Global Goals Gala
Thank you Helen Clark – for your kind introduction.
On a trip to South-Africa many years ago, I met with a young man – about my own age. His name was Cederic, and I remember thinking that if our lives had been slightly more similar and we had lived in the same neighborhood, we could easily have been friends. We met in a township, a very poor area, outside Durban. He told me that he was HIV positive and that his wife was HIV positive. They had three small children and cared for Cedrics sister who was physically and mentally disabled. Cedric and his wife did not have access to drugs. They knew they did not have long to live and he told me that he was worried about what would happen to his children and to his sister after they both were gone.
When we parted, Cedric shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said:
"Please do everything you can for people like me. Because it is hard."
You don’t easily escape that kind of moment.
Two things stuck with me. The first thing was that Cedric did not ask for anything for himself. He was talking on behalf all people living in poverty, all people that are struggling and suffering. The second thing was that he was not talking to me only. He was talking to all of us.
The meeting with Cedrik helped shape my commitment. A few years later, in 2003, I got the opportunity to work together with the UNDP. And I was excited to join this enthusiastic global community with a deep sense of purpose.
At that point I had studied development and learned that development is freedom to make decisions for ones’ own life.
And if we really mean that every human being is created equal, we cannot rest as long as millions of people are living in extreme poverty. These matters are not easy. The quick fixes are far between. To make progress we need organizations like the UNDP that is willing to work hard over time with issues such as democratic governance and coordination.
UNDP makes a difference in the life of individuals, in the development of societies, and ultimately for our common world. And they have an admirable stamina to focus long term on all the complex issues. As the Africans proverb goes:
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Through the years I have been to more than ten country visits with the UNDP. Some of the people who have made the deepest impression on me, I have met on these trips.
(The Crown Prince shows pictures of Pamela from Zambia and Mateo from Guatemala, and tells a little of their stories.)
As a UNDP ambassador, I was travelling the world advocating for the Millennium Development Goals for many years. Maybe contrary to popular belief they were a great success. During this period, extreme poverty was halved, 9 out of 10 children now go to school, and the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is more than halved since 1990. Never before in history have we reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty more, never before have we improved people’s health more, never before have we sent more kids to school than the last twenty years. All of this while the world’s population has been growing from five to seven billion. Yes, it is unevenly distributed and it is too slow. But a lot of what has been done has been working, and the UNDP has played an important part in that progress. Mostly behind the scenes, working tirelessly.
But there is still a lot to be done. So now we promote the Sustainable Development Goals. I find those fascinating – because they equal us globally. They underline that we all have areas where we can and must improve. They don’t split the world in two – a developing and developed one. They unite us and in our common challenges and in our common destiny. And they acknowledge that we, the people, are not separated from the fate of nature. Long term we can only succeed on a healthy planet. One that is in balance. Natures health is our wealth.
For me, what gives hope, energy and courage is to see organizations like the UNDP in action. People like Mateo and Pamela prove to me that this work has real impact.
Now all of you have an opportunity to help reach the most ambitious goal of our time: To end extreme poverty by 2030.