This year, the world has embarked on implementing the ambitious and transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With its 17 universal, integrated and interdependent Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda is an action plan for people, planet, partnership and peace.
Literacy stands at heart of the 2030 Agenda. It is a foundation for human rights, gender equality, and sustainable societies. It is essential to all our efforts to end extreme poverty and promote well-being for all people. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals aim for universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives.
One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to ensure that all young people achieve literacy and numeracy and that a substantial proportion of adults who lack these skills are given the opportunity to acquire them.
Fifty years ago, International Literacy Day was proclaimed to promote literacy as a tool to empower individuals, communities and societies. We have made significant progress over the past five decades, but the world is still very far from universal literacy. And today, with the world becoming increasingly digitized and information rich, new opportunities and challenges are emerging.
More than 750 million adults are illiterate, including 115 million young people. Two thirds are female. Some 250 million children of primary school age lack basic literacy skills and 124 million children and adolescents receive no schooling at all.
These obstacles to sustainable development can and must be overcome by developing and implementing the right policies, backed up by commitment and resources. We need to ensure that those out of school get access to quality learning opportunities, we need to improve the quality of schooling, and we need to promote adult education and learning.
On this International Literacy Day, I call on governments and their partners, including in the private sector, to join forces for universal literacy so we can translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda into reality and build peaceful, just, inclusive and sustainable societies.
29 August 2016
For nearly a decade as United Nations Secretary-General, I have witnessed many of the worst problems in the world as well as our collective ability to respond in ways that at times seemed impossible. Our ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have demonstrated the power of political will to break longstanding deadlocks. On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on the world to summon a sense of solidarity commensurate with the urgent need to end the dangerous impasse on this issue.
Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests. The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.
A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy. It will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
When I visited Semipalatinsk in 2010, I saw the toxic damage – but I also witnessed the resolve of the victims and survivors. I share their determination to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Since its adoption 20 years ago by the General Assembly, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has yet to enter into force. Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security – even our very existence – we must reject this stalemate.
I urge Member States to act now. Those States whose ratification is required to bring the Treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker. All States that have not done so should sign and ratify because every ratification strengthens the norm of universality and shines a harsher spotlight on the countries that fail to act.
The 2016 Olympics have already shattered records, but even before the first competition began, these Games made history by giving athletes who have no country to call home a place on the starting line.
I expressed my appreciation to the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, for his compassionate leadership in forming the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, whose members I had the privilege of meeting. Their strength in surviving the horror of displacement and the pain of loss was remarkable. Although nothing can change the past, these athletes are proving that even the most impossible odds can be beaten. Whether or not they earn the chance to stand on the podium, they are already towering winners.
I saw in these young refugees the passion and promise possessed by millions of youth in our world. At this time of rampant poverty, hateful discrimination, rising violent extremism, environmental degradation and other global threats, we must look to those hardest hit, especially young people, for solutions.
The United Nations is committed to working for and with youth. I appointed the first-ever UN Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, when he was 28 years old. We are working on the ground to ensure every young person has the education, health, employment and rights they deserve. Every year, the UN’s Economic and Social Council Youth Forum brings together senior government officials and young activists to discuss the most pressing global concerns. And the United Nations is partnering more and more with youth-led and youth-focused organizations to promote peace and development around the world.
International Youth Day, observed annually on August 12th, should be a time for real commitments. This year, I used the occasion to announce new steps to empower young people.
One serious injustice I have been seeking to correct is the exclusion of youth from security matters. It seems plain to me that if young people are considered good enough to die in wars, they should also have a seat at the table when leaders negotiate peace.
The United Nations Security Council finally recognized this last December when it adopted Resolution 2250 on supporting young peacebuilders.
To study progress on this unprecedented measure, I announced the members of a new Advisory Group. Like most other such panels, the Group is diverse and international – but it has the added benefit of including people who have lived the issue at stake. Nearly half of the Group’s members are young. One lost her father in war. A second survived being shot. Others were refugees. With the combined expertise of all the members, I expect their report will lead to new advances.
Young people have all the skills and energy needed to contribute to society – but they lack opportunities for decent work. Globally, more than 70 million are unemployed. To help rise to this challenge, I named a new Special Envoy for Youth Employment, former Chancellor of Austria Mr. Werner Faymann. He will work with my Youth Envoy and the UN’s experts on this issue, including in the International Labour Organization, to make a difference.
In our view, youth can do more than fill jobs – they can create them. I have called on young people to take risks based on the understanding that every successful entrepreneur climbed to the top on a stack of failures.
Young people everywhere can help realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our global plan for people, the planet and prosperity.
This year, the United Nations will name the first-ever class of UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals – 17 outstanding young individuals, chosen from more than 18,000 nominations. We will bring the appointees to UN Headquarters in September to hear their ideas for our common future.
These steps may seem small and largely symbolic. After all, 17 sustainable development leaders are just representative of the change we will need. The Advisory Group on youth and peacebuilding has only a handful of members. And a new appointment may not seem game-changing.
Of course I understand these measures will not solve global problems overnight – and I am calling on all people, especially youth, to do their part. Everywhere I go and every chance I get, I urge young people to be global citizens, raise their voices and change our world. Tens of thousands of young people are already leading successful efforts. We need millions more to reach the Goals.
Incremental progress adds up. I remember holding my children in my arms, and now they have children themselves. You might not notice a young person growing little by little each day but you will surely see a dramatic difference over time. When we steadily support the world’s youth, they can create a safer, more just and more sustainable future for generations to come,
A record 130 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. Grouped together, these people in need would comprise the tenth most populous nation on Earth.
