Speech at High Level SDG Business Forum Lucheon

UN Headquarters, New York City, 19 July 2016

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg today introduced junior journalists Håkon and Sunniva from Norwegian daily Aftenposten to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at UN Headquarters in New York City. Far left: Norway's UN Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen. (Photo: David Shapiro/UN).

 

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Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

With the Sustainable Development Goals we have a roadmap to the future we want.

But action is needed.

In a UN meeting on the SDGs last September, I quoted Elvis Presley saying we needed: ‘a little less conversation – a little more action please’.

This time, I think it’s appropriate to refer to Paul McCartney’s ‘long and winding road’.

Some have described the SDGs as ‘a roadmap for good business growth for the next 15 years’.

So buckle up for the ride. We are going the same way.

There is a snag however. The goals tell us what to do – but not how to do it.

We are helped by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda that provides guidance on how to implement the SDGs. We have also learnt some important lessons from the Millennium Development campaign. Here are the three most important ones:

First: Setting goals does not in itself lift people out of poverty or provide quality education. Results are achieved when political will is translated into plans that are financed and implemented.

Second: Progress is faster when governments, international organisations, the private sector, civil society and academia form partnerships and work together.

Third: Crises and conflicts are a major obstacle that has to be overcome.

The universal SDG agenda is ambitious, and the innovative potential of business will be a crucial driver for progress.

We have already seen successful public–private partnerships for improving global maternal and child health, protecting the world’s rainforests and investing in clean energy.

Partnerships with the private sector are also key for achieving quality education for all.

Let me give you one concrete example.

Currently, 2.8 million Syrian children are out of school within their country or in the region. Many more are experiencing learning difficulties because of the long-term stress they have suffered.

Norway and USAID have engaged in a partnership with the mobile network operator Orange, among others.

The purpose is to develop a smartphone app that can help Syrian children learn to read and improve their psychosocial situation.

The conflict in Syria is but one of several global challenges that we need to address within an SDG approach. Millions of people are suffering due to other conflicts. Youth employment is rampant. Global warming is an issue of serious concern.

Achieving our goals with such challenges at hand requires strong ownership, firm leadership and effective partnerships globally, nationally and locally.

The SDG Business Forum has demonstrated clear ownership of the SDG agenda. I have also witnessed leadership, and readiness to engage in partnerships for achieving the Goals.

I will do my part as Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group.

Norway has identified its own challenges and priorities in our Voluntary National Review, which I presented to the High Level Political Forum earlier today.

The SDGs indicate the political responses and risk management strategies needed as well as making clear business cases for the private sector.

Paul Polman’s remark, ‘Sustainability after all is no longer a niche issue’ is accurate. Businesses need to embed sustainability and the SDGs at the heart of their business operations.

In markets where there is increasing interest in sustainable consumption, doing business as usual will be bad for business. Aligning business strategies with the SDGs on the other hand will keep companies competitive.

In line with this year’s Global Opportunity Report, I would argue that ‘global goals are golden opportunities’.

It is evident that governments will depend on a thriving private sector in order to achieve the SDGs. At the same time, the private sector needs a framework of good governance and the rule of law to make investments in sustainability profitable.

No one has better grasped the nature of the long and winding road to the future we want than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. I commend him for his leadership that resulted in 193 countries adopting the most ambitious global agenda the world has ever seen.

In conclusion, as a head of government speaking to business leaders, I hope our symbiotic journey will be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s wise words – I quote: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

Thank you.