Sustainable Development - Making Globalisation Work for People and the Planet

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at Peking University in Beijing, 10 April 2017.

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Excellensies, students, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for welcoming me here at Peking University today.

I would like to thank The Chair of The university council Professor
Hao Ping and The president Professor Lin Jianhua for this opportunity to share some thoughts about global issues.

Being here at Peking University, I would first of all like to acknowledge China’s increasing share of global knowledge production.

China is an important partner for Norway in higher education and research cooperation.

We have many areas of mutual interest where we can and should increase our cooperation. 

Such as climate and the environment, polar research, aquaculture, energy, agriculture, and social sciences.

Together we can make important contributions to scientific development – for the greater good not only for our two countries – but also globally.

Peking University has many achievements to be proud of. Let me exemplify this by paying tribute to Tu Youyou. She graduated from this university in 1954. Her innovative research led to important breakthroughs in tropical medicine and the treatment of malaria. Millions of lives have been saved as a result.

I chose to mention Tu Youyou because I also wanted to highlight the importance of gender equality.

Both as a politician and as a woman, I will always also associate Beijing with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

It laid down the principle of mainstreaming gender equality in all dimensions of human activity. Thus it set the gold standard for gender equality, and enabled this agenda to take a quantum leap.

Students,

As co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocates, it is very important for me to interact with young people.

Young people are change-makers.

Every generation makes its mark on history.

And there is no shortage of global challenges for you to engage in.

Your generation has a fair chance of being remembered for eradicating poverty and stopping harmful climate change.  

I there are a number of reasons for this:

-      Youth around the world today are better educated than any previous generation.

-      You are an innovative generation.

-      You grasp the essence of the circular economy

-      Through internet, you have instant access to information at a level completely unthinkable only a generation ago.

-      You can also broadcast your ideas, views and concerns globally and instantly.

Most current challenges are not new, however. Poverty, inequality, hunger, crisis, conflict and disease have been with us throughout history.

One big difference between today’s world and the pre-industrial world is the speed and force of globalisation.

Make no mistake – globalisation is here to stay. And it is crucial for global progress and economic growth.

We need more and closer cooperation across the world – not less.

We must manage globalisation – not fight it.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this January, President Xi Jinping put this point very well, and I quote: ’Economic globalisation has powered global growth and facilitated movement of goods and capital, advances in science, technology and civilisation, and interactions among peoples.’

In the same speech, President Xi Jinping went on to say, and again I quote: ’We should adapt to – and guide economic globalisation, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations.’

There is no doubt that unregulated globalisation can deepen poverty, widen inequality, trigger new conflicts, propel pandemics and fuel harmful climate change.

So, the important question is: How can we manage globalisation to the benefit of everyone while protecting our environment and climate?

I believe the answer is: the 2030 Agenda and achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs.

When the 193 heads of state and government adopted the SDGs at the UN in September 2015, it was against the backdrop of unregulated globalisation.

The SDGs are a roadmap to the future we want – also in terms of managing globalisation.

That said, a roadmap will only show us the way. It will not take us where we want to go. We as nations and people have to work hard, day by day, in order to reach the 17 goals.

China is certainly working hard. As President Xi Jinping highlighted in Davos, China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty.

Estimates by Yale University, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, show that China’s contribution to world economic growth is significantly larger than that of the US, the EU and Japan put together.

China has assisted more than 120 countries in their development process [through South–South cooperation].

I would also like to applaud China for rallying the G20 group of countries around the Hangzhou Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Let me turn now to some reflections on how we can achieve the SDGs and inclusive globalisation. I will draw on lessons learned as Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocates for the Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs) and from my current work for the SDGs.   

First, we must exploit the synergies between goals.

The 17 SDGs are interlinked. This means that progress on one goal will have positive effects on several other goals.

As we are here at this prestigious learning institution, I will use the goal of quality education for all – SDG 4 – as a starting point.

Education is a universal right. It is the key to unlocking opportunities for all, so that everyone can enjoy a better life.

Ensuring that all people can enjoy their right to education is a vital component in good governance at all levels – SDG 16.

Education for all is fundamental to eradicating poverty – SDG 1; and to reducing inequality – SDG 10.

Quality education, including technical and vocational training, will also help people to benefit from globalisation.

But we must ensure that education provides young people with the qualifications they need in an increasingly globalised labour market. This is crucial in order to prevent youth employment. 

So it is clear that the goal on education is also linked to SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth.

And education for all girls and boys is obviously crucial for gender equality – SDG 5.

Something that may be less obvious is the fact that quality education reinforces progress in health – SDG 3. This is particularly true for girls. Research shows that the longer a girl attends school the better her health. The differences are significant. Delaying her first pregnancy is one crucial factor. Moreover, if you educate a girl, she will take charge of her life, educate her children, contribute to progress in her community, and propel her nation forward.

Education is truly a gift that keeps on giving.  

To assure you that what I say as an SDG Advocate tallies with what I do as Prime Minister of Norway, let me mention that my Government has doubled its funding for global education since it took office in 2013.

At the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Bonn this year, Norway invited all G20 countries, including China, to join efforts to strengthen global funding for education.

This initiative was a follow up of recommendations by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, which I launched in 2015, together with the Director-General of UNESCO and the Presidents of Chile, Indonesia and Malawi.

Turning to my second point:  We need to encourage innovation and innovative partnerships.  

Innovation made globalisation possible. And innovation will help us manage globalisation in a good way.

I am pleased to note that China is actively pursuing an innovation-driven development strategy under its current five-year plans.

