Helen Clark asks: The Future We Want – Can We Make it a Reality?

Helen Clark, Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and former New Zealand Prime Minister, delivered the 2014 Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture, the 16th honoree to do so since the lecture series was instituted two decades ago. Calling upon the lecture’s namesake, she invoked Dag Hammarskjöld saying that he not only belongs to Sweden, but belongs to the world as one of the last century’s greatest Statesman.

Clark’s lecture attempted to answer the question posed in the title, The Future We Want – Can We Make it a Reality? She looked to the future by first analysing the recent past as captured in the Millennium Development Goals – goals that were designed to galvanise the world around a series of development priorities. While many of those goals have been achieved, many still remain elusive. Nearly fifteen years on, and today’s realities, involving inter- and intra-conflict among countries and environmental pressures among them, require a new set of far-reaching and ambitious goals. Clark, through UNDP’s exhaustive consultative work at the country-level – is optimistic that the next new development agenda will reflect the people’s hopes for a better world. Inequality and poverty reduction, she emphasized, must be a priority in this new agenda.

This new agenda, known as the sustainable development goals (SDGs), are set to be universal in nature – applying to poor and rich countries alike. Specifically, Clark honed in on ‘goal 16’, the goal which calls for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. From among the 17 new goals proposed, this goal, she remarks, is the most controversial and is particularly important to Clark and UNDP as increasingly it has been noted that poverty is centered where there is a weak state. We need to address these issues, says Clark, if we are successful in driving extreme poverty out of existence.

Clark’s answer to the question she poses – can we make the future we want a reality? — is a qualified ‘yes’. Much will depend, she says, on the commitment of member states to this new set of goals, and the ability for countries to open their space to more inclusive dialogue.

Watch the video of the lecture here.

More information about previous lectures here.