Government officials, media and artists.

Through the “My World” website our question was:  “What kind of world do you want?”  Just tell us.  And we were receiving so many ideas from so many people.  These goals are the reflections of views from so many people around the world, all kinds of groups of people.

We can now build on the remarkable results of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which we have been trying to achieve from 2000 to 2015.  It was historic vision.  It improved a lot of human lives, but still not enough.  That is why Member States have agreed to have another 15-year vision, targeting by 2030, to make this world much better; this planet earth healthier and sustainable.

These are constant reminders of our deeper responsibilities during the political and economic crises of the past 15 years.  Now we go much further.

If the MDGs were a pact between donors and recipients, the 2030 Agenda must become must become the basis of a new social contract.  Governments made a universal promise to all people — and citizens of the world can now demand that Governments honour these promises.  All States and all actors own this Agenda, which aims to finally end the tyranny of poverty.

Where the MDGs were carried out through the development system, the SDGs must become the object of a dialogue between the State and its people, between duty-bearers and rights-holders, between those with resources and those in need.

In the course of our discussions, particularly business community and civil society were urging the Governments and the United Nations to provide a far-reaching vision.  I think UN Member States have now delivered.  They have responded by adopting the Sustainable Development Goals with 17 Goals.  These 17 Goals represent virtually all the aspects and spectrums of our lives, including the environmental conditions of our Planet Earth.

Now, I am urging business communities and civil society to respond to the visions of world leaders.  The world leaders, of course, have political responsibility to make sure these are owned by each and every Government through their national legislations and other administrative measures.  But, without the strong support and contributions and engagement by civil society and business community, this might not be implemented.

There is a perception that these are the visions of the United Nations, this is the vision of Governments.  Of course, it may be so, but each and every citizen can play a very important role.  Therefore, I am urging you to own the Sustainable Development Goals yourselves, and make it your own goals to work with the United Nations.  Now they are enshrined in an international political consensus.  This sets the stage to take our work to the next level.

The 2030 Agenda commits to leaving no one behind.  The basic [premise] is that 7 billion people — maybe by the end of 2030 there may be more than 8 billion people — that everybody without any exception should be able to live sustainably and a healthier way.  This is a pledge that resonates well here in Switzerland.

The preamble of your Constitution perfectly expresses this spirit by affirming that “the strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest member”.  The Switzerland Government has already presented that far-reaching vision.  This applies to cantons in Switzerland — and it also applies to the most vulnerable in the international community.  This applies not only to the least developed, fragile and failed States — but also applies to struggling people in any society.

Even in the most developed democracies, people still die from poverty, hunger and hate crimes.  Refugees escape terrible atrocities only to face xenophobia by those who associate these victims with the very perpetrators they fled.  Even where there are safety nets in place, too many people fall through.  Disability, sexual orientation, race and other differences obscure our common humanity.  The result leaves minorities of all kinds exposed to discrimination.

All development efforts — national and international — must begin by identifying the most vulnerable and understanding how to empower them.  This is a change in the old development paradigm that can bring change to those who have been marginalized for too long.  This job has never been more urgent.

More people have fled their homes than at any time since the Second World War.  We now have more than 60 million people who are displaced internally or who have fled their countries becoming refugees.  This is the largest ever since the end of the Second World War.

Humanitarian appeals are five times higher than a decade ago.  When I started my job as Secretary-General, we needed $3.8 billion per year, now we need more than $20 billion.

There are almost 40 countries where you have high-level, medium-level or low-level crises and violence.  There are more than 125 million people who need immediate, daily life-saving assistance.

This makes the United Nations and Member States’ role extremely constrained.  At the same time we are motivated and committed to help these people.  Generous donors are doing their part, but we need a new push for global solidarity.

That is why I am convening the World Humanitarian Summit on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey.  This is the first time ever the United Nations is going to hold this level World Humanitarian Summit meeting.  This is an opportunity to reshape the international response to crises by addressing root causes, including the divide between humanitarian and development aid.

I have been appealing, urging, even warning many developed countries, particularly in the European continent — I know that it is a serious challenge for most of European countries — they have not earmarked any budget for refugees.  The easier way for them would be to cut funding earmarked for development aid to use for refugees.

Some countries are cutting 40 per cent or 30 per cent, I fully sympathize and understand, this is an understandable situation.  But, this is not a zero-sum game.  Development aid and humanitarian aid, there must be an additional budget and money for those people.  This is what I have been urging.

Later this month, I will issue a report on my vision, on an agenda for humanity, a report to Member States of the General Assembly.  I hope all partners will make this Summit a great success.