Today people, money, goods, jobs, conflicts, infectious diseases and pollution are moving faster across borders and continents.

This means that innovative ideas and partnerships must move even faster.

Let me use the example of transport. Transport is crucial for our globalised world. But it consumes enormous amounts of energy – mainly from fossil fuels.

We must stop our economic activity from damaging the environment and the climate. And we need innovation to do so.

It is difficult to talk about innovative ideas with young people, because the examples we use tend to be ’so yesterday’. Let me try anyway.

A few of years ago, 3D printing was something we read about in science fiction. Now you can 3D print houses. This of course requires considerable energy, but it is an inspiring development.

I am confident that the market for innovative developments that boost sustainability will grow faster than other markets. This means that innovative ideas will be attractive to finance and business partners, and can have a good chance of being commercialised and of making a difference globally.

However, if market forces are not strong enough, initially, for a good idea to take off, partnerships involving for example governments, international organisations and philanthropists could be a solution.

Take the success of the Vaccine Alliance – known as Gavi. It is an outstanding example of an innovative partnership.

Gavi was established in January 2000. It brought together UN agencies, governments, the vaccine industry, and various private sector and civil society actors.

Its objective was to improve childhood immunisation coverage in poor countries and accelerate access to new vaccines.

By 2015, Gavi had helped to ensure that 500 million additional children were vaccinated. This prevented more than 7 million deaths.

Gavi aims to reach 300 million more children before 2020. This will prevent a further 5-6 million deaths. To put this figure in perspective, this is equivalent to the entire population of Norway.

An increase in epidemics is a part of the globalisation complex. Infectious deceases spread quickly at the rate people travel around the world today.

Epidemics can undermine societies on a scale only matched by wars and natural disasters. Infectious diseases do not respect borders and do not care whether we are rich or poor.

In other words, protecting the vulnerable means protecting ourselves. This is why Norway – together with Japan, Germany, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – launched and provided start-up funding for CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) in January this year.

CEPI is an innovative partnership that will develop new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. Through rapid deployment of these vaccines, CEPI aims to contain outbreaks before they become global health emergencies.

Moving now to the health of our planet: we have a litmus test in the Arctic.

Norway intends to play a major role in defining the future direction for the Arctic. The Arctic should be a region of sustainable development with a good balance between commercial and industrial expansion and environmental concerns.

Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing twice as fast as in the rest of the world. The snow is melting at record speed. The sea ice is vanishing rapidly.

Some of the world’s most productive sea areas are found in the Arctic. These waters support a rich variety of marine life, which will be seriously affected by the warming climate.

The increasing temperatures also cause seawater to absorb more CO₂, leading to ocean acidification.

Ecosystems are changing rapidly. Many species are moving northwards.

Norway will remain at the forefront of research in Arctic so that we can make sound decisions based on science.

Innovative partnerships will be important in this context too.

For example, we would like to develop closer scientific and research cooperation with China. We are confident that this will help us to build the best knowledge about sustainable development in the Arctic.

We know that commitment and international cooperation are crucial for safe, clean and sustainable development in the region.

The Arctic Council has been instrumental in finding common solutions to Arctic challenges. A robust Arctic Council – firmly supported by its member states and observer countries, including China – will continue to make a vital contribution to sustainable economic development in the Arctic.

Let me move now from the north to the south to illustrate that there is no north and south when it comes to climate change. It is a global problem and we must take global action.

Through the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative, we are supporting governments in a number of developing countries in their efforts to reduce and eventually halt greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation. We are allocating up to 360 million USD annually for this purpose.

Students,

My main point is that innovation and innovative partnerships can be a matter of life and death not only for millions of people but also for  our planet. 

There is no time to waste. We need to develop the solutions for tomorrow today.

The MDG campaign highlighted what serious obstacles crisis and conflict are for development. This is by far the greatest challenge for the sustainable development agenda.

Conflict puts development and economic growth in reverse. Often for decades.

We saw that areas affected by conflict did not share in the progress made under the MDGs.

We must ensure that the 37 million children presently out of school in countries affected by crises and conflicts are not left behind.

This is why Norway helped to initiate the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in crises.

The fund has raised well over 100 million US dollars since it was launched in May 2016.

More than 8 % of Norway’s humanitarian aid is earmarked for education.

We know that education is crucial to prepare and motivate children and young people in conflict areas for peacebuilding and reconstruction in the future.

At the same time, we must enhance the capacity of the international community to prevent conflict and find political solutions.

Nothing yields better a return on investments than preventing a war. 

I am very pleased that UN Secretary-General Guterres has put conflict prevention at the top of his list of priorities.

UN peace operations play a key role in fostering international peace and security.

I commend China for its substantial contributions in this regard. In September 2015, President Xi Jinping committed China to providing 8 000 troops to the UN peacekeeping standby force and 100 million US dollars to the African Union standby force.

At the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, 193 heads of state and government declared, and I quote: ‘We resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.’

In the same declaration we also pledged to leave no one behind.

We must keep this pledge in mind as we work relentlessly for inclusive sustainable development. And you must hold political leaders, including myself, accountable to this pledge.

Nelson Mandela has left us a maxim that we remember every day until the job is done – and I quote: ’As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.’

We can make globalisation work to the benefit of all people and the planet. And we can achieve the SDGs through hard work,  innovative new ideas, and smart partnerships. 

Your generation will be at the centre of this process. If you succeed in eradicating poverty and halting global warming, you will win an outstanding place in history.

Thank you.