From Global Conversation to Global Action

Statement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015, New York, 25 September 2015.

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Secretary General, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to address this group today, together with the presidents of Kenya and Vietnam. Let me commend the Secretary-General and Helen Clark for their leadership. The UN global conversation shaped the Sustainable Development Goals. Millions of people have been involved. In that way, the SDGs are already a success.

The road to the SDGs was paved with broad consultations. Millions of people have been involved in the largest development dialogue the world has ever known.

In some ways, the SDGs can already be called a success due to its democratic accountability and the active involvement of civil society.

But I would like to quote the famous philosopher Elvis Presley. In one of his timeless hits he asked for “A little less conversation, a little more action -please”. Let’s listen to Elvis – and act now!

As we gear up our efforts on “Agenda 2030”, we should learn from 15 years of experience on the MDGs. We must reinforce strategies that worked well. We must invest more and be innovative in areas where progress has been lagging.

After two years as co-chair of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group, I want to share some observations:

First of all, goals do not by themselves lift people out of poverty. More than ever, the responsibility for sustainable development rests with national governments. There are important innovations in the new goals, for instance on institutions and good governance. And not least on the continued importance of partnerships – also with private sector and civil society.  Let me assure you that Norway will remain a steadfast development partner, with a high level of assistance. I commend the Secretary-General for his leadership in forging partnerships.

Second, we need to break down barriers between sectors. Let me illustrate. Investments in education and health are critical for poverty eradication. And the synergies are strong. We know that every year a girl stays in school beyond primary school, her health prospects improve. She is less likely to marry and have children too early. Educated women have healthier children and are more inclined to send their girls to school. Gender equality is strengthened. When women can participate in the work force, it also boosts economic growth. Health, education and equality for girls: these are priority areas for economic growth as well as human rights.

Third, maybe the most important MDG lesson is that it is next to impossible to make progress in areas affected by crisis and conflict.  We need a change of tack if we are to realize the SDGs. Fragility and conflict creates challenges beyond borders. The civil war in Syria is a tragic case in point. The conflict is producing untold human suffering and pressures, on refugees and neighbouring nations. Pending political solutions, the world must now scale up humanitarian assistance to protect lives and meet urgent needs. This is also an investment in resilience, in long- term human development. Then we must invest more in peace and security. Without stability, no sustainable development. And vice versa.

Finally, we must do more to preserve ecosystems and prevent climate change. The first milestone must be an agreement in Paris. We must step up efforts to clean oceans and preserve fish stocks. We will continue to work with UN and government partners, such as Brazil and Indonesia, to protect forests and biodiversity.

Action starts at home. Norway will do our utmost, at home and abroad. Ending extreme poverty and saving the planet is achievable – if we all pull together in partnerships.

Thank you!