Davos, Switzerland

23 January 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at "Making 2015 a Historic Year" dinner [as prepared for delivery]

Thank you for joining us tonight, as we look ahead to what I believe must become a historic year for humanity.

People and organizations all over the world are demanding our leadership and global action in 2015 on sustainable development and climate change.

The path ahead includes three milestones: the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July, the adoption of a post-2015 global development agenda by world leaders in September, and global climate change negotiations in Paris in December. 

Success at each stop will be essential if we are to achieve lives of dignity for all.

We have come a long way in designing a shared vision for the future.  The UN’s Member States have consulted with civil society and the private sector. Through the web-based My World Survey, more than seven million people have given us their views.  Never before have we engaged in such a broad global dialogue on key matters of concern to all humankind.

An open working group of the UN General Assembly has taken this rich catalog  of ideas and perspectives and distilled it into a proposed set of 17 sustainable development goals.

The SDGs will seek to end extreme poverty, protect the planet, address inequality and build on the gains made under the Millennium Development Goals.

The new slate of goals also ventures into areas not addressed by the MDGs but which are now recognized as vital parts of the picture – including institutions, energy and the threat of climate change. They also reflect the deepening of our understanding about the links between peace and development

In the coming months, Member States will work to craft a coherent and ambitious agenda for adoption by Heads of State and Government in September.

Climate change and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin. All of the actions and investments to be undertaken under the climate agenda will help advance the SDGs.

A successful financing conference will be crucial. The new global development agenda will only succeed if the resources, technology and capacity are available. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Business has an enormous role to play.

It was here in Davos over 15 years ago that the United Nations introduced the notion of a global compact between business and society.

What started as a sensible proposal to the business community has become a proven strategy. Our shared efforts have shown that when you engage business and all key players on issues of common importance, we can make tangible progress.

Across the United Nations, our Organization is working in partnership with business on a daily basis. Our global platforms for action include Caring for Climate, Every Woman Every Child, Sustainable Energy for All, the Women’s Empowerment Principles and Business for Peace.

Business is proving its willingness to be part of the solution to tackling our world’s greatest challenges.

To the business leaders here tonight who are already working hard within your companies to promote responsible business practices, and who are collaborating with others to realize a more sustainable future, I say thank you.

To all of you, I ask for your help in the making 2015 a historic year. Four steps are especially important:

First, we need to hear your voices. Companies must continue to engage in dialogue with governments and other partners on defining and then rolling out the SDGs. Your communication and advocacy machinery can have a powerful and multiplying  effect.

Second, we need companies to gear up for implementation of the SDGs. Scalable partnership models aligned with the goals will be essential. But significant progress will result only when companies go further, and integrate the goals into business strategies, research and development and new product development.   I am pleased that the UN Global Compact, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and the Global Reporting Initiative are collaborating on a project to help companies set specific and time-bound goals.

Third, we need the private sector to help mobilize financing.  I appeal to investors to participate in the Addis conference, which will showcase a wealth of opportunities. Join us in strengthening the global partnership for development.

Fourth, we need business to help reach a universal, meaningful agreement on climate action in Paris. Private sector advocacy can make a real difference in advancing well-functioning carbon markets, smart regulatory policies, and emissions reduction targets that are in line with science. Our Caring for Climate initiative has an active agenda in each of these areas, and I encourage you to help support these efforts.

I understand very well that this remains a challenging time for the business community. At the same time, new  technologies and changing demographics are creating new opportunities.  Mindsets are also on the move.  The public good – as expressed in the SDGs – is no longer the add-on it might once have been. Today, the public good is now an essential, profitable ingredient of new business models.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world needs companies and investors everywhere to do their part in meeting the needs of people today while transforming our prospects for tomorrow.

We continue to face serious threats to peace and security.  Problems can seem daunting.

But I am convinced this remains, above all, an era of opportunity.  The entrepreneurs I have met across the world continue to innovate -- and inspire others to do the same. 

Let us be ambitious and let us work together.  I look to each of you to help us make 2015 the year of global action.

Thank you.