Keynote address at the Taylor's College Model United Nations Conference 2014

Dec 5, 2014

Mr Lim Tou Boon - President of Taylor’s College

Mr. Muralidharan Gopalakrishnan - Principal of the Cambridge A-Levels Programme in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya

Mr. James Thomas Leonard - Principal of the Canadian Pre-University Programme in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya

Mrs. Quek-Lai Cheng See - Principal of the South Australian Matriculation Programme in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya

Mrs. Hoe-Khoo Li Lin - Academic Director of Taylor’s College Subang Jaya

Ms. Lauren Elizabeth Wilson - Principal of Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas

Ms. Sandra Frances Palmer - Teacher Advisor of the TAYMUN Club.

Selamat sejahtera and a very good afternoon!

“FORWARD!” – a simple word that launches us immediately into the future, and that inspires hope and action to achieve the ‘world and future we want’ – in an increasingly complex and seamless world.  It is an excellent theme for your Model United Nations Conference today, and I thank the management of Taylor’s University and organisers of this Taylor’s Model UN Conference (TAYMUN) for inviting me to speak at this Conference, in my capacity as United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia.

It is my pleasure to be here today, amongst so many enthusiastic, energetic and inspiring young people and to see your passion, as leaders of today and tomorrow, to contribute to finding solutions for the challenges of our world.  I am especially inspired by your strong interest in the role, functions, and work of the United Nations as one way in which you can serve countries and people all around the world; because the United Nations is You.  The UN is our community or family of nations, and we have committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and respect for human rights; and to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations.  These are the 4 purposes set out in the UN Charter.  And I am glad you are all taking your rightful place in our family of nations and making your voices heard in constructive and meaningful ways.

As you explore and emulate the inner workings of the United Nations, in your Model UN conference today, you will experience how issues are raised and decisions made at the UN, the largest existing multilateral platform in the world, comprising 193 countries.  As you know, the United Nations is not a world government and it does not make laws.  It does, however, provide the means to help resolve international conflicts and formulate policies on matters affecting all of us, and does so through a platform and a process that enables all the Member States — large and small, rich and poor, with differing political views and social systems — have a voice and a vote in this process.

It is an egalitarian system that has withstood the test of time, that has evolved with the changing dynamics of the world, and that upholds the shared values, principles and goals enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, internationally agreed treaties and conventions, and more recently at the dawn of the 21st century the Millennium Development Goals.

The MDGs emerged from the realisation that we need to galvanise efforts at a global level in order to be able to effectively tackle the remaining development challenges and gaps in countries in order to improve people’s lives.  And as you go through your model UN sessions, you will confront and try to find solutions to many of these challenges.

Although the world has advanced in leaps and bounds, many in our human community are still burdened by the scourge of poverty, widespread inequalities that limit opportunities and potential and hence, their mobility, the lack of access to education, healthcare, basic sanitation, clean drinking water, and decent jobs.  Our rapid industrialisation and technological advancements, that have contributed much to better standards of living, were also accompanied by increasingly unsustainable consumption patterns, contributing to environmental pollution and climate change; and we see increasing conflict within and between countries.  Many of these challenges no country can tackle in isolation.  They require trans-border cooperation and effective global solutions, complemented by determined national action.

Countries have until the end of 2015 to attain the MDG targets they set for themselves, and already we see that the MDGs have made a profound difference in people’s lives.  Global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe.  Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed.  Remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, along with improvements in all health indicators.  The likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half over the last two decades, which means that about 17,000 children are saved every day.  At a global level, we also have met the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water.  And while major trends that threaten environmental sustainability continue, examples of successful global action exist.

So it is clear that the concerted efforts of national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector can and have helped expand hope and opportunity for people around the world.  But more needs to be done to accelerate progress and countries must redouble their efforts as we look to set new sustainable development goals and targets for the next 15 years and beyond, and which will serve as the core of a universal post-2015 development agenda. We need bolder and focused action to address the significant gaps and disparities that persist.  This is where you come in.  This is where countries, and the world need the energy, ideas, and innovation of young people, and why we have to make the space for you to meaningfully engage and contribute.

What are some of our remaining challenges?  What is it that we all need to grapple with and find urgent solutions for?

·        Even with the exceptional results I have just described, one in eight people around the world still remain hungry;

·        Fifty-eight million children are still out of school;

·        Women and other people in situations of vulnerability still face discrimination is accessing and jobs, and to participate in decision-making in economic, political, and even in respect of

         their own lives;

·        I noted that child mortality has been cut nearly in half over the last two decades, meaning 17,000 children’s lives are saved every day.  But six million children still die before their 5th birthday;

·        Many people still lack access to required and recommended healthcare;

·        Fifty young women are newly infected with HIV every hour; and

·        Hundreds of thousands are still dying from treatable diseases like malaria;

·        2.5 billion who still do not have access to basic sanitation; and with all this,

·        The amount of aid money going to the poorest countries is falling.

According to the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), last year saw some 400 conflicts worldwide, 20 of them wars and another 25 considered highly violent.  And as a result, at the end of 2013, there were some 51 million people displaced by armed conflict. 33 million of these are internally displaced or trapped in their own countries, the remaining 18 million making up the refugee population.  Nearly one third of whom are beyond the reach of United Nations assistance.  If these 51 million displaced people were a country, they would be from the 26th largest nation in the world.

