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“From Vision to Implementation: how can we make the SDGs a reality?”

11 March 2015
“From Vision to Implementation: how can we make the SDGs a reality?”

Opening Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

“From Vision to Implementation: how can we make the SDGs a reality?”

Maison de la Paix, Auditorium Ivan Pictet
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 from 18:30 to 20:00

Distinguished Panellists
Dear Colleagues and Friends:

It is a great pleasure to open this debate. A warm thank you to our colleagues in the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and in UNDP for bringing together such a distinguished panel and on such a topical subject.

2015 is truly a defining year for the United Nations and for the international community. We not only celebrate the 70th anniversary of our Organization, but very far-reaching policy frameworks are being finalized this year - on development and its financing, on climate change and on disaster risk reduction. Our overarching collective objectives for the coming decades are being set, and we cannot afford to get it wrong. The 17 goals that are now under discussion and which were also included in the Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report, represent an opportunity for a truly transformative development agenda – if we are able and willing to seize that opportunity.

While the preparatory processes have taken place in separate tracks, it is critical that the final frameworks are joined up and mutually reinforcing, particularly when we start implementing them. The first one is later this week when the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction opens in Sendai in Japan to adopt the first of these central frameworks.

And globally, the discussion is slowly turning from what will be the contents of the new frameworks to how to turn them into meaningful progress for people across the world. And here International Geneva, with its technical expertise and capacity, will play an essential role.

On Monday, in this auditorium, the World Bank presented the latest World Development Report, focused on the connections between mind, society and behaviour. While some of the theories and the conclusions drawn are well-known from other fields than development economics, the report did mark an interesting departure from the more traditional economic analysis that underpins many policies today. And the report is particularly interesting in highlighting how our mental models filter and determine our policy preferences.

When we discuss how to turn vision into facts on the ground, I believe that an important aspect will be our ability to critically look at our own assumptions, policies and practices - and to adapt. Our world is undergoing very profound transformations - in the role and functions of the State and its relationship with other stakeholders; in demographics; in the expectations of individuals; in power balances; and in the capacities and reach of technology. If we do not factor these changes into how we implement, there is a great risk that we will not fulfil the potential of the new frameworks to be agreed this year.

There is currently not the political will required for a fundamental restructuring of our institutions, so we have to work better with what we have, and we need to work better together to make the most of it. This will require a new way of creating multi-stakeholder partnerships - partnerships 2.0 - that involve civil society, the private sector, research and academia, and science much more directly. And it will require the political vision needed to go beyond traditional divisions of labour, and work across institutions barriers and thematic areas.

This is easier said than done. Entrenched ways of doing business and perceptions of what works best can be difficult to break free from. And beyond the institutional and policy challenges, the high level of complexity in the agenda does impact its clarity. This, in turn, will require all of us to up the game when it comes to communicating the new goals and what they mean for individuals. Communication cannot be an after-thought but needs to be integrated in the implementation efforts from the very beginning.

I hope that your discussion will provide inspiration and practical suggestions for how to do so.

Thank you very much.