“Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies” (EN)

New York, 20.09.2016 - Allocution du conseiller fédéral Didier Burkhalter à l’occasion de la manifestation organisée conjointement par la Suisse et le Brésil, en collaboration avec le Centre pour la coopération internationale, en marge de la 71e Assemblée générale de l’ONU. La version prononcée fait foi.

Ladies and Gentleman

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Brazil for co-hosting this event. You have just brought together the whole world in Rio for the Olympic Games, which took place in a spirit of peace and equality, much like the world we aim to see in 2030. Switzerland appreciates your commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 16 towards Peaceful Societies, Justice and Accountable Institutions.

Just one year ago, we made a commitment to “transform our world”, as the title of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states. We made this unprecedented commitment for our children and grand-children – a commitment to the five most important “P’s” – “People”, “Planet”, “Prosperity”, “Partnership” – and “Peace”. For the first time, a universal development agenda has recognised that sustainable development goes hand in hand with peace and that peace depends on sustainable development.

This logic runs through the Agenda. It acknowledges the fact that we need to break down traditional silos in an effort to advance both development and peace. It found its most concrete expression in SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies. It is a bold, historic commitment to achieve peaceful societies and development at the same time.
But SDG 16 is even more than that: it underlines that we must go beyond technical approaches to address the political obstacles that often stand in the way of development. Today, pursuing SDG 16 is more necessary than ever: there is a growing global instability and uncertainty.  Fragility has become a key obstacle to development.

This is why Switzerland has for many years become  increasingly engaged in contexts affected by fragility and violence. Pending our Parliament’s approval, 50% of our bilateral development cooperation will be directed to these contexts in the next four years. Our engagement as co-chair of the “International Network on Conflict and Fragility” is also a strong expression of our political will.

Agenda 2030 has put an end to the strict dichotomy between developed and developing countries. It is an interconnected and universal framework. Everyone has some homework to do.

In Switzerland, for example, we have made significant efforts to address the issue of the recovery of stolen assets. Billions of US dollars in illicit assets leave developing countries every year. This is money that is not being invested in schools, hospitals, welfare, development, and the people of those countries. What’s worse, this money often stems from corruption, a corrosive and destructive force.
Like a deadly disease, corruption pervades and destroys societies, inflicting most harm on its weakest members. It is a major obstacle to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.

For Switzerland as a champion of human rights, modern global financial centre, and global commodity hub, the recovery of stolen assets is a high priority. Switzerland has established a comprehensive legislative framework to identify, freeze and return stolen assets. Worldwide, illicit assets worth USD 5 billion have been returned to developing countries in recent years. Of these 5 billion, more than 2 billion US dollars have been returned by Switzerland alone. We see this as an important contribution towards reaching Goal 16.

Ladies and gentlemen

The commitment by 193 member states to Goal 16 is far-reaching. Everyone needs to act, but no one can do it alone. No one has a monopoly on solutions. Partnerships are of the utmost importance. Governments from all regions of the world, civil society, the private sector, and academia can and should contribute. All ideas – and more importantly all contributions for implementation – are welcome.

In this context, I would like to express my appreciation to the Center for International Cooperation for your academic contributions on how we can better work together to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16. And I would also like to thank the “Pathfinder countries” which are ready to share their experiences and draw conclusions from them.

The word “Pathfinder” and the concept behind it imply that we are all looking for our own way – our own, distinct “path” – to achieve the same goal: peaceful, just and inclusive societies. As “Pathfinders” for SDG 16, instead of talking about others, we talk about ourselves and let others chose what seems to them the best way forward. Each context, each country, each institution, and indeed each situation, is different. But what we can do is share and learn from each other. And that is what we are doing today.

We are all aware that we have to move from the bold commitments to bold action. One year has passed; only fourteen years are left until 2030. The best time for implementation is now. The “Pathfinders” assembled today will exchange innovative examples of national implementation of SDG 16 or some of its targets. They will also reflect on what kind of partnerships will help accelerate the path to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

Switzerland is committed to promoting this initiative further. This autumn, two events, one in New York and one in Geneva, are planned to deepen the conversation among the pathfinders and beyond.

I encourage you to think of innovative ways over the coming months to leverage our collective efforts. For instance, the Pathfinders could lead the way and examine the opportunity to set up an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform to accelerate the implementation of Goal 16. I am convinced that the excellent partnership we have been developing with you will allow us to lead these discussions in an open and constructive way. 

Thank you

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