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German Sustainability Award - Düsseldorf

8 december 2017

Acceptance Address German Sustainability Award

Düsseldorf, 8 December 2017



Meine Damen und Herren,

Guten Abend,

Es ist mir eine Freude, in ihrem Jubiläumsjahr diesen Ehrenpreis erhalten zu dürfen. Ich bin tief bewegt durch diese Auszeichnung. Ich gratuliere Ihnen für Ihre Arbeit an einer nachhaltigen Zukunft.   

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here in Germany again. As neighbours, Belgium and Germany share common values and very similar cultures. And we both have a decades-long tradition of sustainability, our theme tonight.

I want to thank the Sustainability Awards organisation for the honour they have conferred on me. In my capacity as an Advocate for the SDGs, I am proud to work to raise awareness for sustainable development. But I also feel humbled by the award. Humbled, because I owe this recognition largely to the people who work, day after day, on the ground, to improve lives and create a better world.

Those people, Ladies and Gentlemen, deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them.

Awareness of the need for sustainable development is growing. Not just in Belgium and here in Germany, but all over the world. The development of the 2030 Agenda is proof of this. For the first time, the Goals look at the bigger picture of development. They take a global, inclusive and co-operative approach to the social, economic and environmental concerns facing the world today. For they are all interlinked.

Underlying the Goals is the desire to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality, and in a healthy environment. As I have said many times before, investment in inclusive sustainable development means investment in people. Besides a livable environment, it is essential to provide quality education and healthcare for everyone. Without education and health, worthwhile employment and prosperity remain impossible dreams. And where individuals do not prosper, neither do their communities. Nor, ultimately, their countries, or the world as a whole.

We should not be complacent, there is still great inequality in the world, and there are areas where poverty is still increasing.

The focus of the SDGs is global, though. Affluent societies have also not yet completely eradicated poverty either. There are sometimes huge gaps in income and opportunities. These, too, require attention.

The Goals are also inclusive. An important element of sustainable development is common ownership. Endeavours to increase opportunities and eradicate poverty can only be successful if we reach out and listen to those challenged developmentally. We must empower them, give them the tools to improve their own lot sustainably. Because solutions imposed from outside, however well intended, risk not only missing their target, but being unsustainable too.

And thirdly, the SDGs are cooperative. To achieve sustainable development, governments, business, civil society and individuals must work together. Each of us has a role to play, at our own level, towards realizing these ambitious, but achievable goals. Even small-scale projects and individual acts can contribute to changing lives for the better.

The primary stakeholders, the citizens and leaders of tomorrow, are the young people. So let us listen to them, to their concerns, expectations and aspirations. Their input and their engagement are essential. Young people are creative and resilient. Let us provide them with the tools to develop skills and talents. Let us inspire them with the concepts of sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the SDGs embody a strong and powerful message, hope for our common future. They provide a framework for us all to work together to improve life sustainably for people everywhere. To build a better world. We cannot afford to waste time though. Growing challenges confront us on numerous fronts. We must do our utmost to meet these Goals. The cost of failure, the cost of neglecting the marginalized and disempowered is high. Let us increase our efforts urgently.

Ich wünsche Ihnen allen weiter viel Erfolg bei der Fortsetzung Ihres Engagements für eine bessere, nachhaltige Zukunft.

Vielen Dank!

Thank you