Speeches: The U.S. Government and the Global Goals Global Poverty Project and Better World Campaign

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Peter [Yeo]. It’s a pleasure to be here this evening, and I’d like to extend that appreciation to those in attendance, many of whom followed the development of a the new Global Goals very closely and offered ideas, advocacy, and support.

Many thanks to the UN Foundation and the Better World Campaign, to you and Mike Beard, and to the Global Poverty Project and Judith Rowland for their work in raising awareness and co-hosting this reception.

To my colleagues in the US government, for their tireless leadership and engagement.

And to members of Congress and staff who are supporting and amplifying the global goals and what they mean for the international community. Especially to Senators Corker and Cardin for being here tonight and for their leadership on development issues – US leadership in this area is truly a bipartisan effort.

Also a special thanks to my wife, Terry Seery, and my children, Emmet and Frances, who are here today, and have provided so much love and support as I’ve spent much of the past year away from home, in New York City, negotiating with other countries.

I am especially glad that my children are here to hear about the goals the world is setting for itself and the role that the US has played in shaping this agenda. This is a 15-year agenda, so these are their goals: a commitment to future generations, and one that will need their participation and leadership.

Yes, these are global goals, but I want them to understand that they are also goals that reflect core American values and priorities: ending poverty and want, protecting basic human rights, and securing freedom for all.

And that is by design: we played a very active role in these negotiations to shape its outcome. The reason is simple – as President Obama said on Sunday during the adoption of the goals, “development works.” As a core pillar of US foreign policy, we recognize that our investments in sustainable development around the world are investments in our own prosperity and security.

As Senator Cardin mentioned, the world achieved significant progress during the time of the MDGs: more than 50 percent reduction in extreme poverty; more than 50 percent reduction in preventable child deaths; the same number of girls as boys now attending primary school worldwide.

No one presumes the MDGs were the sole cause of this progress, but our experience with the MDGs has demonstrated the power of global goal-setting. It’s clear they helped governments, NGOs, private sector, and other stakeholders get on the same page; that they drove data collection, analysis, and standardized monitoring, making it easier for the world to collectively follow its progress; and served as the basis for mobilizing action and innovative partnerships like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and GAVI, the vaccine alliance.

Take, for example, the Child Survival Call to Action. By 2012, we recognized the world was not making sufficient progress on meeting MDG 4, to reduce the deaths of children around the world in their first 5 years of life. So we came together to draft an action plan – the Child Survival Call to Action, spearheaded by India, Ethiopia, the United States and UNICEF, eventually joined by 173 other countries and 400 organizations. The US doubled down on its investments in 24 countries, and six of those priority countries have now achieved MDG 4 – an extraordinary turnaround. It is estimated that some 500,000 children’s lives were saved in the following two years.

The new global goals go further than the MDGs – we now seek to end extreme poverty, end chronic hunger, end preventable child and maternal deaths. Achieve an HIV/AIDs free generation. Focus on the quality of education, not just access.

The US will continue to lead the way through investments in these areas. On Sunday the President announced ambitious new targets for PEPFAR to provide HIV/ADIS treatment to a total of 11.4 million people by the end of 2016 and 12.9 people by end of 2017.

The results continue to be impressive from Feed the Future’s efforts to help countries develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. In 2014, farmers across the world supported by Feed the Future experienced more than half billion dollars in new sales, representing a 200 percent increase over the previous year. Kenya has experienced a more than 25 percent reduction in childhood stunting between 2009-2014; Ghana, 33 percent.

And just last week USAID released a vision for ending extreme poverty that frames the Agency’s role in this worldwide effort and focuses on the critical role of economic growth and good governance in contributing to the moral center of the global goals – it is the very first target, number 1.1 – and one to which President Obama has committed US leadership in his last three State of the Union addresses and in the 2015 National Security Strategy.

The SDGs are not just MDG 2.0, however. They take the focus of the MDGs on human development and add economic and environmental dimensions. While the MDGs were the cornerstones, the SDGs represent a comprehensive foundation for development. Key development priorities like sustainable energy – which fits with our focus on ending energy poverty through Power Africa; climate change and environmental sustainability; and inclusive economic growth are now part of the agenda. Among other things, the SDGs also prioritize gender equality and incorporate the critical importance of good governance, justice, and peace and security to successful development.

While this takes us to 17 goals (where the MDGs had eight), the addition of all these areas is a significant step forward. For example: As the President said on Sunday, we know that truly sustainable development depends on governments and institutions that care about their people, are accountable, and that deliver justice for everyone.

And of the seven countries unlikely to meet a single MDG by the end of 2015, all have been affected by high levels of violence and instability in recent years. The SDGs are launching when 60 million men, women, and children have been forced from their homes, many from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.

This is why for the US, the addition of Goal 16 was such a priority: it compels us to make and measure progress on peace, justice, and good governance, and to acknowledge its critical importance to development. And based on his comments tonight, we look forward to the partnership of Senator Cardin and indeed the entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee in watching our progress carefully on goal 16.

By the way, this is also why now, more than ever, USAID needs strong, bold leadership, an Administrator who can continue to improve the Agency’s ability to provide effective, efficient and innovative assistance that saves lives and promotes global stability.

We also know that greater gender equality means better outcomes for everyone: removing barriers that inhibit women’s ability to fully participate in the economy, and closing the global gender gap in workforce participation, can boost GDP worldwide by up to 12 percent by 2030. And we recognize that moving forward also requires addressing the impact of climate change, from which the world’s poorest people will bear the heaviest burden, and that environmental conservation is a critical component of sustainable development.

This is a set of goals that every country, regardless of level of development, is voluntarily endorsing. All the member states in the UN had a hand in developing these goals over a period of three years, and not just them – also experts and academics, civil society, businesses, and other stakeholders. The Secretary General has called this goal-setting the most inclusive process in history.

This focus on universality and inclusivity moves us beyond aid, beyond a traditional donor/recipient dichotomy, to a framework of shared responsibility and collective action. It provides a strong expectation of country leadership, of countries owning their own social and economic development. And it makes clear that this chapter of development cannot just be about what governments spend, but has to harness the connectivity and resources of businesses, philanthropies, NGOs, faith communities, citizens.

It is an approach reflected in the consensus we reached at the Third Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in July. One that provides the impetus for the efforts like the Addis Tax Initiative that was launched there, where we are joining with over 30 countries (and growing) in a multi-stakeholder partnership to catalyze significant increases in domestic revenue, so countries can increase their own resources to invest responsibly in public services and other development needs. One that also reflects our focus on the importance of innovation, science and technology, and the power of data to accelerate our progress. This is truly a modern approach, one that now serves as the roadmap for the global community to follow.

As someone who negotiated this outcome, I know only too well its foibles, and I recognize its imperfections. But the global commitment it represents, a political consensus among 193 member states to end extreme poverty in this generation while seeking to live sustainably and in peace – this reaffirms the hope inherent in the founding of the United Nations 70 years ago, and it provides a politically optimistic moment and opportunity in the midst of all else happening in the world. It’s one where we should take full advantage; now that we have this consensus, it’s time to get to work and implement it and make it real. We look forward to working with all of you to push forward with US global leadership to do just that.

Thank you – and onward to 2030.