It is a privilege and honour to be at this prestigious University with such a long and proud history of shaping leaders and decision makers across Russian society, and beyond.
I am honoured to make my second visit to the Russian Federation this year. In May, I travelled to Moscow and Sochi.
As you know, I am in St. Petersburg for the annual Summit of G20 leaders. Leaders of the largest economies of the world are gathering here to help forge common solutions to global challenges.
But I think it is fitting that I start with you – the students, the young people, the future of this country and our world.
This is a vital month for global cooperation. St. Petersburg is hosting this important meeting. And a few weeks from now, all of the leaders of the world will come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the opening of the General Assembly.
We face great trials and tests. Around the world, human rights are at risk. Democracies are threatened. Legitimate voices and movements of dissent are being stifled. People everywhere are worried about the future and wonder whether institutions and decision makers will hear their pleas and act on them.
And in Syria, a catastrophic civil war has killed more than 100,000 people, ignited sectarian tensions, caused millions of people to flee their homes and generated instability across the region. The latest fighting has also raised the spectre of chemical warfare – which, if confirmed by the UN investigation mission, would be an atrocious violation of international law. I continue to press for a political solution. Arms flows and militarization only sustain the bloodshed. It is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking. The Syrian people need peace.
I firmly believe we have an obligation to address the immediate crises in our world. At the same time, we must look to a wider time horizon and act now to take on the longer-term challenges.
Putting off those challenges until tomorrow will only make them even more difficult and expensive to solve.
We must do more than fight fires, we must also work now to lay the foundations for a better future.
Young people are an important part of the solution. I often say youth are not only leaders of tomorrow, you are leaders for today. About half of our world is under 25 years of age.
I look forward today to hearing from you – your questions, your concerns, your aspirations.
Let me begin by sharing a few messages that I plan to convey to world leaders here to help keep the focus on our longer-term challenges.
We are in a crucial moment for strengthening global economic recovery and our collective work to build a more sustainable, just and prosperous world for all.
Recent crises have taken a heavy economic and social toll – particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable. In times of economic crises, they are the first and the hardest hit.
United action by the G-20 and the larger international community has made a difference. We see signs of a modest global recovery, but it is fragile and uneven.
We need to strengthen our policies to promote growth and jobs. We also need to coordinate our efforts at all levels to reduce vulnerabilities.
Growing inequalities, high unemployment rates – especially among youth -- and rising pressures on ecosystems call out for the need for even stronger collective action.
And so I have come to St. Petersburg carrying three inter-linked key messages to advance progress on the development agenda.
First, we need to accelerate our work to fight poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals – the MDGs.
These development goals were set at the turn of the century. In the last 13 years, the MDGs have proven that international commitment to ending poverty can make a profound difference.
Many countries have met the poverty targets as well as other development goals, many of which focus on the empowerment of women.
But these achievements vary sharply across and within countries and regions.
Now we have less than 900 days to the MDG target date -- the end of 2015.
That is why I will tell world leaders that accelerating progress must be a global priority.
That means greater action in the areas that are lagging farthest behind – such as maternal mortality and sanitation.
It means doing more for education. We have made important progress. Yet, there are still 57 million children out of primary school around the world.
I want all children and young people to have equal learning opportunities. Last year I launched my Global Education First Initiative to help do just that.
Our goal is for all children to be in good schools with quality education to empower them to become active global citizens.
425 million young women and men are expected to join the global workforce over the next 20 years.
So here at the G20, I will urge leaders to invest more in education, training and skills.
This is crucial for ensuring that young people have the tools they need for decent work opportunities and a brighter future.
We have to stimulate innovation, productivity, competitiveness, and entrepreneurship.
Therefore, I will relentlessly continue to stress the importance of education.
We must also advance our work for food and nutrition security.
The world has the resources and know-how to eliminate hunger and malnutrition.
Yet an estimated 870 million people suffer from hunger and 2 billion face nutrition deficiencies.
We need deep changes throughout our food systems to help tackle food price volatility, increase agricultural productivity and sustainability and promote more efficient use of energy in food supply chains.
We also need greater support for smallholder farmers, especially those in the poorest countries.
As we work to meet the MDGs, we must also look beyond the year 2015 and shape a development agenda for the coming decades. That is my second message to world leaders.
Much has changed since the year 2000. New economic powers have emerged; new technologies are reshaping our lives. A new era demands a new vision and a responsive global framework.
Sustainable development must be at the heart.
We have already begun the vital discussion on crafting a post-2015 agenda that is ambitious, inspiring and universal – relevant to all people and all societies.
I have submitted a report to the General Assembly and this will be a major focus of our discussions later this month during the UN General Assembly in New York.
We know that growing environmental and economic risks are among the most serious threats to hard-won development gains and future security.
That takes me to the third and final inter-linked message I bring to St. Petersburg – and that is the need for action on climate change.
Temperatures are rising. We need to raise our level of ambition to tackle it.
We have to explore all avenues to hold global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.
We need greater commitments for inclusive green growth and low-carbon energy systems.
Many countries, rich and poor, have implemented green economy policies to promote low-emission technologies and energy efficiency.
Here in St. Petersburg, I will call on all G20 countries to adopt and promote new patterns and models for environmentally sustainable economic growth.
I will also invite all leaders to a high-level climate change summit that I will host next September to lay the groundwork for securing a universal, ambitious and binding climate agreement in 2015.
The General Assembly has declared 2014-2024 the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.
Now is the time for action.
The decisions we make and the actions we take today will affect people’s lives for years to come. Together we can and must make sustainable development a reality for all.
I urge all of you young people to stay informed, get involved and make a difference. I want you to be part of the solution.
I count on your dynamism, creativity and commitment. The world needs your ideas and your energy.
Always remember that you are not just citizens of Russia – you are citizens of the world.
Be a global citizen.
As young people, you have passion. Turn that passion into compassion.
Seek knowledge. Enlarge your horizons. Engage.
Help make this a better world for all.