4th Annual Growth in Transition Conference: Europe’s Transformation: Where People Matter
Keynote Speech followed by Moderated Discussion/Q & A – BAN KI-MOON
“Sustainable Development: The Pathway to the Future”
Location: Austrian Center Vienna, Bruno-Kreisky-Platz 1, 1220 Vienna
Madam Minister Elisabeth Köstinger,
Mr. Wolfgang Burtscher, Deputy Director-General of DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission,
Ms. Stientje Van Veldhoven, Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you today for the 4th Annual Growth in Transition Conference.
I thank Minister Köstinger for her invitation to attend this conference and for the opportunity to share my insights on the sustainable development goals as the pathway for our common future. I also appreciate the leadership of Chancellor Kurz as the Chairperson of the European Union at this time.
It is indeed a timely topic and one which we all should take to heart with a strong ownership in our work, no matter the field or level you are engaging.
Today, we live in a time of great growth and transition globally.
This time is also characterized by heightened uncertainties, rise of populism worldwide, a widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” exponential population growth, climate hazards, vast migratory movements and new risks, some more impending than others.
Challenges to the post-modern international order and our multilateral institutions are being felt in a variety of spheres.
International treaties and agreements are being tested and multilateralism is strained as countries become more protectionist and nationalist.
However, this period in history is also defined by impressive and innovative advancements as well as by a growing sense of interconnectivity between societies around the globe.
It is now easier than ever before to be connected, access information, travel and trade and, with the help of internet, we are privileged to have endless information at our fingertips.
New technologies are altering how we communicate, live, and work. Sweeping advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, bio- and nanotechnology, and robotics will alter the future of our countries, cities, businesses, and interpersonal relationships.
At a time characterized by waning internationalism and transition, we must continue to work together through expanded partnerships and cooperation as global citizens. We must continue to commit to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and hold up the notion of global citizenship to help cope with these seemingly insurmountable challenges.
The United Nations, during the last seven decades, has presented many important visions and promises to the world. But to my knowledge, the Sustainable Development Goals are by far the most ambitious, most discussed, and most far-reaching vision that the United Nations has ever presented to the world. This is ours, it’s not the United Nations’, now it is in your hands. In everybody’s hands.
Having said this, I will now address three key areas. First, I will discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the need to see them achieved for all of us.
Second, I will address the most serious challenge we currently face globally: the climate change phenomenon.
Last, I will speak about the need for expanded youth participation and the role of global citizenship in forging ahead and in building a more sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous world for us all. This is the pathway to our common future.
To meet the challenges the world faces, sustainable development must become the hallmark of this era. It must be the virtue that characterizes our actions.
The picture of a sustainable world is envisioned in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030, showing the path to sustainable development and peaceful co-prosperity of our planet.
Before the SDGs, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made strides in the field of global development and undoubtedly improved human welfare around the world.
However, there is still much work left to be done.
First, sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising future generations and our planet.
We cannot consume all what we need today. We need to leave some and to make sure that the succeeding generations will use the planet’s resources equally and fairly.
Secondly, the sustainability means a world free from poverty where individuals can enjoy decent work without harming the earth’s essential ecosystems and resources.
A sustainable world is one where people can stay healthy and are guaranteed the food and water they need.
It means a world where everyone can access clean energy.
And it also means that women and girls are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.
To achieve sustainable development, it requires the active participation of us all, especially of women and youth, those whose futures most depend on the realization of our Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, without the engagement of women and youth, we will not succeed.
Again, during my time as Secretary-General, for the first time in UN history, I established UN Women and again for the first time, I appointed a Special Envoy for Youth. Never in previous United Nation’s history have we focused on these. Now, I am very glad that these two issues, women and youth, are being supported by world leaders.
People often say that half the world is made up of women. There is a book written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn where they describe that “half the sky are women.” If we do not give them more, they should at least be given equal and fairly. This has been my consistent message to the world.
Therefore, we require their active engagement should we hope to realize our goals and to achieve sustainable development.
