The Deputy Secretary-General — Remarks at Special Meeting of Economic and Social Council “Towards Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Societies through Participation of All”

New York, 23 May 2018

Your Excellency, Ambassador Marie Chatardová, President of the Economic and Social Council,
Excellencies and distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you this morning.

Today’s meeting speaks to the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and I would like to thank Ambassador Chatardová for convening it.

The 2030 Agenda is an agenda of the people, by the people and for the people.

And it is an Agenda to be achieved with the people.

The success of our collective journey to 2030 will greatly depend on how we involve Government, parliaments, local authorities, indigenous peoples, civil society, the scientific and academic community and the private sector. It is therefore our collective responsibility.

In short, the transformation promised will only be achieved by engaging all actors right across society.

In February, I had the privilege of taking part in the preparatory sessions in Prague for today’s Special Meeting.

I left those discussions more convinced than ever as to the importance of participation, consultation and engagement in advancing our collective goals.

We heard how effective public participation can help inform better laws, policies and government programming; better fight corruption and better foster accountability.

We heard how open, inclusive and constructive engagement between sub-national authorities, businesses and civil society groups can give rise to solutions that otherwise would simply not be possible.

And we also heard how deliberative decision-making is an essential element in preserving social cohesion.

As intolerance, marginalization and xenophobia grow in some countries, we must redouble our efforts to engage and listen to the full spectrum of views in society.

The Prague meeting, and an honest assessment of our world today, also show that, often, we put barriers in place that hinder effective participation and we exclude people – especially the most vulnerable among us – from taking part in processes that affect their daily lives.

This must end.

Inclusive sustainable development, rooted in respect for and protection of human rights, is paramount.

It is the foundation for universal prosperity and well-being.

It is our best defence against violent conflict which so rapidly and dramatically erodes development gains.

As you conduct your discussions today, I encourage you to be mindful of five core areas that demand greater attention.

The first relates to the need to foster, in line with SDG 16, an enabling environment for participation – one that supports tolerance towards differing views and public participation in its many forms.

We need responsible leadership, legal frameworks that adhere to human rights standards and greater investment in transparent and accountable institutions.

The second relates to the participation of women.

Over the past year, in particular, we have seen women’s movements exert their influence as powerful agents of change.

We must go further and ensure that women and girls are centrally involved in all our efforts, especially at the country level, to realize the SDGs.

The third area relates to the contribution of young people.

In Prague and elsewhere, I have been able to hear from young people who are incredibly motivated about SDG implementation, who are impatient with those who impede change.

We cannot achieve the change we need at the speed and scale we need without their engagement, their ideas and their leadership.

The fourth area relates to viewing climate action not only as central to our achievement of Agenda 2030, but also as a catalyst of greater participation. Climate action can unlock vast potential economic growth in all regions and for all people. Investing in the green economy, resilience and technology can create jobs and improve disaster risk reduction for the most vulnerable.

The final area relates to processes around SDG implementation.

From the preparation of national implementation plans to reviews conducted in line with the High Level Political Forum, it is essential that these be open and inclusive, that they help expand learning and understanding around the SDGs and that they hear, very clearly, the views of the most vulnerable.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the 2030 Agenda needs the participation of all actors to ensure no one is left behind and that all can enjoy prosperity, dignity and opportunity in a world of peace.

Let us therefore join our efforts for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future.

I wish you a very productive meeting.

Thank you.