London, United Kingdom

04 June 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the Chatham House event: “Our Shared Humanity – The Legacy of Kofi Annan” Panel Three “Global Market – Global Values” [as prepared for delivery]

Dear Annan Family,
Sir Mark Malloch Brown and Colleagues at the UNA-UK,
Friends,
Distinguished panellists,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Let me start by thanking the Chatham House for bringing us together today to consider the legacy of our beloved late former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
 
Last night’s public event was deeply moving, and showed again the breadth of Kofi’s impact on our world and our lives.
 
Today we continue the conversation but with a particular focus.
 
Let me start with a bit of broad context.
 
This is a critical moment.
 
 
By some important measures -- rising life expectancy, the declining incidence of war, the expanding ranks of the global middle class -- human well-being continues to improve, contrary to popular belief and certainly contrary to the headlines.
 
Yet in 2019 we also face strong headwinds -- rising inequality, intolerance spreading like wildfire, and the deepening impacts of the climate crisis.
 
We see growing anxiety and frustration among young people and among poor and marginalized communities, as well as fraying social cohesion and plunging confidence in institutions and political establishments.
 
Globalization has yet to be perceived as fair or even advantageous.
 
The solidarity expressed in the United Nations Charter’s opening words, “we the people”, is critical for our humanity’s future. 
 
The values enshrined throughout the document must remain our benchmark and guide.
 
And the development vision articulated by the United Nations has never been more important.  
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
One might say that Kofi had a plan to bring these values and visions to life.
 
The Millennium Development Goals – a central plank in his legacy – spawned tremendous progress.
 
The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day was reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.
 
This was the largest decline of its kind in human history. 
 
And quite apart from the improvements in individual lives, we were all emboldened by the clear proof that such gains are possible.
 
Yet much remained to be done to ensure a life of dignity for all.
 
With the unfinished business of the MDG-era in mind, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals have become our new rallying point.
 
And today we have many useful lessons in hand:
 

  • the importance of inclusion and institutions
  • the value of national and local ownership
  • and the power of partnerships, especially with the business community.

 
Annan was the first Secretary-General who sought to harness the full capacities of the private sector to advance the work of the creation of the United Nations.
 
He was convinced that governments alone cannot do everything.

And so he altered the tenor and very basis of the UN-business relationship.
 
Where once those ties were often adversarial, Kofi sought to create space for business to do its best while benefitting society at the same time.
 
And he did so through an emphasis not on codes of conduct but rather on shared principles – human rights, labour rights, environmental stewardship, anti-corruption.
 
The creation of Global Compact corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative,  has profoundly changed the dynamics between the United Nations and the private sector.
 
Businesses, with their remarkable expertise, technology and financial resources, started to be seen and accepted as agents of change for sustainable development.
 
And businesses themselves came to see that their enterprises could best flourish through the market-friendly success of the UN’s work for peace, stability and resilience.
 
Responsible business can provide lasting foundations for sustainable development.
 
This may actually be a somewhat overlooked part of Annan’s legacy.  But he brought us to where we are today, a time when multi-stakeholder partnerships are recognized and promoted to spur implementation of the SDGs.
 
It is a legacy of global governance anchored in both global solidarity and shared responsibility.  
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Today, we must build on this achievement -- and do so with great urgency.
 
Whether looking at the latest reports on biodiversity, climate change or the SDGs, the message is unanimous: we are not moving fast enough to provide for people or protect the planet. On some goals, we are even seeing regression.
 
Without deep transformation, we risk catastrophic climate change; mass extinction of ecosystems and species; even higher levels of forced displacement; a major rollback of decades of development progress -- and all of the political turmoil that accompanies social and economic disruption.
 
We need to shift the world onto a trajectory that is compatible with the 2030 Agenda and that leads us toward a fair globalization.
 
This September, we are trying to generate high-level political momentum to do just that.

Through the SDG Summit, the Climate Action Summit and dedicated meetings on health, finance and small island developing states, we want our political leaders and our global partners to signal that they have heard the alarm and are intent on taking the kind of ambitious decisions and actions that will make SDG success a possibility once again.
 
Whether in terms of carbon emissions; land use, renewable energy, the global food system; social protection or health care or investing in skills for the future – we want to see leadership and ambition.
 
Thereafter, we will be calling on all our partners to get behind a global call to action over the course of 2020 that will allow us to change course; to realign; to get the world back on track and to get ready for a truly ground-breaking transformative decade of action and delivery – not just on the promises made in 2015 but to achieve what was intended in 1945 and what Kofi himself worked so hard to advance: peace, justice and prosperity for all on a healthy, thriving planet.
 
I know you will all be with us, as we continue to transform and be fit for purpose in a world of huge opportunity and need.
 
Thank you.