Remarks at the UN Foundation’s 2015 Global Leadership Dinner

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Ambassador Sarah Mendelson
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 3, 2015

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, friends. My name is Sarah Mendelson, and I am the new U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council. I want to thank the UN Foundation for the invitation to speak before you tonight on a topic we all care about: the future of the world and the Global Goals that will help make that world a better place.

Just a few weeks ago, in an era filled with ever increasing crises, we watched something altogether different. Something nothing short of stunning.

We watched the world come together in a resounding and triumphant display of multilateralism.

We watched world leader after world leader – no matter how divergent their politics – commit with strength at September’s Summit to an agenda that can put an end to extreme poverty without wavering from the protection and preservation of the planet’s resources. An agenda that can empower women and girls and reduce the many forms of inequality in all of our societies. That can combat modern slavery and promote justice for all.

Getting to that moment just a few weeks ago took several years and millions of people. This was a deeply inclusive process with the mobilization of voices, talents, and resources of people from civil society, from businesses, from universities, from faith-based institutions, and from young people across the world. I got to witness some of this; I had the privilege to work on one of the goals in a previous role at the U.S. Agency for International Development and to speak around the world to audiences on the issue.

Including so many people from the outset – literally millions – was not only brilliant – it was the right thing to do. And it gives us a remarkable starting point for action.

That said, from those million, I want to stop and thank a few specific people. First, thanks go of course to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Ms. Amina Mohamed, Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning for their unwavering commitment and vision for what this agenda could be.

And to the three co-facilitators of the Post-2015 Development Agenda process – Macharia Kamau and Csaba Korosi who ably guided a deeply evidence-based Open Working Group process, and then again Macharia Kamau together with David Donoghue who brought us over the finished line or rather the starting point for 2030.

From our U.S. team, it is my pleasure to thank the consistent commitment, thoughtfulness, and care of my friend and predecessor, Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, and my friend and former USAID colleague, Post-2015 Special Coordinator Tony Pipa, and to thank my new colleagues – the stellar teams at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations that supported both Ambassador Cousens and Special Coordinator Pipa.

I want to turn now to the harder part: to the responsibility on each of us to make these goals real. The responsibility on each of us to realize this agenda’s grandest ambitions and to give tangible meaning to the 17 goals and 169 targets.

My colleagues and I believe all these goals and targets are important but I want to focus for a moment on a few aspects.

Goal 16 that promotes access to justice for all, accountable and inclusive institutions, and first, peaceful and inclusive societies. This is in many ways a platform for development from which so much else derives.

All governments – including the U.S. – must work harder at building more just, inclusive, and transparent societies. Making our governments more accountable to the citizens that we serve is frankly hard –especially in an era where we are inundated with more sources of information than ever before. Listening and responding to citizens is however critical. It requires perpetually looking for the people who are denied basic opportunities in our societies and asking what we can do to help remove obstacles in their way. And we are the first to admit today in 2015 that we have a lot of work to do in this regard.

Yet, as I saw just last week in Mexico at the Open Government Partnership, something electrifying happens when you put together reformers from inside government with civil society groups seeking to empower citizens. I know we are going to find new and innovative ways to work together on this.

Let me highlight another enormous opportunity that emerges from the Global Goals. As it turns out: we still live in a world where humans are bought and sold. The global goals provide us with targets that address human trafficking and modern slavery. Their inclusion in the agenda enables us to do much more collaboratively to tackle what is alas a 21st century development challenge – even though we might have thought it went the way of the 19th century.

The global movement to combat trafficking has made great strides since the UN adopted the Palermo Protocols 15 years ago. But now, we need more donors engaged on the issue, and we need all of you, your families, your neighbors – as consumers to know where your food and clothes come from and that it is free from human trafficking and to ask your government to do everything it can to step up to this challenge of ending slavery.

While 2030 seems a long way off, it is a blink of an eye. So let’s start moving toward implementation and achievement. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming months.

Thank you.

Source: U.S Department of State

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