Remarks by the Secretary-General on Sustainable Development and Climate Change 

Islamabad, February 16, 2020 (PPI-OT):It is for me an enormous pleasure to start with this meeting on climate change, my first official visit as Secretary-General to Pakistan. For more than ten years, as High Commissioner for Refugees, I came many times to Pakistan. And in those ten years, I developed a love affair with the Pakistani people and with Pakistan itself.


And that love affair came from the extraordinary generosity and solidarity that the Pakistani people have shown, hosting millions of Afghan refugees, sharing with them its own resources, and independently of the impact, enormous impact on the economy, on the society, not to mention the impact of the Afghan crisis on the security of the country itself.


And I add humbly the possibility also to show my solidarity to Pakistani victims. I remember visiting parts of Kashmir during the earthquake. I remember [meeting] with those displaced by the conflict in the North. I remember being with those impacted by the floods and this very deeply felt solidarity has developed, as I said, a love affair with this country. And I feel that it is totally unfair that Pakistan is, as it was shown in a very eloquent way, is in the first line of negative impacts of climate change. It is not Pakistan that is creating climate change, of course there is a small contribution, but Pakistan is on the first line of the dramatically negative impacts of climate change.


And so I am pleased to be with you today to talk about sustainable development – and our common vision for the future we want – and the climate crisis, which is perhaps the gravest current obstacle to global peace, stability and prosperity.


Peace, prosperity, dignity and the realization of human rights for all people on a healthy planet – these are the objectives of the 2030 Agenda with its 17 time-bound Sustainable Development Goals.


Agreed by all United Nations Member States five years ago, the Sustainable Development Goals are an interlinked and an holistic blueprint to end poverty in all its forms and to build the kinds of societies that we will be proud to pass down to future generations.


The Goals cover the whole spectrum of human progress.


They target poverty, inequality, hunger and health.


They address key topics, such as the quality of the education, decent work, a just economy, gender equality.


They deal with climate change, with the oceans, biodiversity and the natural environment on which we all depend. And it makes natural solutions to be a central aspect of our strategy.


And they promote justice, strong institutions and partnerships that will enable all countries to progress sustainably.


And let me emphasize “all countries”.


For the Sustainable Development Goals are relevant for every nation and every community.


No country can say that it has no inequality, or no urban poor being left behind, or no problems with pollution or climate change.


And no country can say that it is immune from the global forces that will affect its success.


Today’s challenges to sustainable development and human progress do not respect borders.


They are not confined to individual nations.


They demand collaborative answers that recognize that we all share the same planet and we need to cooperate across borders and sectors to realize our aspirations.


And I am pleased to say that Pakistan has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals from the start.


Back in 2016, Pakistan was among the first nations to integrate the SDGs into its national development agenda and recognize them as national development goals.


And, in 2018, Pakistan launched a national SDG framework to prioritize and localize the global goals throughout the country.


And, as with the Goals globally, poverty reduction is at the heart of Pakistan’s effort to leave no one behind.


A national poverty alleviation programme – titled Ehsaas, or compassion – has been launched to expand social protection and safety nets and to support human development.


A national youth development programme – titled Kamyab Jawan – is seeking to create 10 million jobs for young people in five years.


And stunting and malnutrition are down.


And the nation is seeing success in bringing down neonatal mortality, thanks in large part to the Lady Health Workers Programme, which has seen a significant increase in skilled birth attendants.


I am also encouraged by the country’s initiative this year to promote universal health coverage.


These are just some of the many actions being taken by Pakistan and other nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.


Everywhere, we can see progress – poverty and child deaths down; access to energy, education and decent work rising.


But whether we look at Pakistan or elsewhere, we can also say the pace of change is not yet fast enough.


In Pakistan, you are grappling with major challenges relating to HIV and polio, environmental degradation and providing education, skills and jobs for all in one of the youngest countries in the world.


And globally the story is similar.


We are off-track globally, especially in the areas of hunger, inequality, biodiversity and climate action.


Gender inequality – in business, in the home, in schools, in government, in the technology sector – is denying women and girls their rights and opportunities across the world.


And vulnerable populations – such as migrants, young people and persons with disabilities – remain at risk of being left behind.


Our collective efforts are not approaching the scale we need to deliver the SDGs by 2030.


In fact, by some estimates, we will only get half-way to our goals at the current pace.


For more information, contact:

National Information Officer

United Nations Information Centre (UNIC)

Islamabad, Pakistan

Tel: +92-51-8355720

Cell: +92-300-8553790

Email: ishrat.rizvi@unic.org