Haoliang Xu: Public lecture on Sustainable Development Goals and Youth

Apr 22, 2016

Kwansei Gakuin University and Yokohama National University, Japan
21 and 22 April 2016
(Check Against Delivery)

First, I would like to thank the Government of Japan for the exceptional commitment to supporting the pillars of the United Nations mission: peace, development and human rights.

Over the past 50 years, Japan has become a leader in the global campaign against poverty, inequality, conflict and disasters.

Let me mention the historic 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, an agreement which charts global action for reducing disaster mortality and economic loss from disasters over the next 15 years.

Japan has been championing the Human Security concept that claims that it is the individual who should be the point of reference for security, not the state. Your advocacy for this concept has been extremely relevant, particularly with a view to the current migrant crisis.

Sharing Japan’s experience of escaping the Middle-Income Trap has been a tremendous service to global development. It has been a source of policy strategies and planning for governments the world over that aspire to grow and ascent into the high-income as well as high human development categories.

Japan was also one of our key partners for the groundbreaking consultative process that shaped priorities of the post-2015 development agenda. Through this project, people in 100 countries had a chance, for the first time ever, to comment on the global development agenda; and more than eight million people participated in the online survey MY World 2015.

Your country contributes also exceptional development professionals and thinkers. This institution by itself provides intellectual leadership.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is a development powerhouse. In Nepal after April 25 Earthquake in 2015, UN, EU and WB worked together with JICA to prepare Post Disaster Needs Assessment.

Additionally, there are top notch professionals from Japan as in Kazakhstan, Maldives, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan and headquarters in New York.


Japan’s commitment to development is also reflected in the total Official Development Assistance which amounted to approximately US$330 billion.

These resources improve the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world.

Last year, Japan was the largest donor to the UNDP with US$355 million contribution.

At UNDP, we are able to implement – with the support of Japan – climate change adaptation projects in the Caribbean, provide social services in Ukraine, and promote gender equality across Asia and the Pacific. In Asia-Pacific, we have ongoing collaboration in Nepal, the Philippines, Fiji, Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Iran and Afghanistan.

We appreciate your dedication to fighting poverty in all its forms.

To ensure that the Japanese contributions are used with accountability, we constantly improve efficiency, oversight and transparency. You may have noticed that UNDP was recognized as the most transparent development organization in the world by the International Aid Transparency Initiative two years in a row.  

It is thanks to our shared beliefs and common values Japan and UNDP have had a long-standing and productive partnership. I have great opportunities to meet the Vice President of LDP, Former Foreign Minister Komura, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of MoFA, Mr. Hamachi and other political figures and senior officials. All have expressed satisfaction with how our relationship has evolved.   

Let me turn now more specifically to development cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

UNDP is the leading and coordinating agency of the United Nations (UN) development system.

UNDP is known for building capacity of national institutions that manage the region’s remarkable growth, for working with Governments on national development plans, policies, and for undertaking groundbreaking pilot projects that lead to major changes.

In the year 2000 the region accounted for less than 30 percent of world’s GDP, by 2014 this contribution had risen to almost 40 percent, according to the IMF.

Consequently, the number of people living in poverty in Asia and the Pacific fell sharply from 1.1 billion in 2000 to an estimated 314 million today.

This impressive result was accelerated by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework in place between 2000 and 2015.


MDGs demonstrated what is possible when governments, the UN, multilateral banks, civil society, private sector and academia work together.

However, the benefits of growth did not spread evenly.

For example, in Vietnam, the proportion of poor decreased from 60 percent of population in the early 1990’s to around 7 percent today.

As in many other countries, the rising tide of prosperity did not lift every boat.

Ethnic minorities make up around 14 percent of the population but they account for more than half of those living in poverty.

Almost all of these marginalized communities live in remote, hard to access areas, where geography hampers both livelihoods and provision of public services.

However, the Government of Vietnam has prepared, with our support, a plan and has allocated resources to address the public service gaps and promote economic opportunities for marginalized ethnic minorities.

Similar inequality as in Vietnam can be seen across the region – when you disaggregate the data.

There are still more than 300 million people without access to drinking water, more than 1.4 billion without access to sanitation, and more than 500 million people without access to electricity.

It shows us that while the MDGs helped achieve much progress, they did not achieve all they set out to do. There are still the so-called “bottom billion,” people for whom life has scarcely changed.

Last year, world leaders renewed their global partnership when they adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.

The 2030 Agenda calls for a paradigm shift in our understanding of development and in the means of achieving it. It is very different from the MDGs.

•    The new agenda is universal and applies to all countries;
•    It is an inclusive agenda designed to “leave no one behind”;
•    It focuses on both ends and means;
•    Since it covers social, economic, environmental and governance issues, it is much more ambitious and broader than the MDGs agenda;
•    And the new agenda has been formulated following one of the most inclusive and participatory processes in UN history.

The agenda outlines 17 ambitious global goals and 169 targets.  They are aimed at a whole range of issues including: poverty eradication; inclusive growth; improving governance; providing people with decent work; increased employment for women; fighting climate change; and promoting green growth.

Delivering the SDGs will require an investment of about US$3.3 to US$4.5 trillion a year, globally, according to UNCTAD.

Consider, for example, the ambition of the SDG4, the Goal on Education, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

There are ten targets under this Goal. They advocate that:

•    all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education
•    substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
•    build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

As the 2030 Agenda pledges to leave no one behind, you see the scale of the challenge ahead of us.

The consensus is that no SDG target should be considered met until it is met for everyone.

Every woman and every man, every girl and every boy.

This has far-reaching implications for project design and implementation.

What counts now is translating promises on paper into change on the ground.

