St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

16 June 2016

Secretary-General’s remarks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum [as delivered]

I would like, first of all, to thank Mr Sergey Prikhodko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, for organizing and inviting me to this very important St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. And I would like also to say thank you and welcome to all the distinguished leaders on the podium and to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning.  [Dobry den]

It is a great pleasure to visit this beautiful city and participate in this very important gathering today. We are gathering at a very important moment, when many people may be frustrated that we are living in an era of peril and many challenges. But at the same time, in a positive way, we can say that we are living with some great visions and hope for the better future. For example, last year, 2015, the world leaders have taken four very important visions and commitments. First, they came up with the Disaster Risk Reduction Framework in Sendai, then the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development and, most importantly, two visions - the Sustainable Development Goals with the 17 Goals aiming by 2030 and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

These four visions and frameworks give us quite a big sense of hope and expectation. I know that the main purpose of this Economic Forum is [to provide] a place where we can discuss these matters together. Our shared challenge is to translate these visions into action as soon as possible, at the latest by 2030. 

The Russian Federation, as a founding member of the UN and as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a very important role to play and I really count heavily on the leadership of the Russian Federation.

I thank the Russian Federation, which has participated in the Paris meeting and signed this agreement on climate change on April 22nd. My message, strong as ever, to all of you – whichever country you may be coming from – is that that you should make sure that this Paris agreement should be ratified and joined as soon as possible. By the end of this year we need 55 countries and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted for to make this climate change agreement come into effect. That is most important. I am really asking that, through this SPIEF, we should be committed to make green economy, low-carbon economy. That is the answer and vision.

I also urge you to continue to diversify. Particularly those countries, including Russia, that have been dependant on high commodity prices, [such those of] gas or petroleum. I think it will be very important to diversify your economic patterns and policies.  

This year’s St. Petersburg Forum rightly includes a session on “life after oil”. I have no doubt that Russia’s engineers and entrepreneurs can help the world to usher in a new energy future.

There is also an urgent need to protect Russia’s vast forests. This are kind of the lungs, with the Brazilian forests, Central African Republic’s, Indonesia’s – there are many countries that provide such a fresh air and take all those greenhouse gas carbons into those forests. So it is important to prevent illegal loggings and preserve these vast forests.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations continues to forge ever stronger ties with the private sector. It is important that governments have good plans and visions with businesses and business communities need to use their own financial resources and invest wisely into sustainable paths.

And also we need to work very closely with civil society. The United Nations has initiated what is known as UN Global Compact. It has about 8,000 major companies around the world. In Russia, more than 100 big companies have become the members of this UN Global Compact. This Global Compact has about 10 principles. Starting from labour standards, management and labour relationship, environmental protection, human rights, anti-corruption issues, good governance, these are the basic principles, which not only business communities, but our societies should adhere to.    

The 2030 Agenda gives us new arenas in which to work together. Over the past 15 years now, we had to make sure that there is no abject poverty, there is no gender inequality. There should be gender equality by 2030. It is also important to make sure that there should be nobody, not a single person, who will be left behind. So everybody should be put on board. This is a very ambitious vision to put all 7 billion people and our planet Earth onto sustainable path.     

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is also important that we need to have good infrastructures. And I know that the Russian government is very closely working with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as well as the New Development Bank.

I would also like to stress the critical importance of further economic integration and cooperation in this region.  At the moment, however, we see countries breaking ties and building new barriers. History tells us that this is not the right direction for Europe. We need to strengthen ties and build bridges, instead of building walls.

The United Nations is well placed to facilitate this dialogue. We are working very closely through the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe with the European Union, as well as all other European countries.

The world needs a Europe in 2030 with more trade, more transport, more tourism – and more cooperation. This will help us to achieve sustainable development. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me also address some very important issue that will really make our society economically and socially prosperous and safer. And that is what we have to do to prevent and counter terrorism and extremism. We have been suffering a lot, too much. We cannot let this kind of a situation continue; that is why we fully support coalitions fighting in Syria against Da’esh but at the same time it is important to prevent why this extremism and terrorism happens, we need to address the root causes.

I have presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations about 70 recommendations [plus], which the Member States will very carefully analyse and apply to their circumstances. Not all the recommendations may be necessary for all the countries, but there are clearly some of them, depending on the circumstances of each and every Member State, which might be needed. I hope that the General Assembly will fully support my proposal and I urge you to consider these recommendations very carefully in your national agenda in defeating and preventing extremism and terrorism.

Another important issue is that governments should work very closely with the civil society, not to mention business communities. But I am deeply concerned by the escalating pressures being faced by civil societies in many parts of the world. Restrictive laws, infringing on the rights of media and freedom of expression, and also there is a strong very unlawful restrictions on the human rights defenders and NGOs. Security crackdowns, arbitrary arrests, harsh prison sentences, etc. This shrinking political space for civil society, that [is what] really hampers smooth and sustainable development of our societies. The silencing of the media only quiets the voices that we need to hold leaders accountable. When civil society can play its full role, all of society benefits.

And lastly, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know that the government of Russia has initiated studies for economic reform, which is widely recognized as necessary. I am convinced that Russian civil society can play an active role in working together with the government, informing and reforming this economic system. The UN has tools, means, resources and expertise to offer in supporting civil society’s efforts here and around the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These are the times of turmoil, as I said, but above all this remains an era of opportunity. If we are united, I am sure that the economic and social transformation into a sustainable pathway will really help us in overcoming all these crises.

Let’s work together to make this world better.

I really appreciate this opportunity.

Thank you very much. [Bolshoye Spasiba]