SDG Conference Bergen

Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Key Note Address at SDG Conference Bergen, University of Bergen 9 February 2018.

Prime Minister Solberg giving her speech at SDG Conference Bergen.
Prime Minister Solberg at SDG Conference Bergen 9 February 2018. Credit: Eivind Senneset, UiB

Thank you so much for the invitation and for the warm welcome.

I am always happy to come back to the University of Bergen.

Today I am especially happy to be here.

Because this university is taking leadership. By dedicating its academic excellence and engaged student body to the topic of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals shared across the globe.

Goals that are at the top of my political agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world is not a series of events. The world consists of megatrends and more regional and national trends. Challenges and opportunities.

In our interconnected world there is nowhere to hide. 

Lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, and lack of hope in parts of Africa, also affect Europe. In the form of security challenges on our doorstep. Or in the form of waves of migration.

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 the global ills will harm us all – no matter where on the planet we live.

Fortunately, cooperation is moving forward.

Three years ago, in 2015 the world came together in a series of meetings addressing the megatrends that challenge us globally. Challenges that can only be solved through cooperation:

At the UN in New York, 193 heads of state and governmentadopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A roadmap to the future of a fed, clothed, educated and working global population in a rapid changing political and physical environment. I will get back to some of the goals and the global challenges.

In Addis Abeba the same year, we established the all important Action Agenda for Financing for Development. At this meeting, financing was at the centre. The need to mobilize resources. Not only from aid but also from private investment and public funding from developing countries themselves. The need for fair taxation, good governance and the end to corruption.

Thirdly, and more famously, we met in Paris and against the odds managed to agree on global goals and measures to address climate change. We met up again in 2017 to launch a series of follow up initiatives.

“We” being the world leaders, doing what we should: setting the targets and benchmarks, agreeing on the direction for legislation and policymaking, that eventually need to be made on the regional or national level. This is what united those three meetings: taking action, not just delivering rhetoric.

The megatrends are not just problems, they are also hugely positive developments for humanity. But, standing in a particular place on the globe, they might be hard to see:

Extreme poverty is halved since 1990, a billion people have been lifted out of poverty. This trend continues.

Literacy rates are growing, and more girls go to school than ever before.

People are living longer in many parts of the world.

Child mortality rates are falling.

People are getting a better education and have better health.

Economic growth is no longer a Western phenomenon. There have been tremendous technological advances. And last but not least, in most regions there are fewer wars than before. 

On the other hand, here are a few paradoxes for you:

Economic integration has helped to lift millions out of poverty and created more welfare for most.  Yet economic and political integration is losing support in parts of the world.

The world as a whole has never experienced less extreme poverty and hunger. But there are now more refugees and internally displaced people than at any other time since World War II.

Today, almost every individual on the planet has access to a mobile phone. At the same time, millions of people still lack access to electricity and clean water.  

As we speak, athletes from all continents are making new friends at the Olympic village in South Korea. A mere 100 kilometres away, North Korea’s nuclear weapon programme is creating global fear and tension.

A world of promising developments, but also challenges.

 

The 17 SDG goals at the same time name the challenges and provide the solutions to the paradoxing megatrends, both at the global and local level.

That is why we politicians needs to take them down from the colourful chart, and put them at the core of our legislative and executive action, across borders and within. Let me give you some, perhaps obvious, but telling examples:

Mass migration is a major challenge to stability in any society.

Treating the symptoms by crisis management will not help either the migrating masses searching for better lives nor  the receiving states: What we need to do is create jobs, livelihoods and prosperity where people live. In our part of the world that means developing poor parts of Africa through implementing the SDGs. I was happy to be with the G20 countries in 2017 when we approved the German-led Compact for Africa. It is not enough, but it is a big step in the right direction.

Another major issue obstacle to development is corruption. Panama Papers and other scandals have revealed the scope of the problem. We need, at all levels, to come down hard on corruption and work closely to ensure that we have transparency in all economic transactions. SDG 10 is about inequality. When economies grow, and inequality grows with it, there may be several causes. Corruption is certainly a part of the picture.

Youth unemployment is another sweeping problem: 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. SDG 8 adresses that.

And we will not get there unless we also fight violent extremism in the poorest countries – and at home.

A closely related goal is SDG 4, which calls for inclusive quality education. Not dropping out of school is just as important for the future prospects of a Norwegian boy as it is for a girl in Niger.