The only challenge greater than achieving agreement on the SDGs is the one we face now, it has been very difficult, sometimes passionate, emotional in the process of negotiation every single world, every single paragraph was the subject of intense negotiation.  Now this is over, the greater challenge is to implement these agreements.  Each and every Government needs to show strong ownership by aligning policies, legislation and resources in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.  I commend Switzerland for already starting its own efforts nationally and internationally.

We need visionary political leadership that sees beyond the national borders.  We need effective institutions that break silos.  These 17 Goals, they are universal, they are all integrated, all are indivisible, you cannot separate one from the other.

These were negotiated globally in two threads.  One thread was climate change:  the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change they negotiated a long time, during the last 18 years on Goal Number 13.  The rest of the 16 Goals were negotiated at the last General Assembly.  They were negotiated differently, but they are one.  Nothing can, and should operate in separation.  They are one part of our vision.

The recent Paris Climate Change agreement represents a first of many steps the international community will have to take to achieve the SDGs.  There are many cross-cutting issues like food, water, energy, gender and climate.  Those are cross cutting issues which affects us all.  Particularly if Goal 13, climate change is not properly addressed all the gains which we will make will be seriously undermined.

Markets now have the clear signal they need to scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, climate-resilient development.  The world leaders have given directions, we are going this direction, this is the sustainable path.  So, whatever decisions, investment or infrastructure or consumer goods should be aligned towards the sustainable path.

The solutions are increasingly affordable and available, and, after the success of Paris, many more are poised to come.  And, we need a real partnership between business, public sector and civil society — a partnership based on equality, inclusion and a fair sharing of risks.

One of the very valuable lessons I have learned as Secretary-General during the last 9 years is that without tripartite partnership between Governments, business community and civil society nothing can be achieved whether the vision is good or not.  Therefore, there should be a very strong tripartite partnership established.  And I am asking you to practice this to implement climate change and Sustainable Development Goals.

SDG 17 calls for a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development.  All have a role to play, but the richer countries have a responsibility to show solidarity.  Of course, we welcome South-South Cooperation, but there should be more from North to South Cooperation.  When North to South and South to South Partnership and Cooperation are integrated we will have greater gains.

A revitalized global partnership means wealthy countries meeting the agreed commitment to allocate at least 0.7 per cent of gross national income for official development assistance (ODA).  And it means building on the framework for development financing agreed in Addis Ababa.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda features a comprehensive set of policy actions, with a package of more than 100 concrete measures that draw upon all sources of finance.  This includes better management of national resources and strong cooperation in tax matters.

In the face of multiple crises, development cooperation should not be diminished or diverted.  That would be like burning your house down to stay warm.  We need to protect those in crisis while strengthening their societies.

We must move from delivering aid to ending need.  Where there is a need for humanitarian assistance we have to deliver, but it would be much better if we had no reason to deliver aid.  That means we have to address the root causes of the problems.  At the same time we must address the grave threat that conflict poses to sustainable development and the entire 2030 Agenda.

The price of neglecting prevention is plain to see:  widening sectarian tensions, shrinking democratic space in many places, and an arc of crisis stretching from the Sahel to the wider Middle East.  One day of fighting — when a hospital is bombed, a bridge is destroyed and hate becomes entrenched — causes damage that can take years to repair. 

The SDGs will promote peace, but peace is also essential for the SDGs.  The 2030 Agenda is visionary — and we have to build practical mechanism to make it work.  That requires accountability through solid follow-up, review and a stronger emphasis on good data.  The annual High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development must become the dashboard for driving this process.

To conclude I would like to make a special appeal to many business leaders present here:  when we are working together with Government and civil society and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals I would like to ask business CEOs to have a global vision in operating your enterprises.

When as CEOs you have an inclusive way of managing your companies, your companies will thrive.  Try to give decent and affordable opportunities for young people so that these young people, and women, may not have a sense of disillusionment against our society.

When CEOs have a vision and strong commitment on human dignity and human rights I am sure your companies will thrive because these employees will be motivated, not only being grateful, motivated and committed, to work not only for the benefit of their personal gains but for the companies and the societies.

That becomes national gain.  National gain will bring international gain.  That is the way the United Nations is now trying to ask world leaders.  Try to motivate your people rather than imposing.  I think our countries, and Switzerland and your company will thrive.  In such a case maybe the United Nations will have less work to do.  That’s what I am expecting as Secretary-General.

Switzerland is an important UN Member State.  Your country may be small in terms of population and size, but what I have been observing is that you have such a strong and very warm and deep heart.

You have much greater global vision than other people.  That is why I love to be back and love to work with Swiss people and Government.  And inspire global visions — look at what you can do beyond Switzerland for other people around the world who are in need of our warm support.  And, I count on this country to do even more as we advance to a new future.  Let’s work together to make this world much more peaceful, much more harmonious and healthier, not only for us, but for succeeding generations.  I thank you for your strong commitment and support.

For information media. Not an official record.