Media Release: Helen Clark delivers keynote address at RDI Confereence 2017

Topics Research partnerships | Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


Risk of “toxic legacy” for next generation without collective action on Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, has called for “a time for solidarity, and not for nations to turn inwards” in the face of global challenges that no single nation can address alone.

In a keynote speech at the Research for Development Impact conference at the University of Sydney, Clark said some governments were pressing “hold” on tackling global sustainable development.

“The global agendas can’t be realised without developed countries embracing them as relevant to their future. Sustainable development is not something which happens to someone else somewhere else. It is a collective challenge which requires a collective response. We need developed countries stepping up, not stepping away from sustainable development.”

Clark – the former administrator of the UN Development Programme – said the UN’s peace and security architecture had proved unable to effectively address conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya and a new approach was required to address the “development deficit” which led to deadly conflicts.

“It is surely no accident that many of the states which lapse into deadly conflict these days have high levels of poverty and/or an inequitable distribution of wealth; governance which is neither inclusive nor responsive and does not reach all corners of the land; and an absence of the rule of law.”

Clark said forging deeper partnerships was required between developed and developing nations for preventative action which built resilience to economic, political and climate shocks. She added that “enduring peace will be the outcome of long term developmental processes.”

“It’s always better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than to position the ambulance at the bottom,” she said.

Setting out a vision for partnership to implement global agendas, Clark commented on the vital need for “public policy and regulation to steer investment towards sustainability.”

“Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and making renewable energy investment attractive are good examples of what is required. Support for building the capacity to put such frameworks in place and uphold them is catalytic.”

Fundamental to fulfilling global agendas, Clark expressed the need to “move away from old patterns of development which sacrificed the environment in the pursuit of economic growth, and often widened social inequality as well.”

“That approach stores up problems for the future – indeed we could say that it has contributed to producing the highly unequal world with an environment in peril which we have today. Our world has to change, or leave a toxic legacy for those who come after us. To continue the way in which development has occurred in the past is irresponsible.”


Full speech text.

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