07 June 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at Denver Forum [As prepared for delivery]

Thank you for your warm welcome. 

This is my second trip to Denver – and I am in debt to the Denver Forum, this “dialogue of democracy”.  You have helped give me a wonderful excuse to come back to this wonderful city. 

It is a real privilege to be in this historic hotel with such a distinguished group of business and civic leaders. 

Let me begin with a simple and profound “thank you” to all the citizens of Colorado for your support to the United Nations. 

As Secretary-General, I have travelled the country to directly engage with the American people. 

I have gone from Seattle to St. Louis, Denver to Des Moines, Los Angeles to Texas to Boston and many points in between.

My aim – like that of outstanding groups such as the United Nations Foundation and United Nations Associations – is to bring home the message of the United Nations.

Every day, we feed over 90 million people. 

We keep the peace with 110,000 peacekeepers around the world in 15 operations and are engaged in peacemaking and peacebuilding through more than a dozen special political missions.

We deliver humanitarian aid to the toughest places. 

We vaccinate almost 60 percent of the world’s children. 

We combat poverty and climate change and support elections in some 50 countries a year. 

And we push for human rights and quality education.

Your support delivers all this and more. 

You should feel very proud of this common sense investment to advance our common values.

That sense of purpose and solidarity has never been more needed. 

We face trying, turbulent times.

Some call the position of UN Secretary-General the most impossible job on earth.

There are 193 countries – with many different interests pushing in many different directions. 

Denver is mile-high. 

So is my in-box.

But I don’t see this job as mission impossible.  I see the many possibilities.

Country after country, leader after leader, is recognizing that we can only tackle our challenges by taking them on together. 

No nation, no region, no group can do it alone.

This is the UN moment. 

But making the most of it won’t just happen by itself.

My job as Secretary-General is to advance international solutions that harness dynamic forces to build a better world for all. 

I want to talk to you about three of today’s most pressing challenges – and I want to do so by telling you about three of my recent visits.

The first was literally just a few hours ago.

I have come here today straight from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. 

I heard sobering, compelling evidence of our warming planet. 

As the Director of NCAR reported, the projected rate of change far exceeds anything seen in nature in the past 10,000 years. 

This fact-based briefing reinforced the physical and human toll of climate change that I have seen around the world. 

The verdict from science, economics and our own eyes is clear:  We cannot keep burning and consuming our way to prosperity. 

That is why we need a global legally binding climate change agreement by 2015 and why I will be convening a climate summit next year to generate political momentum.

And that is why I have made sustainable development the leading priority of the United Nations.

At the current rate, we will soon need two planet earths.  But we have only one planet.

There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.

Sustainable development doesn’t just mean cutting pollution and preserving ecosystems.

It also means fairness and opportunity.

While some consume too much, others have too little.

One out of every five people still lives in the dark – without access to electricity.

Last year, I launched my Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  It is a global partnership of governments, the private sector and civil society. 

The plan is based on three goals:  Universal access to modern energy services; doubling energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the overall global energy mix – all by the year 2030.

Denver is an energy centre.  I had the pleasure of visiting the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on my last visit.  You are well-placed to play an even bigger role and I urge you to join the Sustainable Energy for All effort.

Looking ahead, sustainable development must be at the core of a global strategy for the coming years that builds on the success of the Millennium Development Goals. 

These eight Goals were a promise made by world leaders at the turn of the century to drastically cut poverty, hunger and disease, empower women and girls, promote education and protect the environment.

We have much work to do, but the Goals have catalyzed action worldwide.

Hundreds of millions of people have risen from poverty.  More women are surviving childbirth and seeing their children live past the critical age of five.

Most important, the MDGs have shown the value of ambition and concrete targets.

The Goals expire in 2015.  After that we need new goals – sustainable development goals – and a clear post-2015 agenda that will take care of unfinished business, apply to all countries, and end extreme poverty once and for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we strive for sustainable development, we need sustainable peace.

That leads me to a second visit I want to mention.

Last month I travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding countries -- one of the most conflict-plagued areas of the world.

I went with the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim.  It was a first-of-its-kind joint visit.

The DRC has suffered repeated cycles of violence and misrule.  Previous peace efforts have failed to get at the roots. 

With a new framework agreement signed in February, that is changing.  We now have a chance for peace and development to go hand-in-hand, leading to jobs, education and dignity.

One part of the trip will stay with me for a long time. 

We went to Goma, in eastern DRC.  Goma has seen terrible fighting in recent months and years. 

We visited the Heal Africa hospital and met many women and girls who had been brutally raped in the fighting but are now building new lives.

Thousands of people lined the road.  They were holding posters with handwritten messages: “No more war. We want peace.  We want justice.”

I have travelled to many conflict areas and trouble-spots.  But I have never seen such a simple, overwhelming appeal for peace.

It strengthened my resolve to do more for peace in the DRC and other places around the world, where we are working on innovative approaches to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and preventive diplomacy.

But while there is hope in the heart of Africa, I can’t say the same about Syria.

One of every four has been uprooted from their home.  Human rights violations are rampant.  Regional stability is at risk.

Earlier this week, a United Nations team issued a report cataloguing once more the carnage and brutality.

Today we launched a $5.2 billion aid appeal -- by far the UN's largest ever.  We expect more than 10 million Syrians -- half the population -- to need aid by the end of the year.

There are no easy options.  But the fighting that is now grinding into its third year has proven one thing:  More weapons mean more war.

I once again urge all parties to support a peaceful, negotiated solution. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will close with one final recent visit – to Mozambique. 

Not long ago, Mozambique was synonymous with bloodshed and civil strife. 

But in the space of just one generation, the country has emerged to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. 

The United Nations has been and remains a proud partner in this transition. 

I visited a school and met with young people eager to share their optimism in a rising Africa.

One young woman brimming with confidence raised her hand and asked: “How can I be Secretary-General one day?”

I told her what I firmly believe: she can be Secretary-General or anything she puts her mind to. 

Her job is to study hard, stay grounded and dream big. 

Our job is to work for a world where all women and girls have that same horizon of hope and possibility. 

There will be no sustainable development or sustainable peace in our world without liberating and unleashing their power and potential.

I believe in leading by example. 

I have nearly doubled the number of women in the most senior UN positions.

Our top officials for humanitarian affairs, human rights, development and disarmament are women.  So is our top doctor, top lawyer and my chief of staff.

We need more women in government and in corporate boardrooms – in the halls of legislatures and the councils of peace. 

At the same time, we must do more to empower young people.  Half the world is under 25 years of age and they need to see a future of dignity and decent jobs.

That is another reason I am visiting Denver at this time.

From this Forum, I will go to a stadium full of young people and hope. 

I am proud to take part in the commencement at Denver University.

But the fact is, regardless of our stage in life, all of us are graduating into a new world of enormous change and potential.

It is up to us to see that it is a world of sustainable development, durable peace and real empowerment for all.

Great sons and daughters of Colorado like Tim Wirth and Madeleine Albright and many others have helped point the way.

Now I count on all of you to join forces with the United Nations.

Pressure your leaders. Raise your voices. Be part of our global movement.

With support and solidarity, I know we can move challenges from the world’s in-box to the out-box.

And only the possibilities – like this great city – will be mile-high.

Thank you.