It is a pleasure to join you today on the eve of General Debate week. From Syria to MDGs, sustainable development and Rule of Law, this is a crucially important period for global cooperation and the United Nations. It is a highly fitting that we begin this week with an exchange of views between Member States, civil society, regional actors and the United Nations.
I also want to thank the President of the General Assembly and the Ministers from South Africa and Ireland as facilitators for the crucial MDG event on September 25 to provide this opportunity for dialogue.
I want to thank the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service and its Chief Anita Nayar for the role it played in convening key constituencies and facilitating civil society engagement in a range of initiatives. These efforts have gone a long way not only toward bringing rich perspectives into the United Nations, but also “de-mystifying” for our external partners what is going on within the United Nations itself.
It is my pleasure to discuss with you the findings of the United Nations “Global Conversation” – an unprecedented outreach process on what we called “the world we want”.
The Conversation was designed to gather messages from a full spectrum of society, and to convey those concerns and aspirations to governments as they embark on formulating a new development agenda building on the experiences of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Global Conversation by the UNDG reached deeply into civil society and regional organizations, especially from the South. It has given us rich stories about the challenges and opportunities that people face in their daily lives.
Over 1 million people shared their priorities and perspectives. Despite the differences in background, location and occupation, the voices we have heard have much in common.
First, people have clearly stated that the fundamental areas covered by the MDGs – education, health, water and sanitation and gender equality – remain critically important. Equally clearly they have stated that the world has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty and hunger.
A second key message is that people are angry about injustice and growing inequalities. They are demanding decent jobs and a fair share of the benefits of economic growth.
Further, people want their governments to do a better job in representing them – delivering key services and creating opportunities for their full and equal participation in decisions that affect them. “Nothing for us without us”, said a young woman with disabilities in Ecuador.
People want to live without fear of violence or conflict. “In 2015, I want a world where women are not killed, murders of women are not normalized, and women have representation in daily life and politics,” said a university student in Ankara, Turkey.
And they want us to safeguard the global environment. As one indigenous man said, “We have to take care of our Pachamama (mother earth) - otherwise how are we going to live?”
For development practitioners and field workers, these messages are familiar. We are aware of the realities on the ground. Some of you here have lived those realities.
What is new is the way we are collecting and bringing these messages to the multilateral decision-making process.
With the support of modern technology and social media, the United Nations has reached out to more people than ever before, including those who ordinarily are not asked about their dreams and aspirations.
The consultations have pushed the boundaries both in terms of outreach and of content. Many of the messages from the consultations have made an impact on other contributions to the post-2015 process, such as the reports of the High Level Panel and the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly, “A Life of Dignity for All”.
I think we can go as far as to say that the consultations facilitate a growing convergence of views on the road ahead. Global decision-making processes require time and preparedness to listen. It took several years before the MDGs gained broad support. The Global Conversation was an early investment in the post-2015 process that I hope will bring dividends as the process unfolds.
The UN system will continue to do its utmost to ensure that the voices and ideas of people from all over the world are brought to the debate, making it a true “we the peoples” process. But this effort should not stop once the agenda is agreed. The consultations have also revealed an appetite for involvement not only in the design of the development agenda, but also in its future implementation.
People are asking for transformation - not just of the “what”, but also the “how” we do development. They want not only to articulate the problems, but also to help find solutions, and be involved in putting them into effect.
The Secretary-General and I see the great value of expanding space for meaningful civil society participation throughout the UN system. I hope that today’s discussion will help us to further understand the potential of this engagement for people in need around the world.
In closing, let me leave with you with one more message that encapsulates what we are talking about. It comes from a 14-year-old Zambian girl. “We are the future leaders of today, tomorrow and after 2015”, she said, “and our rights have to be heard”.