Remarks at a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Nerissa Cook
Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs
U.S. Mission to the UN
New York City
July 18, 2019


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here at the High-Level Political Forum to discuss the world’s most pressing development challenges. The topics of this year’s forum are diverse, yet interconnected.

Democratic governance, rule of law, respect for human rights, and strong institutions provide the foundation for the peace and stability necessary to accelerate action across the Agenda, but in their absence, progress will erode and reverse course. Each Member State here has the sovereign responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens, to define and enforce criminal laws, protect and promote human rights, and provide access to justice. We have many lines of effort here in the United States; we continue to combat foreign bribery through rigorous enforcement of our domestic laws and combating kleptocracy remains a fundamental part of the United States’ international anticorruption efforts. U.S. foreign assistance also supports the ability of criminal justice systems to counter transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and related threats, helps build democracy, and provides assistance to at-risk human rights activists and civil society organizations.

These efforts support the enabling environment necessary for economic growth and decent work. Creating family-sustaining jobs is necessary to alleviating poverty, achieving social stability, and building prosperous societies. Freedom of association and collective bargaining, nondiscrimination in employment, and freedom from forced labor and child labor are necessary components of ensuring dignity for workers and a level global playing field for those who play by the rules. That is why the United States has included labor obligations based on these important principles and rights in our trade agreements.

Building a workforce for today’s world, and tomorrow’s, begins with education. As we illustrated during last week’s quality education discussion, the United States promotes inclusive, quality education and lifelong-learning opportunities around the world. In 2018, our assistance reached more than 33 million children and youth through education programs. Last year, we released the first-ever U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education aimed at improving learning outcomes and expanding access to quality basic education for all, particularly marginalized and vulnerable populations.

The United States supports a balanced approach to promote economic growth and energy security while protecting the environment, including dealing with complex issues such as climate change and access to affordable reliable energy. The United States is a world leader in protecting the environment and ensuring our citizens breathe clean air and drink clean water. The U.S. free market approach has spurred innovation that has led to a CO2 emissions reduction of 14% from 2005-2017, even as our economy grew over 19 percent. The United States continues to be a leader in providing affordable, abundant, and secure energy, while reducing emissions through job-creating innovation.

[What follows is the remainder of the as-prepared remarks that we were prevented from giving due to time limitations.]

Since 2017, Congress has allocated $372 million for sustainable landscapes work to preserve and restore forests and other lands.

Financing is a critical aspect of development. The United States remains the world’s largest contributor of funding to the UN system and the Multilateral Development Banks. And in October, we will launch a new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, which will modernize our development finance capabilities, more than double our development finance portfolio, and introduce new financing tools and approaches that can better mobilize private-sector investment in development.

To make progress on sustainable development, we must create and foster an environment that prioritizes engagement of the private sector, civil society, faith-based organizations, and other key non-governmental stakeholders. In some parts of the world and even in multilateral institutions, the participation of these actors is threatened. However, to achieve the world we want, it is up to each Member State and the United Nations to help ensure that engagement is fully welcomed.