Across continents and countries, social movements and networks of non-governmental organizations are indispensable partners of the United Nations. I thank the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the Kenya NGO Coordination Board for bringing together leaders from non-governmental organizations from China and throughout Africa. Your experience in developing new approaches for sustainable economic progress, promoting dialogue, exchanging best practices and providing policy advice is highly valuable.
In our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, we face many shared challenges. Some, such as extreme poverty and hunger, gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and human right abuses, are long-standing; others such as climate change and energy insecurity, are still emerging.
The United Nations is addressing all of these problems, but we can only succeed when we work closely with our partners. Your work –from advocacy to hands-on efforts to improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable –is essential. The international community relies on your energy and commitment as catalysts for positive, sustainable change.
Your contribution is especially important right now. Only four years remain to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. There are many success stories, but also many areas of shortfall –within and between countries, and among the MDGs themselves. Looking ahead, we still have much work to do to achieve truly sustainable development that will lift all people from extreme poverty while protecting the natural resources on which our development depends.
I hope this Forum will generate new ideas, strategies and best practices for promoting civic engagement on sustainability. By supporting civic empowerment you have the potential to influence not only the targeted communities, but a wider cross-section of organizations and individuals working hard to improve people's lives.
I am convinced that we will never meet any of our goals without the concerted action of many actors: people of conscience everywhere who know that too many children go to bed hungry; who care that war continues to rage; who worry that our environment suffers daily assaults; and who understand that solutions can spread faster and farther when we join forces for action.
Once again, thank you for your commitment. I wish you a successful meeting.