23 January 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at Millennium Development Goals Advocate Luncheon "Scaling up Success: Investing in Girl Empowerment for MDG Acceleration" [as prepared for delivery]

I am pleased to be here with you. I thank my MDG Advocates for bringing us together. I am especially grateful to our distinguished co-chairs, President Kagame and Prime Minister Solberg.

I am delighted to welcome partners from the business world, civil society, the media, academia, governments and intergovernmental organizations. Thank you for coming together for the world’s girls.

We are in a race against time.  The MDG deadline is just over 700 days away. 

We have to take stock and make a final push for success. And this demands that we invest in the more than half a billion adolescent girls in developing countries who can help drive progress across the MDG agenda.

You understand that when we give a girl better health, education and well-being, we see results far beyond that individual. A girl is as valuable to our world as a tree is to a forest. When a tree grows up straight and strong, the whole environment benefits. When a girl grows up straight and strong, her family, her community and even her country can feel the positive effects.

Every year that a girl stays in primary school boosts her eventual wages by up to 20 per cent.  When women and girls earn income, they reinvest the vast majority – 90 per cent – back into their families.  When female education goes up, so does economic growth.

Today I urge you to keep girls at the centre of all of your strategies.

They deserve our support. Every girl holds a key to progress, but too often, she cannot use it because of poverty, discrimination and violence – including deplorable sexual abuse.

When we support girls, they reward society with enormous contributions in creativity, compassion and – yes – girl power.

Thanks to your advocacy and the work of many partners around the world, we are unleashing that power. We have made important progress, but there is a long way to go. 

Multi-stakeholder initiatives spearheaded by my office, such as Every Woman Every Child and the Global Education First initiative, are mobilizing an impressive number and range of partners. I urge you to join these initiatives.

This is more than a philanthropic issue. This is a challenge to do business better.  It is a chance to change your institutions so they reflect more enlightened attitudes about girls and include strategies to improve their lives.

We need your resources. But more than that, we need your expertise, your energy and your ideas.

Investors tend to rate opportunities based on their potential for returns. The United Nations gives girls a gold rating. When you invest in their future, you are guaranteed results that multiply across society – on health, education, peace and the welfare of future generations.

Now I need your ideas. Tell me how I can help you support the world’s girls. Let us make their future our focus – and they will make a difference in our world.

Thank you.