Remarks by President Higgins at “Delivering the UN Common Agenda”
I am delighted, as President of Ireland, to join my fellow Heads of State, and other leaders today, in our shared and urgent call for such action as might give authenticity to our many statements of the past, in which we expressed our wish to achieve a more equal world.
Six years ago this week, all UN member states came together and committed to an ambitious and historic agenda of change – Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
On that day, our words pledged that no-one would be left behind; that all nations and peoples, all segments of society, would share in the achievement of these goals.
We did so, on the principle that the dignity of every human being is fundamental.
Today, inequality, exclusion, hunger and poverty have all deepened as affronts to that dignity we recognised.
Such events as are now unfolding are calling our words, our commitments, into question, in such a way as undermines multilateralism itself.
We must re-commit again, with meaning and purpose, to our shared goals and the principles on which they are based.
We face serious challenges – some pre-existing, others emerging with destructive potential. The pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated deeply rooted inequalities. The climate crisis makes future injustices likely. Despite our welcome best efforts, we still seem unable to redress the injustices against women and girls – a full 50% of humanity.
And yet, as we take stock of a world changed and changing, as we forge a new social contract, we can take heart that at least our goals remain intact – a moral achievement of the first order. We all want a world without poverty, without hunger; a world where the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected and protected; a world that is safe and vibrant for our children and our children’s children.
These goals require that we directly confront inequality and exclusion. These scarring features of inequality wrecking our society are not inevitable, but they are stubborn and powerful. Inequality spurs exclusion, exclusion further inequality, both destroy hope, and both confound efforts to develop sustainably.
Recognising this, Ireland has placed equality and inclusion at the heart of our global engagement. Our climate action emphasises climate justice; and our international development policy is built around a vision to reach those in greatest need.
Human rights, achieving and vindicating, we believe must underpin the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and continue to guide everything we do.
Systemic change will only come about through collaboration. We must work together. That is why multilateralism is the bedrock of our foreign policy. It is at the heart of who we are as a nation. Allowing inequalities to endure is a systemic threat to multilateralism.
Let us all be encouraged by the spirit of common purpose and ambition that is demonstrated by our meeting today.
I firmly believe that we can make new history, by doing these tasks together we can achieve equality and inclusion. For the sake of all people, for the planet and our shared fulfilment, we must succeed.
Words into Acts, let that be our guide.