The Secretary General’s remarks to the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
New York, 17 July 2017
Twenty years ago, when I was starting my functions as Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was surfing a wave of optimism. The Cold War had ended, technological prosperity was in full swing, the internet was spreading and there was the idea that globalisation would not only increase global wealth, but that it would trickle down and would benefit everybody in our planet.
Twenty years afterwards, I would say that the picture is mixed. It’s true that globalisation, technological progress have dramatically increased global trade, global wealth, it is true that the number of absolute poor has been reduced and that living conditions have improved all over the world but it is also true that globalisation and technological progress together have been factors of increase of inequality. Eight persons in the world have as much wealth as half of the world population.
At the same time, it is clear that people were left behind in the rust belts of this world, and youth unemployment became a severe problem in different regions of our planet not only undermining the future of those young people but also being an obstacle to the development of their countries and in some situations being a part of the global threat created by the fact that without hope they can easily be recruited by extremist organisations and we see that impact in global terrorism today.
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Now it is true that that has generated a loss of confidence, loss of trust between peoples and government or political establishments, between people and international organisations like the UN, and between people and the idea of globalisation in itself, of global governance, and of multilateral institutions.
I think it is important to recognise that there is a paradox because problems are more and more global, challenges are more and more global, there is no way any country can solve them by itself, and so we need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms, and we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030; because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalisation, it’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again in not only political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.
At the same time, it’s clear that when one looks at today’s economy, the global economies are improving, probably more slowly than we would like, but the areas of fragility are also increasing — political fragility, institutional fragility, but also development fragility, and societal fragility; and fragilities to a large extent are responsible for many of the conflicts today and for the spreading of those conflicts and the linking of those conflicts to the global threat of global terrorism.
And this is why it is true that the agendas of sustainable development and the agendas of preventing [conflict] and sustaining peace need to be linked. But here there is a caveat — that link should not be a pretext to move resources from development to security; on the contrary, that should make us understand the centrality of development in what we do and the need to make sure that with that centrality of development we are able to fully recognise that sustainable and inclusive development is in itself a major factor of prevention of conflict as it is a major factor for the prevention of natural disasters and other aspects in which the resilience of societies is so important today.
And indeed if one looks at the global megatrends — population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world — it is also true that all these megatrends are interacting with each other, are stressing each other. And we have to recognise that climate change became the main accelerator of all other factors.
This is also the moment to clearly say that the link to the Agenda 2030 of sustainable development, there must be a very strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the Paris Agreement and to its implementation with an enhanced ambition because the Paris Agreement by itself is not enough for the objectives that the world needs in relation to global warming. And this is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet but because it is also the right and smart thing to do. We are seeing that the green economy is becoming more and more the economy of the future, that green business is good business and those that will not bet on green economy, on green technologies, will inevitably lose or not gain economic leadership in the years to come.
At the same time it is very important that we recognise that we need not only to be able to respond to the problems of those that are living in societies and that are under government responsibility but that human rights are also the rights of the people on the move, refugees and migrants, and so leaving no one behind will also have to inspire us to find the ways to look into migration with a different perspective, not with a perspective of rejection but understanding that is also an important component in solving global problems and that we need to find more legal avenues of migration and more ways to respect the human rights of migrants to make sure that they are not left behind in today’s world.
We know that the global megatrends are also making more and more people move in our world to prevent unnecessary movements, and to make sure that those movements that take place, take place in a regular way is another very important objective of not leaving anyone behind.
And then there is a central question of funding. And I think it is important to reaffirm today very clearly that developed countries need to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, but that at the same time that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilise more their own resources and that has to do, on one hand, with tax reforms within states but also on mobilising the international community to fight together tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit flows of capital that are today making that more money is coming out of developing countries that the money that goes in through official development assistance.
And at the same time we need to make sure that the international financial institutions are able to leverage resources and to multiply their capacity to fund the implementation of the SDGs and also that we help countries to be able to access global markets, financial markets, and to be able to attract private investment without which it would be absolutely impossible to achieve these goals. And let’s also not only think about the problems of today, but also the problems of tomorrow.
We are facing a fourth industrial revolution, that will have a dramatic] impact in labour markets. And this will be a problem for many developing countries that today rely on cheap manpower as their competitive advantage; and cheap manpower will probably see many jobs destroyed in the near future with robotisation, and other forms of automation… And at the same time a problem for many developed countries — look at the possibility that one day in a country like the US no more drivers might be necessary, no more drivers for cars, for trucks, and that is probably a very important source of employment in all societies in the world.
We need to be able to anticipate these trends, we need to be able to work together countries, international organisations, not to be reacting, but to be foreseeing what is coming and investing in education, in training, in new skills, in the adaptations of the labour markets to be able to cope with the challenges of the future. And for all that we also need to be able to reform, reform at country level, reform at the UN level and other organisations level. Countries will look in different ways depending on different situations, on a country by country basis, into their governance mechanisms, into the way they are able to guarantee the participation of citizens, of businesses and of the civil society in development objectives. In the ways they are able to fight corruption, or to guarantee not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.
And as in the UN we need to be able to understand that even if the UN development system has produced many important contributions namely in the context of the implementation of the [SDGs], we are not fully ready for the new challenges of the present agenda 2030. That is why I presented to ECOSOC a first report on the reform of the UN development system. I will not be repeating here the 38 measures that are included in this first report but just say that there are a few central areas of concern. First, the idea that we need to have at country level empowered resident coordinators and more effective country teams, more coordinated and more able to deliver support to the governments according to the government strategies — because governments and countries are the leaders of the implementation of the agenda — and to be more accountable to those governments at country level. At the same time, to have this level of coordination, transparency, accountability at global level, being in this case accountable to ECOSOC and to the General Assembly of the UN and to consider that gender parity in the UN must also be an instrument in order to support gender mainstreaming, in the application of all policies that relate to the Agenda 2030 and to its objectives from the eradication of poverty to all the different areas, in the different sectors in which we need to be effective.
And finally that funding needs to be in line with the objectives of coherence and the objectives of accountability that I have mentioned and that is why we have the idea to propose a funding compact to guarantee exactly that coherence instead of the dispersion of funding in line that are not taking into account the objectives that in each country, each government is able to put in place to achieve thesustainable development goals.
And I think that looking at this Assembly, one can only be enthusiastic about the fact that there is a very strong commitment not only to the implementation of the agenda but a very strong affirmation of support to multilateral governance as the way to lead the 2030 Agenda respecting the leadership of member states but recognising that only working together we can rebuild the trust that is needed and we can make the Agenda 2030 that factor that brings the fair globalisation the world needs in the present times.
Thank you very much.