I am pleased to welcome the Lions Clubs International to the United Nations. The United Nations deeply values your partnership and, in particular, your focus on the Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs have been a highly successful framework for international development. They have rallied governments, civil society and concerned private sector entities around some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Global poverty has been reduced by half. So has the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water. We have improved the lives of 200 million slum dwellers.
But we have not reached all the Goals -- and the deadline is fast approaching. Progress is uneven among and within countries. Inequalities have increased. The most vulnerable populations and countries are being left behind.
In September, there will be a special event on the MDGs to assess progress. We will also discuss the contours of an ambitious, practical and coherent post-2015 development framework. For, no matter how successful we are in the remaining months, there will be much unfinished business.
Our objective is to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime, promote equitable economic opportunity for all and protect the environment as we do it. To do that, we need the engagement of all actors. We cannot rely on governments alone. The Lions has already contributed in many ways. We will continue to count on your support.
Firstly, we will need your ideas. The post-2015 development framework will not evolve in a vacuum, nor will it emerge from a top-down process. Consultations are already under way in all regions to define a set of clear, concise and easy to communicate development goals. The core MDG issues will remain priorities, but the new agenda will encompass a broader set of interlinked sustainable development challenges -- from climate and energy, urbanization and agriculture to conflict and fragility.
Secondly, we will need your enduring commitment. From tree planting to improving access to education, from providing eye care to empowering youth to build a better future, Lions Clubs are already complementing UN work. My challenge to you this year is to look at how you can go further. A year ago, I identified five areas where collective action can make the greatest difference: sustainable development; prevention; supporting nations in transition; building a more secure world; and empowering women and young people. With some 45,000 Clubs around the world, there is little on this list that the Lions cannot influence for the better.
We live in a time of profound transition – economic, environmental, demographic and political. The developing world is becoming the locus of global dynamism. Green growth is gaining traction as an antidote to climate change and environmental decline. Some societies are aging. Others have disproportionate numbers of jobless youth. And where corruption and misrule have reigned unchallenged for years, people are demanding accountability and rights. These transitions bring both hope and uncertainty. Our job is to ensure that hope wins. Since the United Nations was founded, the Lions Clubs International have shared our humanitarian goals and worked to help us realize them.
I thank you for your dedication and look forward to many more decades of fruitful endeavour in common cause.