These figures are truly staggering, yet they tell only a fraction of the story. Hidden behind the statistics are individuals, families and communities whose lives have been devastated. People no different to you and me: children, women and men who face impossible choices every day. They are parents who must choose between buying food or medicine for their children; children who must choose between school or working to support their families; families who must risk bombing at home or a perilous escape by sea.
The solutions to the crises that have plunged these people into such desperate hardship are neither simple nor quick. But there are things we can all do – today, and every day. We can show compassion, we can raise our voices against injustice, and we can work for change.
World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder of the need to act to alleviate the suffering. It is also an occasion to honour the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the frontlines of crises. I pay tribute to these dedicated women and men who brave danger to help others at far greater risk.
Today, I urge everyone to sign on to the United Nations “World You’d Rather” campaign. As well as raising awareness and building empathy, the campaign has a concrete goal: to raise money for the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund and to enrol the support of individuals everywhere as Messengers of Humanity. We need everybody to demand that their societies and governments put humanity first.
Earlier this year, 9,000 participants gathered in Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. World leaders committed to transform the lives of people living in conflict, disaster and acute vulnerability. They rallied behind the Agenda for Humanity and its pledge to leave no one behind.
This promise is also at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. With their focus on human rights, resilience and poverty eradication, these 17 global goals offer a 15-year plan to reduce needs and vulnerability and promote a world of peace, dignity and opportunity for all. To succeed on this collective journey, we need everyone to play their part. Each one of us can make a difference. On this World Humanitarian Day, let us unite in the name of humanity and show that we cannot and will not leave any one behind.
21 March 2015
The annual observance of Nowruz is a wonderful opportunity for people to jointogether to celebrate cultural diversity, dialogue and mutual respect. It is a moment ofunity and solidarity, within and among societies, that is all the more important at times ofstrife and division.
This year’s Nowruz also takes on special meaning as the United Nations worksto shape a new vision for sustainable future and adopt a meaningful universal climateagreement. These priorities for 2015 are in line with the spirit of Nowruz, which promotes harmony with nature and all peoples to foster cooperation for lasting peace.
This ancient New Year tradition coincides with the arrival of spring, giving rise to a rich array of customs, rituals and festivities, from communities in Western, Central and Southern Asia, to the Caucasus, Balkans and other regions. Nowruz is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, under UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
I wish joyous and peaceful celebrations to all. May the spirit of Nowruz live on throughout the year.
20 March 2015
I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness!
The pursuit of happiness is serious business.
Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations.
Peace, prosperity, lives of dignity for all – this is what we seek.
We want all men, women and children to enjoy all their human rights.
We want all countries to know the pleasure of peace.
We want people and planet alike to be blessed with sustainable development, and to be spared the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Let us give thanks for what makes us happy.
And let us dedicate our efforts to filling our world with happiness.
8 March 2015
Twenty years ago, when the world convened a landmark conference on women’s human rights, the devastating conflict in the former Yugoslavia prompted deserved attention to rape and other war crimes there against civilians. Two decades later, with girls as young as seven not only targeted but used as weapons by violent extremists, it would be easy to lose heart about the value of international gatherings. But while we have a long way to go to achieve full equality – with ending gender-based violence a central goal – progress over the past two decades has proven the enduring value of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.
Since the adoption of its Declaration and Platform for Action, more girls have attained more access to more education than ever before. The number of women dying in childbirth has been almost halved. More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations. I welcome these advances. At the same time, on this International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that the gains have been too slow and uneven, and that we must do far more to accelerate progress everywhere.
The world must come together in response to the targeting of women and girls by violent extremists. From Nigeria and Somalia to Syria and Iraq, the bodies of women have been transformed into battlegrounds for warriors carrying out specific and systematic strategies, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Women have been attacked for trying to exercise their right to education and basic services; they have been raped and turned into sex slaves; they have been given as prizes to fighters, or traded among extremist groups in trafficking networks. Doctors, nurses and others have been assassinated for trying to operate in their professional capacity. The women human rights defenders brave enough to challenge such atrocities risk – and sometimes lose – their lives for the cause.
We must take a clear global stance against this total assault on women’s human rights. The international community needs to translate its outrage into meaningful action, including humanitarian aid, psycho-social services, support for livelihoods, and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. With women and girls often the first targets of attack, their rights must be at the centre of our strategy to address this staggering and growing challenge. Empowered women and girls are the best hope for sustainable development following conflict. They are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.
Even in societies at peace, too many girls and women are still targets of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence that traumatize individuals and damage whole societies. Discrimination remains a thick barrier that must be shattered. We need to expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond. We need to change mind-sets, especially among men, and engage men in becoming active change-agents themselves. And we must back up our resolve with resources based on the sure understanding that investments in gender equality generate economic progress, social and political inclusion and other benefits that, in turn, foster stability and human dignity.
This is a vital year for advancing the cause of women’s human rights. The international community is hard at work on establishing a new sustainable development agenda that will build on the Millennium Development Goals and shape policies and social investments for the next generation. To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential. When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.
3 March 2015
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 3 March – the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – as World Wildlife Day. On this second observance of the Day, the UN system, its Member States and a wide range of partners from around the world are highlighting the simple yet firm message that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”.
Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other pernicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, humans, counterfeit items and oil. It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance. There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime networks and non-State armed groups.
Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources. Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities.
Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories. Law enforcement efforts must be supported by the wider community. Businesses and the general public in all countries can play a major role by, for example, refusing to buy or auction illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn, and insisting that products from the world’s oceans and tropical forests have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced.
On this World Wildlife Day, I urge all consumers, suppliers and governments to treat crimes against wildlife as a threat to our sustainable future. It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.