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Grand Opening of the World Investment Forum (UNCTAD)

22 October 2018
Grand Opening of the World Investment Forum (UNCTAD)

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

Grand Opening of the World Investment Forum (UNCTAD)

Monday, 22 October 2018 at 15h00
Assembly Hall, Palais des Nations

Madam President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome the World Investment Forum back to Geneva on its 10th anniversary.
We are coming together at a critical time. Three years into implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we’re seeing a picture rich in contrast.

On the one hand, the Sustainable Development Goals have captured the imagination of politicians, business leaders and general public alike. We are seeing a spirit of collaboration - in Geneva in particular - like we’ve never seen before.

But on the other hand, we are seeing progress that is uneven at best and at a pace that is, frankly, too slow in too many areas.

Now, you can see a similar contrast when looking at the world more broadly.

A stark dichotomy that is: look one way, and you see stock markets breaking record after record, you see corporate profits soaring and robust GDP growth.

But look the other way, and you see the number of violent conflicts escalating to the highest level in 30 years; you see a breakdown of the multilateral order, the resurgence of virulent nationalism, and whole sections of society trapped in poverty and turning their back on the system.

The problem of course is that this is false dichotomy. The interconnected world we live in doesn’t allow for a neat separation of the economic and political spheres.

By that I don’t mean that there is occasional spill-over and market volatility on the back of some political crisis. No, it’s much more radical than that.

We are facing a perfect storm of challenges that threaten the very functioning of our political and economic order, our way of life and, by logical extension, our way of doing business.

In that sense, the contrast I mentioned at the outset around progress towards the 2030 Agenda is also a false dichotomy. Because if the imperative to “leave no one behind” means anything, it must mean that we either succeed across the board or we don’t really succeed at all.

Which brings us to today; to everyone here. Whether you’re a global investor, experienced diplomat or engaged citizen - each and every one must ask themselves: Are we doing everything we can to drive the 2030 Agenda forward?

And more specifically, are we doing everything we can to mobilize the full range of resources - public and private, domestic and international - and are we directing them to the right places?

We know what these places are - that’s the brilliance of the SDGs: they show it to us long-term; beyond the short-termism of election cycles and quarterly reports. The 17 Goals give businesses a scorecard, investors a benchmark, and all of us a roadmap.

The issue is not a lack of money. Some US$300 trillion in financial assets are managed by the global financial system on our collective behalf.

The issue is finding pathways to direct these funds where they are needed most; where they have the greatest impact.

Empowering women and youth.

Turbocharging growth in least-developed countries.

Generating low-carbon energy.

All of this is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. Funds that invest in sustainability outperform peers on every metric. Businesses that go sustainable beat their competitors.

The message is simple: the sustainability train has left the station. Get on board or get left behind.
And together, in this room today, we have the expertise to figure out how to make sure everyone, everywhere, can get on board, I am sure of it.

I wish you every success.

Thank you.