This year, as was introduced, I co-founded a new initiative in partnership with the former Federal President of Austria Heinz Fischer, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. Why global citizens? This is quite vague in terms of an academic definition. What I observed in the past 10 years, is that largely world leaders, particularly political leaders, come to the United Nations and speak grandeurs and ambitious goals, saying that they are global citizens, but as soon as they return to their countries, they immediately become national leaders. I have seen few global leaders, particularly at this time and it’s the 21st century. So, I thought together with Heinz Fischer, that we must foster global citizenship among the people, particularly political leaders and business leaders.
Through leadership, mediation, advocacy, and education, the Centre aims to empower those whose voices often go unheard, offering them the opportunities and potential to drive sustainable development for themselves and for future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is essential that we acknowledge climate change and that we find sustainable solutions to mitigate and to adapt to its repercussions.
Climate change is altering the character of our planet.
We must increase our collective efforts to prepare and protect ourselves, our communities, and our world from existential threats that climate change will bring. We are running out of time.
I often say that nature does not wait for us. Nature does not negotiate with human-beings. It is us as human-beings that must negotiate with nature. We must harmonize the way we live with nature. Minister Köstinger already quoted what I often say, there is no “planet B;” therefore, we don’t have a “plan B” we only have “plan A.” To live harmoniously with nature has been my consistent message.
Even here in Vienna, I was told that you have experienced the hottest summer since weather was recorded. We have seen extreme patterns in weather. Wild fires, still it is happening in California. Still at this moment. Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons with strong intensity.
These weather patterns are clear warnings from nature that we must adapt to the changing climate phenomenon.
On the global stage, the world has seen mounting and devastating natural disasters. It’s not usual. Again, this is a clear message.
These and other natural disasters are not going to cease their destructive and deadly course.
Last month, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, we launched a Global Commission on Adaptation. Why adaptation? We have done some for mitigation because we had to do it. When there’s destruction, you have to rebuild. But we have not been doing much to adapt to climate change. There is much more investment worldwide, for example in 2015 and 2016, in mitigating climate. The records say we spent around 380 billion dollars on mitigating climate change these years and only 20 billion were spent on adaptation. There must be equal efforts – mitigation and adaptation must go together.
The importance of adaptation has become clearer now, and that’s why, with the chairmanship that I’m taking with the co-chairmanship of Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva who used to be Vice-President of EU and now CEO of World Bank, we are leading this commission with strong political support from at least 17 heads of state and governments. From the European Union, the Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May and Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel and of course Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, are on board. Now leaders of China, Xi Jinping, and of India, Narendra Modi, are also supporting us. There are also many African leaders like in Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa, and in Latin America, Mexico, Argentina and Costa Rica, who are also on board.
Also, as you may know, I am acting as President and Chairman of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). This is an international organization with 30 Member States.
So, with all this together, I am continuing what I used to do as Secretary-General. The Paris Climate Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, and gender empowerment, are the three most passionate positions that the United Nations presented to the world during my time as Secretary-General. I do not say that it was my own achievement. There are many achievements where Members States have been working together with a sense of unity. This is the time that we must implement, with a strong sense of passion and compassionate leadership among us.
In that regard, I really appreciate that we are working together today.
On September 25th, 2015 I was deeply moved. I never felt that kind of excitement. I was deeply touched by the long standing-ovation and applause we received by world leaders. I didn’t see any world leader, at that moment, with differing ideas. Mostly, this world is divided.
In Vienna you must have seen many beautiful concerts and operas. At the end of the concert, many people stand up and have an extended ovation. But never in my life, have I seen such a long and standing-ovation by world leaders. They were one, united. This is what we want to see among world leaders. Unfortunately, they are too often divided, starting from the biggest country in the world.
With the transformative advancement of science and technology, now everything is moving at lightening speed. We are now talking about artificial intelligence, bio and nanotechnologies and robotics. With the advent of this transformative advancement of science and technology, why are political leaders divided? Why are they not able to implement sustainable development and why are they divided regarding this common threat to our humanity and our planet?
In that regard, I see strong passion among you this morning. So lets work together and lets be united in implementing what has already been given to us: the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.
These are the answers to our common prosperity and the future for all of us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us work together to make this world better for all.
I thank you very much.