Listen to demands of world's peoples

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Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the General Assembly, in New York, 24 September:

Each year at this time, we come together — not to preserve the status quo, but to drive our world forward.

This is an era of wondrous opportunity. Ours is the first generation that can wipe poverty from the face of the Earth.

Yet the pressures on people and the planet are building: youth without jobs; a warming climate; unresolved conflicts.

Events are moving with twenty-first-century speed, often outpacing the institutions and systems designed for another age. In streets and squares across the world, people are pressing those in power. They want you, the world’s leaders, to listen. They want to know that we are doing all it takes to secure a life of dignity for all.

For more than a decade, the end of the year 2015 has been our long horizon. What once seemed a distant moment is now just around the corner. 2015 is the year by which we have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It is the year in which we will adopt a new development agenda. And it is the year in which you have agreed to complete a global agreement on climate change.

2015 is a historic opportunity. The MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] have captured the imagination, generated remarkable gains and beat back doubts about development itself. Yet on some goals, we lag badly. Inequality is growing. Too many people face exploitation — from fields to factory floor.

A new development agenda must be as inspiring as the MDGs, while going further. It must be universal, with ending poverty as its top priority, sustainable development at its core, and governance as its glue. It must find expression in a single set of goals. And there should be no hierarchy among the three dimensions of sustainable development — no deferring the environment or social justice for later, once economic growth is assured.

The empowerment and rights of women must be at the heart of everything we do. The equation is simple: When girls are healthy and in school; when legal frameworks and financial access support women; when women’s lives are free of violence and discrimination, nations thrive. I add my voice to those of the leaders who will gather this afternoon to adopt a strong declaration on sexual violence in conflict. Let the twenty-first century be the century of women.

Success also requires more from the private sector. Business needs the space to do what it does best: create jobs and innovate. But business must be carried out ethically and responsibly, with full regard for the environment. At last week’s Global Compact summit, thousands of business leaders pledged to do more to align their operations with UN goals. The United Nations must continue to strengthen its capacity to work not only with business and finance, but also with civil society and the philanthropic community.

The impacts of climate change threaten all our development gains. The rising human and economic toll affects everyone. The world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who are being harmed first and worst, are crying out for climate justice. Our planet and our scientists are sending a clear message, as we will see once again this week when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues its latest assessment.

There is opportunity amid this peril — a chance to change the way we do business, plan our cities, fuel our homes and factories, and move our goods and ourselves. A low-carbon path beckons — a path that can create jobs and improve public health while safeguarding the environment.

To help set us on this course, I invite all of you to a Climate Summit meeting one year from now — September next year here at the United Nations. I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] process.

Let us seize the 2015 challenge: a final push for the Millennium Development Goals, new directions on energy and climate, and an inspiring new development framework. We must leave no one behind.

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