The unfinished agenda, just from this snapshot, as you can see, is staggering.  Looking forward, UN Member States must set a bold post-2015 development agenda, which like the MDGs, will set clear priorities, and define measurable targets and indicators to monitor progress for tangible change in people’s lives.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This weighty and utterly important task of defining a post-2015 development agenda that will deliver more positive results for people is your theme for today, “FORWARD”. You, and citizens all around the world like you, want the same – they want to move decidedly forward.  And they want to be a part of that movement – not just in experiencing it, but in shaping it.  In setting our priorities, in monitoring our progress, and in keeping development actors – all of us – government, private sector, civil society, the United Nations, bilateral aid agencies and the rest of the international development community – all of us honest and on track.

It is for this reason that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon insisted, and the UN has embarked upon an unparalleled process in developing the post-2015 development agenda.  The Secretary-General was determined to hear the voices of people from every part of the world and from all walks of life, especially those most marginalised, to ensure as inclusive and participatory a method as possible in the development of the set of shared goals for the world and future we want.

As a result of this, over five (5) million people participated in the World We Want survey.  Many of you here have weighed in on the conversation and you’re your own voices heard and we thank you for that.  From this incredibly rich global conversation, we have learnt that the top ten priorities for people around the world, by order of priority are:

1)             A good education to prepare them to face and engage their societies and the world;

2)             Better healthcare; and with a quality education and good health, they want;

3)             Jobs, jobs, jobs.  Better job opportunities;

1.              They also want as top priorities;

4)             An honest and responsive government;

5)             Protection against Crime and Violence;

6)             Affordable and Nutritious Food;

7)             Access to Clean Water and Sanitation;

8)             Equality between men and women;

9)             Support for people who can’t work; and

10)        Freedom from discrimination and persecution.

These are people’s top 10 and most important desires and priorities and there is remarkable convergence around the world in people’s aspirations.  If, for example, you compare these with the top 10 priorities of the 4,420 Malaysians who took part in the same survey, you will find that the priorities do not differ much.  Malaysians also want:

1)                  A good education;

2)                  An honest and responsive government;

3)                  Better healthcare;

4)                  Protection against Crime and Violence;

5)                  Better job opportunities;

6)                  Protecting Forests, Rivers and Oceans;

7)                  Freedom from discrimination and persecution.

8)                  Affordable and Nutritious Food;

9)                  Access to Clean Water and Sanitation; and

10)             Better transport and roads.

The outcomes of the global survey, including 11 thematic consultations and e-discussions, and more than 100 national consultations were captured in a Report called “A Million Voices, which I encourage you to read. The Million Voices Report highlighted that people demand a role in shaping and changing their world.  Citizens around the world are also calling on governments to raise their levels of ambition in fundamental areas covered by the MDGs; and for the new agenda to be built on human rights and universal values of equality, justice and security.  The Report finds that people are indignant at the growing inequalities and insecurities, particularly among the poorer and marginalised people; that a sustainable development agenda that is integrated, holistic and universal is imperative because the challenges confronting us are complex, interlinked, and cross borders.  Better governance underpins many of their calls, and they insist that the measurement of progress must be improved and that a data revolution is needed to support an accountability revolution.

The United Nations Secretary-General had also established a High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and their report “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development” sets a universal agenda to eradicate poverty by the year 2030, and to deliver on the promise of sustainable development, with emphasis on the need for a global partnership to ensure that “no one is left behind”.

Friends, there is no ambiguity in citizens demands.

Based on the inputs received from people of all walks of life from every corner of our world, as well as from experts and academicians, and extensive inter-governmental negotiations over the past couple of years, a set of 17 post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been developed, which member states will further scrutinize before they are adopted in September, 2015.  Perhaps your deliberations over the next day or 2 can offer some advice, some solutions to build this future we want.

The 17 proposed goals, which have 169 associated targets, are:

1)      End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

2)      End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture.

3)      Attain healthy life for all at all ages.

4)      Provide equitable and inclusive quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all.

5)      Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere.

6)      Secure water and sanitation for all for a sustainable world.

7)      Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy services for all.

8)      Promote strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

9)      Promote sustainable industrialization.

10) Reduce inequality within and among countries.

11) Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements.

12) Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.

13) Promote actions at all levels to address climate change.

14) Attain conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas.

15) Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss.

16) Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions; and

17) Strengthen and enhance the means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development.

The proposed SDGs as you can see, reflect the key challenges and priorities of people across the globe including that of Malaysians, as captured in the WorldWeWant Survey and national consultations.  The proposed SDGs are ambitious and comprehensive, and will provide a platform for further action.  You will see in these proposed goals a reflection of your own call – that “now is the time for actions to speak louder than words, for hopes and dreams to revolutionise into reality”, and here, I quote you, in your explanation of your theme for this year’s TAYMUN Assembly.

And the MDGs show us that progress is possible; that concerted effort, clear priorities and focus will drive global action; and that effective monitoring, including through citizen participation, particularly of citizens from excluded groups, will help ensure accountability for results.

With this, we can indeed move FORWARD.

In closing, I would like to congratulate and to thank Taylor’s University, its staff members and students for their proactive efforts in organising this Model United Nations Conference, an on your choice of theme, “FORWARD”.  It is an excellent  opportunity for participants and observers alike to envision the future that we want, to contribute to shaping the building blocks that will be required to create the world that we want, and define our role as “we the people” of this world.

I wish you a successful event.

Thank you.

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