Brussels, Belgium

15 June 2016

Secretary-General’s remarks at Asia Society Dialogue event [as prepared for delivery]

I thank Their Majesties for hosting us and for being such strong supporters of the United Nations.  I thank you both for the decoration you have just bestowed on me.

Queen Mathilde, we are honoured to have you on board as an Advocate for the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals.  Thank you for agreeing to add your voice to keep this shared vision in focus and help ensure that no one is left behind.

I am grateful to Belgium for helping to shape the two milestones of 2015 – the Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on climate change.   I am pleased to note that in 2016, Belgium has both signed the climate agreement and aligned its development plans to support the new framework.

Let me also note that this is my first visit to Brussels since the terrorist attacks in March.  I reiterate my condolences to the families of the victims, and to the Government of Belgium and other Member States whose citizens were caught up in these horrific acts. 

I would also like to thank the Asia Society for being such a good partner of the United Nations.  Prime Minister Rudd, thank you for sharing the conclusions of your discussions over the past two days.  Allow me now to share a few thoughts of my own.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Asia is a powerful example of the benefits of development, as well as the challenges associated with it.

The region has come a long way from the time, just one generation ago, when more than half its population lived in extreme poverty.

Asia’s economies are now among the engines of the world. Democratic reforms are under way in many countries.

Despite these achievements, Asia, together with Europe and the United States, also faces formidable challenges.

Growth and prosperity are not sufficiently inclusive and sustainable. Inequality and youth unemployment are on the rise.  Polluted mega-cities face the strains of rapid growth.  Competing territorial claims and unresolved tensions of the past pose serious risks.

We are at a moment of great significance.

Globally we have the tools to eliminate poverty and advance development for all.

With remarkable technological capacities and great power in all realms, Asia, Europe and the United States are well placed to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet. 

I see three areas where Asia, Europe and the United States can come together and make a decisive difference.

First, climate action. 

As of today, 177 Parties have signed the Paris Agreement, and 17 have ratified it. 
I strongly encourage all countries to join or ratify the agreement as soon as possible.

While Asia accounts for an enormous proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, the region is also a global leader on solar power and other green solutions.

We are on the cusp of a new era of low-carbon prosperity.

To help advance the process, I will convene an event during the September high-level week of the General Assembly for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Asia is also at the heart of our hopes for realizing the great promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is my second appeal.

Robust economic growth in Asia enabled the world to cut poverty by half and achieve the first Millennium Development Goal.

The new agenda builds on those gains. 

It adds goals on oceans, energy and other crucial areas.

With Goal 16 on justice, governance and institutions, the agenda underscores the links between development, peace and human rights.
The core promise of the framework -- to “leave no one behind” -- is another conceptual leap.  The emphasis is no longer on fast economic growth, but on inclusive and sustainable development. 

The goals apply to all societies.  Even the wealthiest countries have yet to fully empower women or eliminate discrimination.  In a very strong sense, all nations are developing nations.

As Asia, Europe and the United States reach new free trade agreements and intensify economic cooperation, the SDGs need to become our quality standard and barometer of success.  As the three continents make massive investments in infrastructure, they should do so with sustainability firmly in mind; otherwise, bad practices will be locked in for decades to come.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Humanitarian needs today are massive and rising. 

That is why my third appeal to the United States, Europe and Asia is to work together to fortify humanitarian action. 

Today’s refugee crisis is not only a crisis of numbers; it is a crisis of solidarity. 

With equitable responsibility sharing, there would be no crisis for the developing countries that are hosting millions of people fleeing war and persecution. 

And with the wealth that exists in Asia, Europe and the United States, help is affordable not just in financial terms, but also politically, culturally and societally. 

Yet too often, the sense of a threat dominates public discourse even though we know that those who seek refuge bring strengths that enrich us all -- innovation, dynamism, gains to our economies, and cultural richness. 

On September 19, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting to address large movements of refugees and migrants for the longer term.

Last month’s World Humanitarian Summit was a major step in addressing today’s suffering and instability.

It also issued a clarion call for us to prioritize the peaceful resolution of conflict and the prevention of violence.  We must all do far more to tackle governance failures, violations of human rights and other root causes before they escalate. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To address these challenges, Member States need better frameworks and rules for the many issues that transcend borders.

We need our global institutions to produce better, quicker, more lasting results. 
And we need to move in these new directions while preserving the universal values on which our current institutions are based.

Global cooperation is essential.  But across the world, one can also see worrying tendencies to look inward -- or strike outward -- when pressure mounts.

The most important dynamics of the international community today are no longer between developed and developing countries, East and West, or North and South.  Instead, we are unified in the challenges we face and in the potential we have. We should think of ourselves as one humanity with a shared responsibility.

Thank you.