The commission for global education, led by Gordon Brown, and the supporting three mechanisms of financing is one more example of global action. But, it must eventually be implemented locally. By those who finance externally. And, more importantly, by each country’s own investment into education for all. This is also the case for poorer countries. They have to show that education is close to their heart too.

In fact, it is all about resource mobilisation. Part of that is stopping the plundering of resources and instead setting them to work for a bigger part of the world’s population.

Let me give you a good example that everyone can learn from.

Rwanda was a country with high levels of child mortality.

The government increased health spending. And set into place a rigorous programme; multiplying the number of community health workers, introducing health insurance coverage and systematic learning from evidence, from mistakes and successes. An example that I saw in Rwanda in 2014; every death of a mother or child was reported and looked into its cause. To understand, learn and improve.

Also, they recognised the strong links between children’s health and sustainable development. Increased investment in education, particularly for girls, as well as, nutrition, water and sanitation are an important part of this story.

The result of mobilizing resources in Rwanda in this way is tremendous. It resulted in a two-thirds drop in child mortality. Hundreds of thousands of children’s lives have been saved.

Mobilizing resources is important. But, we also need to see innovation, new working methods and better solutions.

In 2015, when Bill Gates was asked how we would be able to reach the Sustainable Development Goals – since they were so all-encompassing and the cost seemed huge?

He answered in one word. Innovation.

That is what we need.

I share that belief. And for that reason universities, academia and researchers play a key role. We will not be able to move ahead at the pace we need, if we do not harness these resources. Creative environments such as these are needed to break barriers and move ahead in all areas, such as green technology, health, governance. To mention a few.

But public research is not enough, we also need to engage the private sector for breakthrough technologies and working methods. Vaccination is a good example.

And it is why it is so important to engage young people, such as students in the SDG work. We need their creativity.

This is what goal 17 is all about: We have to do it together. I believe that is a phrase from High School Musical. Maybe more familiar to the students in the audience.

 

Since 2016, I have co-chaired the UN Secretary-Generals’ group of SDG advocates. I am pleased to have President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana as fellow co-chair.

The other 15 advocates come from all over the world and have a wide range of backgrounds.

The group’s job is to make it clear that the campaign to achieve the SDGs is radically different from traditional development aid agendas.

The 17 goals make it very clear that, from the perspective of the SDG framework, we are all developing countries.

The SDGs take a holistic view of global development, and integrate economic, social and environmental factors.

It makes clear that all countries of the world, rich and poor alike, have work to do at the national level.

I was surprised when we reported to the UN on how Norway does on the SDGs and were open about not having reached all the goals. Other countries thought they had reached them all. Norway is often ranked as number one on the development index, but we still have work to do on the SDGs.

Even though we can see that all countries are in a development process, development aid is still a necessary catalyst for SDG action in the most marginalised or conflict affected areas.

In our case, Norway puts the SDGs as the guidelines for our development aid, as shown in last year’s white paper to Parliament.

Again, one of the things that makes the period we are living in unique is the fact that we are so dependent on each other. Developing countries are dependent on our achieving the SDGs, not least in the area of climate change.

It will be difficult for many countries to break out of fragility, if the effects of climate change are destroying livelihoods, exacerbating conflicts and forcing people to flee their homes.  

That is why we must help each other to reach the goals. We must address the causes of poverty. And we must create economic growth and ensure that this growth benefits us all.

If we are to succeed in this, we must constantly adjust the way we carry out development cooperation. In the years ahead, we expect the vast majority of those living in extreme poverty to be in fragile states and regions.

At the same time, fewer and fewer countries will be dependent on aid. That’s good.  This will give us the opportunity to concentrate our efforts on fewer countries and target our support towards areas where it is most needed.  

Nevertheless, aid alone will not be enough. Other sources of finance are likely to become more important.

This will have consequences for the way we use funds.

We must make sure that aid complements and triggers other sources of finance.

The business sector is the main engine of employment and development worldwide. Good governance and security are essential for attracting investments and ensuring further development. 

Nicolai Astrup, my minister for development, will go deeper into the details on how the SDGs shape our development policies.

 

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals also includes finishing the unfinished business from the Millennium Development Goals.

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.

And to the young people present here today, my message is this: You are the ones who can make poverty history. We made great steps from 2000 to 2015, but there is still much to be done. There is a real hope that we can eradicate poverty.

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.

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