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Welcome to the United Nations, the soul of the world planted in the soil of America; a nation that epitomizes the spirit of liberty and freedom.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the first Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council, once said that “the UN is the best hope for future peace”. I know she didn’t mean only peace, as in absence of war, but also peace, as in peace of mind, the pursuit of happiness, as Lord Buddha would put it.

Peace of mind, pursuit of happiness is the very essence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hence Eleanor Roosevelt has defined the SDGs before the letter, and for me, this is the best definition that I have ever seen.

The SDGs is a great opportunity for business, I invite you all, especially the private sector, to join us and be trip captains in that phenomenal journey.

These Goals reflect the complexity of sustainable development in the modern era and the scale of challenges to be addressed.

Let me first briefly talk about the challenges that the 2030 Agenda aims to tackle.   

From the 1990s through the first decade of the 21st century, globalization and technological advances raised standards of living worldwide to unprecedented levels. Hundreds of millions of people were lifted out of poverty.

There have been improvements in health, education and other spheres too.

Along with economic progress, there were advances in the expansion of democracy and gains on human rights across all continents.

Despite these positive outcomes, globalization’s benefits have been far from uniform.

Far too many people have not shared in the gains and were left behind. The income of the richest one percent in the world saw twice as much growth as the income of the bottom 50 percent between 1980 and 2016.

Conflict re-emerged with a vengeance; a tripling of major conflicts has occurred since 2010. In 2016 more countries were affected by conflict than at any time in the last 30 years.

Shocks, resulting from economic downturns, conflicts, disease outbreaks and natural hazards have thrown large segments of societies off the path to prosperity.

Climate change adds to volatility, increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

International migration - 258 million people - and rising numbers of forcibly displaced persons - 68.5 million, of which 25.4 million are refugees and the rest are internally displaced persons - have generated uncertainties, where fears of growing inequalities have been on the rise. Let me emphasize at the same time that well managed migration brings profound benefits to receiving and sending countries.

Against this challenging background, and acknowledging the uneven impacts of globalization, the international community has turned to the United Nations to develop a plan towards making globalization more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

It is within this context that in 2015, the UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a universally shared vision for a fair globalization that, in pursuit of prosperity, leaves no one behind while aiming to protect our planet.

It is a powerful global framework to advance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

It is an affirmation that choices can be made to harness the potential of globalization and the importance of multilateralism.

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are not the intellectual product of the UN or select member states; they have evolved from lessons learned over the past several decades.

For instance, the SDGs have built on the lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals and seek to complete the unfinished business such as continued extreme poverty, hunger and exclusion.

The SDGs are, however, more ambitious and broader in scope than any previous development agenda.

The 2030 Agenda sets forth “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. It seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. It envisages a world of universal respect for human rights, equality and nondiscrimination. It affirms explicitly with a dedicated goal that sustainable development requires building peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

The SDGs are universally applicable, everywhere, both North and South, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

The SDGs are integrated and indivisible. Therefore the 2030 Agenda calls for integration beyond silos and sectors and prioritizing actions that move us forward more quickly across a broad range of interlinked goals.

At the United Nations we place sustainable development at the heart of all our work. Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda is also a top priority for my organization, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is the UN’s development agency. We work in 170 countries and territories to help societies achieve sustainable development by eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development and building resilience to crises and shocks.

The UN has a critical role to provide the global public goods to address common challenges including the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, disarmament and non-proliferation, climate change, as well as global health challenges, among many others.

On migration, the international community aims to adopt a Global Compact for Migration (GCM) in December of this year. The UN will support member states’ GCM implementation agenda with a focus on mitigating the adverse drivers of migration, creating conditions for migrants and diaspora to fully contribute to sustainable development and supporting re/integration efforts.

The SDGs also requires countries to “go the last mile” to reach the unreached, addressing the economic, social, and political factors underpinning exclusion. The efforts of the UN support the countries in this regard to benefit the most vulnerable people, delivering security, development and human rights.

Partnerships will make-or-break the 2030 Agenda. We are strengthening our capacity at all levels to step up the UN’s engagement with civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions and others.

There is growing momentum behind the SDGs as more and more leaders put their political weight behind this agenda, civil society support grows, and the private sector recognizes the benefits of engaging.

The SDGs resonate with the private sector more and more because they see the SDGs as a reflection of what/how the world will likely evolve in the future.

The private sector is a critical development partner as a significant source of investment for the SDGs and by adopting business practices that move communities towards inclusive sustainable development.

We see the interest of the private sector in linking investments to sustainability objectives has been growing. So-called “impact investors”, who have the intention to generate environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts alongside financial returns in their decision-making process, hold assets under management of around $22 billion. The private sector’s involvement has also been on the rise in corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic giving, and inclusive business approaches.

The UN and UNDP will broaden and deepen its responsible engagement with the private sector, working with Governments to mobilize private sector capital for domestic investments in the SDGs in accordance with national development priorities.

Thank you for your interest in our work and we look forward to strengthening our collaboration with you as well.


UNDP Around the world