New York

21 April 2016

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals [as delivered]

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I join you for this important High-level Debate on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I thank you, Mr. President, for convening this event under such inspiring circumstances today. We started with drums and will continue with voices from youth and engaged celebrities before our deliberations start on how to best turn the global goals into realities.

We are gathering to discuss SDG implementation on the eve of the signing of the Paris Agreement by a great number of world leaders. This is an important signal: the development and climate agendas are inseparable and mutually reinforcing. One cannot be achieved without the other.  I commend President Lykketoft for reminding us all of this close and vital linkage by linking the dates for the events.

Last September, you, the Member States adopted a transformative and ambitious Agenda for Sustainable Development of potential historic significance. For this, you should have a sense of pride and achievement.

The 2030 Agenda is a global blueprint for ending poverty and for building a safer and more equitable world with people facing with hope a sustainable future.

It is a universal agenda, one which all countries are to integrate with their national plans and aspirations.  It enshrines a responsibility to focus on the world’s most vulnerable and those afflicted by protracted conflicts or caught in the nightmares of humanitarian disasters.

The breadth and depth of the Agenda call for adopting new approaches and for breaking down silos. Nobody in today’s world can solve problems in isolation. We have to break down walls and work together, across borders, sectors and functions.

We can see this clearly in the area of climate change.  Reducing the effects of climate change is one of the SDGs. But it is also a crucial factor for progress on nearly all other goals.  We cannot achieve the SDGs on water, food, cities and transport, for instance, without reducing the risks of climate change. 

Achieving the SDGs will require the collective efforts of all governments and the full range of other actors.  We need to take an integrated approach to development efforts, connecting them both to humanitarian action and human rights as well as to peaceful societies and well-functioning institutions.  The goals must be meaningful on the ground, which means making goals and targets relevant and adapted to national and local situations.  

Financing for development will be critical, as set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and as discussed at yesterday’s Forum on Financing for Development.  Governments are in the drivers’ seat. Domestic public finance will be important keys to ownership and sustainability.  But we must also harness the full power of Official Development Assistance, the Bretton Woods institutions and private sector financing.

Member States have decided that there should be a robust follow-up and review process. The High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development should be the focus of such follow-up.  I invite you all to engage in the Forum in July to provide good practices and innovative ideas on how to achieve concrete results.

The UN system has already begun to support countries, both strategically and operationally, to implement the Agenda.  Some 95 UN Country Teams are working with their national counterparts to mainstream the SDGs into national plans, accelerate implementation and provide policy support.

Just as governments will need to take a holistic approach, the United Nations is to take a whole-of-system approach, working horizontally and building on the strengths of each institution.  Tailored UN responses will be developed to support capacity building, inspire partnerships and improve policy coherence at all levels.

We are now in Year One of our 15-year journey.  We have embarked on an undertaking of great scope and ambition, creating hopes among millions around the world. We have a serious and noble mission which we must pursue for people today and for future generations. This is our path to a better future for all. That is our duty, laid down in the UN Charter with its first three words “We the Peoples”.

We are accountable to children and grandchildren all over the world– failure is simply no option.

Thank you.