Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and Leave No One Behind

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ford Foundation
New York City
September 27, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. Prime Minister and (inaudible) President Santos, wonderful to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to be here with all of you, the folks who fight for this agenda and who help deliver it, and we’re deeply appreciative of those efforts.

I think every one of us here knows what a struggle it is to get countries to take part in genuine development efforts, and we all know exactly how challenging and complicated it is to engage with people in the effort of human development. It’s just not easy. It’s hard work. But frankly, because of events in the world, it’s become even more dangerous and complicated now because of security issues, because of governance issues. So the essence of what we are doing, however, on the 70th meeting of the United Nations, it’s worth remembering because it was laid out for us 70 years ago. It’s in the UN Charter to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person. That is unquestionably another way of saying leave no one behind.

Now, just a few minutes at the – ago at the United Nations, President Obama had the privilege of giving a speech regarding development goals, and he made it absolutely clear that America’s deep and firmly held and long-held commitment to that principle and to the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is going to be kept by the United States in the same fashion as it has previously. We will remain the largest donor to this effort in the world and we’re proud of that. (Applause.)

As the President was making clear to everybody there in an ad lib to a speech, he said, “And I intend to continue that fight in my after-presidency.” So we’ve got the President for the long term, folks. (Laughter.)

Now, one of the areas that I began working on when I was in the United States Senate, and the President is deeply committed to, is the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The United States will continue our work, as we have through PEPFAR, to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. And I will tell you that not so long ago as Secretary I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa. I was in a mountain area north of Durban, and I visited a school that we had funded which is delivering help to kids, most of whom have a mother, in most cases only a mother, who has AIDS, who is HIV-positive. And I went up to one of these mud thatched huts and walked around, and this woman was cooking over an open fire and had a hacking cough and was deathly ill – and her kids were taking care of her. And it re-emphasized to me how critical it is for us to live up to our responsibilities with respect to this challenge. I think His Holiness Pope Francis could not have made that more clear in his visit to America in the last days. We all have a fundamental responsibility and we can bring about an AIDS-free – wholly AIDS-free – future for children – we are near that – provided we act in accordance with the pledge that we made today.

“Leave no one behind” is a lot more than a slogan. It’s a key to unlocking long-term economic growth, and also a key to meeting the challenge of tens of millions of young people in countries that are either failing or that have failed in terms of governance. And that’s a challenge for all of us in the context of violent extremism, religious radicalism. If we don’t grab those kids, someone else is going to. If we don’t make citizens out of them, someone else will make something else out of them.

So this is an enormous challenge to the future security of the planet. It is a way, obviously, for all of us to reach our own potential but also to provide other human beings the opportunity to reach theirs. And if we enable the full and equitable participation of women on this planet, the world will be better for it. (Applause.)

We not only have to fight to deliver the services and provide the money and step up with respect to the education and infrastructure and other components of development, but we also have to do a better job of actually measuring the success of our effort and holding ourselves accountable to standards as we do so. And that’s why the United States will serve as an anchor member in the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data that we will launch tomorrow with help from the private sector and civil society. It’s a way of keeping accountability, and one of the pieces of accountability we just talked about over at the UN is the capacity to prevent people who are willing to abuse their countries and abuse their populations by siphoning off literally billions of dollars and taking it out to other countries. We need a new standard of accountability for those banks that hide the money and those countries that facilitate the theft from nations. (Applause.)

So in closing, I’d just echo the message that President Obama conveyed in his remarks today. The Millennium Development Goals were a promising start in showing how much we can accomplish when we agree on critical benchmarks and make a universal and integrated effort to reach them. Our goal now is to go far beyond what we have already achieved, and it is to make the 2030 Agenda proof of the difference that we can make when the whole world is truly determined to make real the notion of leaving no one behind. Thank you. (Applause.)