Keynote speech - European Development Days

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg on the opening session of European Development Days in Brussel, 7 June 2017.

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Your Majesty, Heads of State and Government, Presidents and leaders of the EU Institutions, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

As Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s group of SDG Advocates, I am grateful to the European Commission for organising the European Development Days and for inviting the SDG Advocates.

It is very inspiring to be here among so many people who are devoted to what I see as the most important issue in the world, namely our common campaign to eradicate poverty while protecting our planet’s environment and climate.

The universal Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by 193 heads of state and government in 2015, will guide our efforts.  

There is still a need for traditional aid and humanitarian assistance in marginalised and conflict-ridden areas of the world. The SDGs, however, take a holistic view of global development, and integrate economic, social and environmental factors.

The 2030 Agenda is truly transformational. It makes clear that all countries of the world, rich and poor alike, have work to do at the national level.

Whether we represent the Government of Norway or Niger, or organisations as diverse as the European Union and Amnesty International, we can and must be a part of the SDG campaign. Similarly, whether we represent big companies like Statoil or the local grocery shop, universities like the London School of Economics or a rural primary school, we can and must be a part of the SDG campaign.

Some of the 17 goals make it very clear that, from the perspective of the SDG framework, we are all developing countries. Take SDG 5 on gender equality, for example. Until we actually meet the targets for gender equality in all areas of society, we all have work to do at the national level. This includes rich and highly developed countries such as my own country Norway.

Gender equality is a human right. If this argument is not sufficiently convincing to leaders I meet, I also remind them of the immensely positive effect that increased gender equality has on a country’s economic growth.

SDG 8 on decent work is another example of how the SDGs apply throughout the world. Youth unemployment is a universal challenge, affecting rich and poor countries alike. About 40 million new jobs have to be created every year just to keep up with the growing number of people of working age worldwide. Good governance and the rule of law are basic preconditions for all investors, public as well as private. Governments and other stakeholders in all countries now need to think innovatively about how to stimulate job creation.

Moreover, there are a host of threats to the common good that put all countries in the same boat. Preventing and combating climate change, epidemics, violent extremism and armed conflicts requires global cooperation. The consequences of not acting together to solve these global ills will harm us all – no matter where on the planet we live.

During the European Development Days, several SDG Advocates will take part in discussions and offer nuanced perspectives on what it will take to achieve the SDGs. We all agree that hard work on all the 17 goals will be needed. This will include efforts to promote quality education for all, good health, gender equality, decent jobs, climate action, peace, justice and good governance at all levels.

To the young people present here today, my message is this: You are the ones who can make poverty history. I often find that if there’s something important to be said, Nelson Mandela has already said it better. Let me therefore end by quoting him: ‘Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation’.

Thank you.