Call to action – Norway's commitment to the SDGs

Oslo, 6 June 2016

Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende's speech at a seminar on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(Check against delivery)

Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen.

It has been said that – for the first time in history – the eradication of poverty is within reach. This is a unique opportunity for our generation. And it is a responsibility that world leaders cannot walk away from.

The 2030 Agenda provides us with the framework we need.

Now we have to fill it with content. We have to back it up with resources.

And we have to move from commitment to action.

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Luckily, we aren't starting from scratch. The MDGs demonstrated that coordinated action makes it possible to turn negative development trends around.

From 1990 to 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty was halved, even though the global population increased by two billion during the same period. Global child mortality has been reduced by over 50 %. Millions of children around the world have gained access to education and better health services.

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But at the same time we are experiencing greater vulnerability. The world is more unpredictable today than it was when the MDGs were launched in 2000. The progress we have achieved is being challenged by slowing economic growth, greater inequality and – in some parts of the world – instability, conflicts and failing states.

More than 100 000 people were killed in war and conflict last year – the highest number for 25 years. Over 60 million people have had to flee their homes – more than at any time since the Second World War. Some 125 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as a result of war, hunger and poverty. And we know that global climate change is adding to the severity of these crises and to the further depletion of natural resources.

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So, we should have no illusions about the challenges ahead. Achieving the SDGs will require an unprecedented collective effort by donor countries, developing countries, the UN, the private sector and civil society alike.

We will all have to reassess our tools and approaches. Let me suggest five priority areas of action:

First, we have to become better at addressing the root causes of poverty.

Let's face it: Poverty is man-made It is not a natural phenomenon that we just have to accept. Poverty, inequality and marginalisation occur in all societies. And only when development brings opportunities to the most vulnerable will we be able to break the circle of poverty.

This means that gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights and access to health and education for all are core elements of sustainable development.

Responding to the social, economic and environmental causes of poverty requires whole of government approaches and broad partnerships across sectors.

Second, we must use our resources more smartly and more strategically.

For some countries, traditional development assistance (ODA) will remain crucial – not least for preventing and responding to humanitarian crises in fragile states and unstable regions.

But in most developing countries, other investments are already far more important for economic growth and poverty reduction than ODA. In 1990, ODA represented 63 percent of the capital income in developing countries. Today it's less than 20 percent. That's why we have to use development assistance in a much more catalytic way, to leverage more investments and enhance domestic resource mobilisation.

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Third, we must do more to promote economic growth and employment opportunities in the least developed countries.

Today, 9 out of 10 jobs in developing countries are in the private sector, and we know that a thriving private sector is essential for developing countries to become middle-income countries.

I am pleased by the active role of the Norwegian private sector in promoting the 2030 Agenda, including by Yara and other companies present here today. This bodes well for the strong partnerships, innovative solutions, new technology and increased investments that will be so vital for sustaining economic growth and creating new jobs in developing countries.

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Fourth, we must recognize that achieving the SDGs requires good governance.

We know that sustainable development and economic growth depends on governments that care about, and are accountable to, their people. Lack of respect for human rights leads to inequality, to marginalization and to poverty.

Civil society groups must be free to organise and speak their minds and to criticize our policies. That's how countries develop, and that's why Norway welcomes the strong involvement of civil society in the 2030 Agenda.

All governments are responsible for ensuring that economic growth benefits society as a whole, and that funds are not illegally brought out of their countries.

Today, the alarming scale of illicit financial flows is a huge threat to development. It is undermining all other efforts to implement the SDGs.

No country is immune to corruption. We must all redouble our efforts to strengthen international tax cooperation and the fight against illicit financial flows that takes resources away from development

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Fifth, strong national leadership is crucial.

Let there be no doubt: Norway is fully committed to the 2030 Agenda, nationally, as well as internationally.

We will seek to ensure that the goals can be implemented across economic, social and environmental sectors.

Consultations with the private sector and with civil society have already shown that there is broad support for a strong and committed Norwegian response.

Norway will be among the first to report progress on the SDGs at the High-level Political Forum in July.

In our report, we will present national and international action on the individual SGDs, as well as crosscutting issues such as the environment and human rights.

The 17 goals and 169 targets will be an important reference for future Norwegian foreign and international development policies.

Norway commits to be a champion for global implementation, and to strengthen the global resolve for action, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, is co-chairing the SDG Advocacy Group together with President Mahama of Ghana.

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It is unacceptable that in 2016, 800 million people live on 1,90 dollars or less per day; 3,1 million children will die of curable diseases and 57 million children are not attending school.

By acting now to implement the SDGs, we can do something about this. We should remind ourselves that the 2030 Agenda is not about charity. It is a win-win formula that will benefit rich and poor countries alike. At the end of the day, it's a question of investing in our own future.

Thank you.