Secretary-General's opening remarks at the Caribbean Sustainable Development High-Level Symposium
Bridgetown, Barbados 2 July 2015
[as prepared for delivery]
Your Excellency the Right Honourable Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Chair of the Caribbean Community, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join all of you for this High Level Symposium on sustainable economic development in the Caribbean.
And it is a special honour to do so here.
For Small Island Developing States, this space is hallowed ground. Twenty years ago, this very building was the site of the First Global Conference on SIDS that adopted the Barbados Programme of Action -- the first compact between SIDS and the international community.
Today, it is so encouraging to be among so many leaders of Government, regional and international organizations, the private sector, academia, and civil society. Your presence highlights a continuing Caribbean commitment to put our world on a safer, more sustainable and equitable pathway. That commitment starts with you, Mr. Prime Minister.
As you have often said, “Barbados is more than an economy, it is a society.” You have carried forward that vision on the regional and global stage. You served on my High Level Panel on Global Sustainability. And you also played a very active role in my Climate Summit last September. So when you invited me to attend CARICOM, I had no choice. I could not say no.
The year 2015 is a time for global action. The international community is in the final stretch of preparing a transformative post-2015 development agenda that will be adopted by world leaders in New York in September.
That will be preceded -- just days from now — by the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.
The year will close with the Paris Climate Conference where governments have committed to adopt a meaningful, universal climate agreement. As leaders of some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, you don’t need to be told that our planet is at grave risk. You are on the climate frontlines. You see it every day. Sustainable development and climate change are two sides of the same coin.
On the one hand, we cannot end poverty by destroying nature’s bounty, which provides livelihoods for billions of people.
On the other hand, we cannot protect our planet without putting the needs of people at the centre – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. Addressing climate change is essential for every aspect of sustainable development – from food and water security to energy, from economic growth to political stability.
I want to salute Caribbean countries for taking on ambitious renewable energy targets. By 2020, for example, Barbados will be one of the world’s top five leading users of solar energy on a per capita basis. You are lighting the path to the future. We have a big agenda before us. A bold agenda. An agenda that will drive development policy for the next generation. The proposed Sustainable Development Goals will build on the progress and broaden the sweep of the Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs aimed to cut poverty in half. The world met that goal – and we should be very pr oud of that achievement. But going halfway was never our ambition. Usain Bolt does not stop at 50 metres. We are finishing the race. We are going for gold.
We can be the first generation that ends global poverty, and the last generation to prevent the worst impacts of global warming before it is too late. To get there, we are working to make sure that the Sustainable Development Goals are focused, financed and followed up – with real targets, real money and a real determination to achieve them.
In many ways, the Goals represent a “to-do” list for people and the planet. But, as I have emphasized, making it happen will take partnerships – as the theme today highlights. The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa laid a pathway for collective action and success within the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
As we prepare for the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals, there are a number of critical areas to strengthen our partnership. You have highlighted the need for capacity building; financing; access to technology; and improved data collection and statistics. We have heard your calls and are committed to strengthening our implementation and partnership frameworks.
We need to continue working together to link the global agenda to regional agendas and to deepen regional integration.
We need to work hard to ensure that the social fabric is strong because vibrant societies are the foundation of resilient economies.
We need to keep speaking up and acting in meaningful ways to address the unique needs and vulnerabilities of small island developing states and middle-income countries, such as the debt challenge.
We need to put more attention on the need to expand opportunities for women and young people who want the dignity that comes from decent work. And we need to keep forging the way forward towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathway that will benefit both people and the planet. Through the Green Climate Fund – and in working with world leaders—I will continue to press that SIDS and least developed countries are top funding priorities. Many of my top development advisors are here to take part in the dialogues today.
We will seek ways to address your concerns, and of course we will draw from and strive to build upon your ideas.
My main message to you is to remain fully engaged and keep working with us to strengthen our partnership during this vital year for humanity.
I wish you much success. Together, we can build a better, more sustainable world, for all.