Opening Remarks on 2019 Sustainable Development Forum & 1st Social Design Industry-University-Research Collaboration Forum by Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator

21 March, 2019

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

On behalf of the United Nations in China, it is my great honor to be part of this Forum. Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to Phoenix New Media for organizing this important event.

This Forum brings together scholars and students with industry representatives from a wide range of sectors, not at least creative industries. All of you bring your unique experience and expertise, but you have one thing in common – you have an opportunity apply your ideas and knowledge to contribute to Sustainable Development.

In fact, you do not only have an opportunity to contribute, your efforts are critically needed.

Let me tell you why.

Achieving Sustainable Development concerns us all. This is why the Member States of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda is a universal plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 associated targets. These touches upon almost every aspect of development —from poverty and gender equality, to climate change and peace and justice.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that the Goals cannot be achieved in isolation – that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build long-term economic growth generating jobs and livelihoods. This in turn requires addressing social needs including education, health, and social protection. At the same, it also recognizes that development can no longer come at the expense of environmental degradation, and it therefore places tackling climate change and ensuring environmental protection at its heart.

Needless to say, the 2030 Agenda is ambitious. No Government, no individual, and no organization, will be able to achieve the SDGs alone.

All parts of society including, national and local Governments, civil society, youth, the media, businesses, and academia will have to work in partnership for us achieve the SDGs.

This is where all of you come in.

Many of you represent creative industries, which have become a driver and enabler of sustainable development. It is estimated that these sectors provide nearly 30 million jobs worldwide and employ more young people than any other sector.

But, the potential for creative industries to contribute to the SDG goes well beyond the value they generate in terms of revenue and jobs. For example, through smart architecture and design there is tremendous potential build greener buildings, transportation systems and more environmentally and socially friendly cities.

Creative industries also have an important role to play when it comes to awareness raising around social issues. Here, let me point to an inspiring example from last year’s Social Design Week, hosted by Phoenix New Media social design center. One of the outcomes of this event was an educational poster called “Brave Baby”, which allowed children to learn about ways to protect themselves from physical and sexual abuse in an interactive way. This poster was later used in various schools and kindergartens in China.

Another important group here today is young students. Let me turn directly to you for a moment. Your stake in achieving Sustainable Development is high. Ultimately, you will be the ones living with the consequences, if we do not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

You are also important agents of change. You are already contributing to advance the Sustainable Development Goals with innovative solutions and by driving social progress. Provided with the necessary skills and opportunities needed to reach your potential, you can become an even stronger force for supporting sustainable development.

Initiatives like this one, where young people are directly linked-up with the private sector to collaborate to find solutions to sustainable development problems are excellent examples of the opportunities that allow young people to realize their potential as drivers for changes. At the same time they allow companies to benefit from new ideas and to incubate, develop, and eventually take them to scale. This is what I call win-win collaboration!

Lastly, let me turn to my own organization – The United Nations. While the 2030 Agenda is universal and belongs to everyone, United Nations has a special role to play in terms of promoting its implementation. Here in China we do this through our development work, which focuses on poverty reduction and improving the environment, but also by engaging with China in international development cooperation, with the aim to enhance the contributions that China is making to the SDGs worldwide.

Another important role for the UN in China is to raise awareness of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promote Sustainable Development collaborations and partnerships like this one.

For example, last year UNDP facilitated a “National Dialogue” which focused on “Inclusive Design” and welcomed young social entrepreneurs and youth-led organizations to bring about ideas that enabled people’s equal participation in society.

Another example comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization that has launched a service design course in collaboration with Tsinghua University. Assisted by professors and experts, students used design-thinking methods to generate innovative ideas applying ICT in the agricultural sector. 

To conclude, let me return to where I started. This Forum brings together a wide-range of knowledge, expertise and perspectives. I strongly believe that it is when a diverse group like this comes together the most innovative solutions are generated. I am therefore confident that this Forum will lead new collaborations that can take us one step closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Thank you.

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