Implementing the 2030 Agenda requires action from everyone, everywhere.

Let me give you an example of how we will contribute to achieving SDG4 target on building and upgrading education facilities that all children can benefit from.

UNDP just partnered with the Government of Philippines to support government’s “K-12 Program” which provides new education facilities and improves access to education, from Kindergarten through 12 years of primary and high school education.

Through this project, we will contribute to achieving the SDG4 as more children and youth will gain access to better education. We will open new opportunities, unlock new potential and create a better future for all.

Another important SDG is the Goal 3 on Good health and well-being, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

There are thirteen targets under this Goal. They aspire to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. It also aims to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all. Supporting research and development for vaccines is an essential part of this process as well as expanding access to affordable medicines.
2015 is indeed a huge year for sustainable development. Following the Sendai Conference in Japan on disaster risk reduction in March and Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in Paris in December, this week (April 22) in New York, a record 155 countries and more than 60 Heads of State and Government will sign the landmark agreement to tackle climate change at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without decisive action to adapt to and mitigate climate change. That’s why Agenda 2030 has a dedicated Goal, SDG 13 on taking “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”

This Goal urges the international community to:
•    “strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries”;
•    “integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning”;
•    “improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning”; and to
•    implement the previous commitment by developed countries under the UNFCCC to the goal of mobilizing $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020

Goal 13 also recognizes the need to build capacity for tackling climate change in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with a particular focus on women, youth, and local and marginalized communities.

To achieve SDGs, we have to innovate, think big, and scale up development initiatives.

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put it, “In order to implement this universal [SDG] agenda, we must overcome the traditional North-South dichotomy; we must work together to build instead a new global partnership, where all stakeholders, including all countries, the private sector, and civil society, join forces and play their respective roles.”

Japan played a key role in the development of the 2030 Agenda and I hope we will be able to continue our partnership with Japan also in the SDG implementation

UNDP’s role in the changing development landscape

Over the past 50 years, we designed, implemented and evaluated thousands of projects that improved the lives of millions of people through integrated economic, social and environmental interventions.

In a dynamic development landscape, UNDP tackles “complex” development issues with agile and flexible solutions, shifting away from business as usual. UNDP is working with a wide range of partners from Government, Civil Society and the Private Sector to promote innovations for development and has set up a dedicated Innovation Facility to foster the design of a new generation of development services under the motto “innovation happens in practice.”

In China, using big data and mobile phones, UNDP partnered with Baidu to link end-users and legally certified e-waste disposal companies for safe recycling. Developed through iterative design and rapid prototyping, the 2.0 version of the app is currently available in 22 cities, and has led to the safe disposal of over 5,900 electronic items in average per month. The app continues to gain popularity with over 253,820 searches every month. This initiative has gained global recognition, having emerged as a semi-finalist in the MIT Climate Co Lab Contests, as well as being a winner from over 800 entries to the Solutions Summit. More recently, this initiative was also selected by the UAE Government to be featured in their 4th World Future of Government Summit.  

In Nepal, UNDP partnered with Microsoft to develop a smart phone application that monitors reconstruction efforts in real time, and ensures that poor families in the cash-for-work programme are paid accurately and on time. The app helped to effectively manage the initiatives on the ground that demolish and remove debris from over 3,500 buildings, employed over 4,000 local people and benefited around 20,000 community members.

UNDP is the “facilitator” and “connector” that mashes up public and private, domestic and international sources of development finance and expertise into effective programmes that accelerate progress.

Our US$ 2 billion global portfolio of environmental projects funded mainly by the Global Environment Facility attracts new US$ 8.35 billion co-financing investments. 
We produced more than 140 MDG reports in Asia and the Pacific, tracking progress and recommending improved anti-poverty strategies.

When it comes to SDG implementation, UNDP is playing a role within the broader UN Development Group’s initiative on Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS).

As the UN’s lead development organization, UNDP will continue to serve as the coordinating agency of the UN development system which ensures the coherence of UN’s work on the ground.

We are already supporting SDG agenda at the request of the governments.

We are mainstreaming SDGs into national development plans and budgets in Bhutan, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Philippines and Tonga.

As we gear up to implement SDGs, financing for development is changing.

The Official Development Assistance (ODA) stood at a record US$ 137.2 billion in 2014.

However, developing countries have become less ODA dependent.

While aid represented 13.5 percent of the total financial inflows in Asia and the Pacific in 1990, it fell to 3.4 percent in 2012.

In 2001, aid made up 5.5 percent of the national budget in the Philippines. In 2013, the national budget almost quadrupled and the portion of aid reduced to 0.45 percent.

The changing role and significance of ODA has an impact on the development sector.

For UNDP, to continue to provide support over the next 15 years, we need political and financial stability.

How can young people be partners in the implementation of Agenda 2030?

As UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said, “Ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change, and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty.” Yet, too often, young people around the world are prevented from fulfilling their potential as the change agents and social entrepreneurs we need.

Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known. One in every three people alive today is under the age of thirty, and around ninety per cent of young people are living in developing countries, mainly in Asia and Africa. 

Young people now and in the future will play a big role in how our world adapts to these challenges. With youth comes energy, innovation, and optimism – if there are supportive environments and opportunities. These lay the ground for major positive contributions by youth, and for a demographic dividend for nations and our world. 

The energy, ideas, and commitment of youth to sustainable development have already been instrumental in shaping the new agenda. And we see young people creating positive change in their communities around the world, for example in: In Nepal UNDP is partnering with Restless Development, a youth-led civil society organization, to form networks of youth organisations which can empower young people to participate in SDG implementation. 

I am optimistic. Working together, we can achieve the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind. Particularly with such partners as Japan. 

Thank you.

 

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