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Public Statements

Remarks at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Plenary

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. To President Rousseff, the Brazilian Government, the Brazilian people for hosting us, to Secretary General Ban, Secretary General Sha: Thank you for convening this conference. And thanks to all of you representing governments, civil society, the private sector, young people, men, women, and children everywhere.

Brazil has done the world a great service by hosting us all here. This can be a fractious time. But thanks to Brazil's deft and effective leadership, we have coalesced around an outcome document that marks a real advance for sustainable development. We know this is one of the most pressing matters of our time, because how we grow together over the long term isn't a question for only some countries. It is a question for all countries. And here in Rio, thanks to Brazil, we are at the center of our shared efforts to find answers.

I want to thank the President of Samoa for his remarks and the reminder that we meet at a critical moment. For some countries and some people around the world, this is not just a matter for long-term planning, but for immediate, pressing action. And we know that voices are being raised demanding expanded opportunities and a greater role in the decisions that affect the lives of us all. We have the potential to answer that call. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in just the past generation, laying the groundwork for even more progress. We are working together to end chronic hunger, an area where Brazil has shown particularly strong leadership. I believe we can end preventable child deaths and chart a path towards an AIDS-free generation.  

In short, this is a time for us to be pragmatic, but also optimistic. A more prosperous future is within our reach, a future where all people benefit from sustainable development no matter who they are or where they live. But let's be honest. We know what is possible.  We know what we could do. But we also know that future is not guaranteed, because the resources that we all depend upon -- fresh water, thriving oceans, arable land, a stable climate -- are under increasing pressure. And that is why, in the 21st century, the only viable development is sustainable development. The only way to deliver lasting progress for everyone is by preserving our resources and protecting our common environment. 

So we have come together, here in Rio, to identify practical ways we can all promote sustainable development. And while our views may differ sometimes, I believe we agree on some fundamental principles. We cannot be boxed in by the orthodoxies of the past.  We should and must make decisions based on research and scientific evidence about what works. And above all, we need fresh, agile, action-oriented partnerships that can produce results year after year after year.

So while the outcome document adopted here contains many important principles and proposals, the most compelling products of this conference are the examples of new thinking that can lead to models for future action. It should be said of Rio that people left here thinking, as the late Steve Jobs put it, not just big, but different.

We should be thinking different about harnessing the power of the market. Remember in the 1960s, official development assistance accounted for 70 percent of the capital flows to developing nations, but today it amounts to only 13 percent, while at the same time, development budgets have actually increased. Why is that? Well, you know very well. Because while continuing to provide assistance, the private sector investments, using targeted resources and smart policies, have catalyzed more balanced, inclusive, sustainable growth. 

The United States has taken this idea to heart. And earlier today, I helped launch a partnership between the United States and African nations that will use $20 million in U.S. Government funding to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in private financing for clean energy projects in Africa and beyond. It's part of our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which has secured significant private sector investments for sustainable energy. And we hope to see even more coming out of Rio.

You also see the power of the market in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims to help 100 million families adopt clean cookstoves and fuels by 2020. By supporting consumer research and creating incentives for manufacturers, we're helping to create a market for stoves that people will pay for and use, while at the same time preventing health problems in women and children, and cleaning the air of black soot.

Now in addition to tapping into the private sector, we should be thinking different about new types of partnerships to solve problems that might otherwise seem insurmountable. Here in Rio, the United States launched joint efforts on everything from deforestation and water to solid waste. We're also leading Feed the Future, a global effort to improve food security that is helping food producers adapt to climate change even as they reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.  

And earlier this year, I was privileged to host six countries in the United Nations Environment Program as we launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The goal is to reduce short-lived climate pollutants that cause more than 30 percent of current global warming, as well as millions of premature deaths and extensive crop losses. We know we have to keep working together on CO2, but we think that our Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to which many more countries are joining, and we welcome you, can take targeted action and produce results with respect to methane and black soot and HFCs.

We also have to be thinking different about development in our cities. That is, after all, where most of the world's population lives today, where most of the growth is and will take place, and where innovative ideas are being put into action. Under the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability that President Rousseff and President Obama kicked off last year, we are bringing political officials from every level -- from state, county, local, municipalities -- together along with industry leaders and developers to find creative ways to generate sustainable economic growth. If, as I heard earlier today, that 70 percent of the structures that will be needed in 30 years to house, to provide economic opportunities for the world's population have yet to be built, then we have a tremendous opportunity we cannot waste.

And finally, the only prosperous, sustainable economy is an inclusive economy. That means we should think different about how we recognize the needs of workers in the informal economy, how we unleash the talent and energy of young people, and how we act on the compelling evidence most recently published by the World Bank that women are essential drivers of sustainable development.  I applaud the bold call to action issued here in Rio by UN Women, and likewise the Rio+20 outcome document devotes a strong section to expanding opportunities for women.

And while I am very pleased that this year's outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women's reproductive rights. Women must be empowered to make decisions about whether and when to have children. And the United States will continue -- (applause) -- the United States will continue to work to ensure that those rights are respected in international agreements.

Now none of this is an abstract discussion. There is just too much at stake, too much still to be done. And many of you visited the U.S. Center here in Rio and saw practical solutions related to some of the work I've discussed and other goals we hold in common. We believe solutions require action by all of us. Governments, yes; let's do our part. Let's do more than our part. Let's pave the way for more clean energy investments, take on the entrenched political and economic interests that stand in the way of clean energy, technology, and sources being used in nations around the world. Let's use the private sector, particularly the consumer goods companies, as they have agreed to do, to make sure they have sustainable supply chains, the right kind of packaging and marketing that puts the least amount of burden on the earth we share. 

Let's bring in the nonprofits, the civil society organizations, faith groups, individuals, all of us, committed to realizing the sustainable development goals that we have embraced. We know that we will be judged not by what we say nor even by what we intend to do, but by whether we deliver results for people alive today, and whether we keep faith with future generations. I'm very honored to be here with all of you, and I pledge my country's, the Obama Administration's, and my own personal efforts to continue our work together. We simply cannot afford to fail.

Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)


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