Sustainable Development Goals and the Culture of Peace

On September 1, 2016, David Nabarro, the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development spoke at at UN Headquarters in New York during a High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace. This is an edited transcript of his talk.

I see the Sustainable Development Goals as a gift to the world from world leaders, possibly the most precious gift that the world has ever been given. When they met together and agreed the SDGs  … they were offering the world a plan for the future that covered the totality of issues that matter to the world’s people and to the planet together with a blueprint for development through peace and partnership in the 17 goals and 169 targets. And there is no other plan for the future of our world. This is the only one. Just like we don’t have a spare planet to replace the earth when we have made a mess of it, we don’t have another plan for the future. It’s just the SDGs, and it’s great! It’s a great plan because it’s universal. It applies to every single community in the world. No-one is excused from that plan. And it’s a great plan because it connects all the different features of humanity and of the planet in an indivisible way. So you can’t separate humanitarian action from development anymore; you can’t separate development form peace anymore; you can’t exclude women from development anymore; you can’t cut out disabled people; and you absolutely have to factor in climate change and the environment. It’s also a renewed social contract between leaders and their people to which leaders have agreed to be accountable. And it provides a role for everybody; indeed it reflects a basis of a movement for what it means to be a human being.

What do we mean by being human in the SDG context? The most important underpinning of the 2030 agenda is that we cannot as a race have sustained development for subsequent generations without the capacity to resolve differences in ways that do not use power harmfully. We have to be able to resolve differences in a way that is peaceful. And we have to do it in a sustained way so that even when there are forces that try to undermine our capacity to resolve differences peacefully we put a priority on sustaining peace. That is what this house is all about. And that is what the 2030 agenda is all about. It means we have to have no tolerance for hate, for aggression, for inciting violence and for the practice of violence itself. And we have to value non-violent behavior and reward it in childhood, in adolescence, in adulthood - in all settings and among all people. And we have to avoid any kind of context or activity that might breed violence or imply that it is acceptable and we have to watch situations which might themselves provoke it. And then we have to recognize that humans, it is well known, respect themselves much better when they can treat others with respect and when they do not practice violence on each other.


How do we put these kinds of principles into practice?  It’s got to be in education. It’s got to be in government. It’s got to be in all employers, civil society, religions, basically recognizing that trust and respect for other humans and for mother earth has to be valued and at the center of all our actions. The only kind of power that is acceptable is soft power. And soft power has to be shared so that it can be used for the good of all through the sustainable development goals. And that ladies and gentlemen is the key. It’s right inside this beautiful Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. Without this we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and we will not have a fit world for the generations to come. Indigenous people in this country talk about seven generations. And let’s remember that’s the best yardstick for looking at any activity. Will it last for seven generations?