Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the public launch event for the Centre for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institute, today:
Thank you, dear friends, for inviting me to this important occasion. It is exciting to join the Brookings Institute in the launch of this bold new Centre that will tackle, head‑on, the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges.
I salute Brookings for sending its own crisp signal to the world, that the issues of sustainable development are centre stage for all of humanity. As Secretary‑General Guterres recently said in his Mandela lecture: “The [COVID‑19] pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world.” And “it has laid bare risks we have ignored: inadequate health systems, gaps in social protection, structural inequalities, environmental degradation, the climate crisis.” The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the best guide the world has for addressing that fragility, and for transitioning to a new place of economic, social, and environmental resilience.
General Allen, let also me please take a moment to thank you for your personal commitment to the SDGs. Your inspiring comments today – and also those a few weeks ago when we were together at the 17 Rooms event that Brookings helped convene – underscore the power of the Goals in bringing people together around a common frame of ambition and cooperation.
I know that many people have made today possible, but it’s also a special pleasure to join you to celebrate the Centre’s extraordinary starting team of scholars: Amar Bhattacharya is a global leader on climate and sustainable infrastructure who over the years has provided such invaluable support to the United Nations work. Marcela Escobari has been an entrepreneurial leader not just for development policy across Latin America and the Caribbean, but also for future workforce issues within the United States itself. Homi Kharas has been a driving force at the heart of the global SDG agenda since before its inception and continues to lend crucial assistance to our United Nations team in navigating this year’s global financing crisis.
George Ingram has had a uniquely distinguished career in fostering so many cross‑partisan, cross‑sectoral United States leadership contributions to global development over many years. Tony Pipa was of course the lead United States negotiator for the SDGs over the final year leading up to their 2015 adoption, and today plays a pioneering role in fostering city‑based multilateral cooperation for the goals. And John McArthur, the new Centre Director, has been my ally and collaborator for nearly two decades in promoting practical and people‑focused leadership, first with the Millennium Development Goals and more recently with the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the United Nations, we are all too familiar with the world’s shifting political contours and how escalating tensions are amplifying today’s crises to hurt people and planet. We need creative and courageous leadership from all corners – yes, even and especially from think tanks. We need your insights, your ideas, your recommendations, and your voices. We also simply need role models of cooperation.
One of the things that makes this effort unique is the focus that the Centre will have on networked leadership and “no one left behind”. None of us can achieve the SDGs alone. And all of us need to pitch in together, in all communities around the globe, if we are to end extreme poverty, end the pandemic of inequality, and protect the climate and oceans for our children.
In this respect, I want to challenge the Centre for Sustainable Development to strive to be a beacon of inspiration for the pursuit of sustainable development in all countries and communities around the world. Together with partners and allies, I encourage you to leverage your independent voice to better understand the issues, to seek the insights of the young or marginalized, to think more clearly about the options, and to expand our sense of possibility.
The Brookings team has already contributed so much in helping the world tackle its great challenges of sustainable development. But I know you are just getting started. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
And now over to my friend John McArthur.