October 01, 2015

Cardin Speech on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, submitted the following remarks for the congressional record regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“I rise to address an important event that occurred this week at the United Nations, which is marking the 70th Session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

“Over the weekend, over 150 world leaders gathered at UNGA to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is built on the progress achieved by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were launched in 2000.  The Millennium Development Goals brought together nations, businesses, international organizations, and foundations in a focused and coordinated effort to reduce poverty and disease by 2015.

“By any and every metric, the initial set of MDGs has resulted in tangible, concrete progress.  One goal was to cut extreme poverty by half as measured by the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day.  That goal was met five years ahead of schedule.  Meanwhile, maternal mortality was cut nearly in half.  We’ve also made progress in global education, with a 20 percent increase in primary school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa and a nearly 50 percent decrease in the number of out-of-school children of primary school age.  When it comes to combating HIV/AIDS, we’ve made truly incredible strides over the past 15 years.  New HIV infections have dropped by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and the number of people living with HIV that were receiving anti-retroviral therapy increased seventeen-fold from 2003 to 2014.

“In some areas, like gender equality, we still have a long way to go.  But we can cheer the fact that in 90 percent of countries today, women have greater parliamentary representation than they did just 20 years ago.

“So there is no doubt that we’ve seen real growth around the world.  Millions of lives have been saved and enriched.  But we still have more progress to make.

“The old Millennium Development Goals have laid the groundwork for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the U.N. over the weekend.  The new agenda sets out an ambitious global development framework that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“These new goals were negotiated with strong engagement by the U.S. government, business leaders, and civil society members over the last three years.  American and international corporations worked closely with the U.N. because many businesses leaders correctly believe that to end extreme poverty and open new markets, we must increase government transparency, root out corruption, and accelerate inclusive economic growth.

“Many of these new goals focus on the areas where we hope to see additional progress, such as maternal and child health, environmental sustainability, and gender equality. But they also focus on good governance and corruption.

“I am particularly pleased at the addition of Goal #16, which is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”  Including that goal wasn’t easy – it was met by resistance from many other countries – but no one can   ignore the fact any longer that good governance and anti-corruption efforts are critical to development.

“Truly sustainable and inclusive development depends on governments and institutions that are accountable and transparent, and that respect human rights and deliver justice for everybody, not just some.  The U.N. has noted that “lessons learned from MDG implementation showed the importance of incorporating human rights, the rule of law and personal security to ensure progress towards development goals.  Effective and inclusive governance and robust institutional capacity are instrumental in achieving this.”

“The necessity of incorporating good governance and strong anti-corruption measures in sustainable development efforts is most evident when we look at resource rich countries in Africa and the extraordinary development challenges there.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, is a country rich in minerals, water resources, and agricultural potential.  And it has experienced high annual economic growth in recent years.  Yet, most of its people continue to live in extreme poverty.  DRC’s progress on sustainable development is hindered by minimal central government control over large parts of the national territory, poor transportation and electricity infrastructure, the government’s inability to manage and monitor extraction of its natural resources, and broad governance problems including endemic corruption and barely functional state institutions.

“Without progress on justice and effective and accountable institutions, corruption will continue to infect governments around the world, like the DRC, creating greater economic and political instability, which often leads to violent conflict.

“The DRC is just one example of why we need Goal 16.  The desperate refugees streaming into Europe provide another sad example.  Most of these people are coming from places where ordinary people have experienced long-term repression and other human rights abuses at the hands of deeply corrupt governments.  Consequently, many of these countries are now consumed by violent conflict.  Most of the people crossing the Mediterranean in rafts are fleeing wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

“The Syrians are the largest group.  They are fleeing a deadly combination of their own government’s indiscriminate barrel bomb attacks on crowded markets, schools, and clinics; suffocating sieges; and atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups.  We know that only a minority of migrants arriving in Europe are motivated solely by economic betterment.

“As the world focuses on the wave of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, we must not lose our focus on the roots of this crisis. We must pay attention to why these desperate men, women, and children are on the move.  The misery of many of these refugees is the direct result of the conflicts and human rights abuses of governments that are ineffective or illegitimate, or both, and mostly likely corrupt.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals is remarkable for the historic inclusion of Goal 16.  It acknowledges the centrality of good governance and accountable and transparent institutions as prerequisites for sustainable development.  If nations across the globe truly embrace Goal 16, I am convinced we will also witness far fewer men, women, and children being forced to endure extraordinary misery, violence, displacement, and exploitation as refugees.  Surely, that must be our collective goal.”

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