Blog Alexander De Croo from New York - 9/18
This week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo will be participating in the United Nations General Assembly. Every day, he will be writing about his experiences in New York in a blog post for the new Glo.be.
New York, Monday 18 September 2017 - Today, Glo.be launches its new online magazine, while over in New York, Heads of State and Government are getting ready for the start of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. Two events that on first glance, do not have much in common, you might think? Nothing could be further from the truth.
Both in the new Glo.be, and this week at the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the central issue. These are the 17 objectives for eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, protecting our planet and accelerating human development worldwide. Ambitious objectives, but if we all step up our efforts and, above all, incorporate a different approach, we can achieve the SDGs!
In the peloton
This summer, I presented the first Belgian progress report on the SDGs, on behalf of our country. The report shows that Belgium has already achieved significant progress, two years after the SDGs were first laid down. Especially in the field of international development, we have gone for a completely different approach, fully in line with the new philosophy of the SDGs. With a strong emphasis on human rights.
The first Belgian report was positively received at the international level. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, run by the leading development economist Jeffrey Sachs, placed our country in twelfth place worldwide on the new SDG Index. We are working hard to climb higher in the SDG Index in the coming years.
Off to Columbia University
In the coming days, I intend to build on this positive dynamic in New York. This morning, at the invitation of Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University, I will be speaking to an audience of around 1000 people about how we can make the SDGs a reality. And above all, how we need to fund them. This will need to be different than how it was previously. For example, we will need to move away from thinking in terms of input, in which we assume that we are doing well as long as we spend enough money and have a good feeling.
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”. I have always admired that quote by Milton Friedman. The same applies to many spheres, and also for development policy. The development debate must not be reduced to feeling good about ourselves or the percentage of our Gross National Product that we set aside. I am looking forward to a lively debate.
On stage for Global Citizen
I am also looking forward to Global Citizen Live! this evening. Singer Annie Lennox will be receiving the George Harrison Award for her years of dedication as an activist for UNICEF, UNAIDS and Amnesty International, among others. Along with other politicians, artists and activists, I will also go on stage to talk about the SDGs. My last experience with Global Citizen was phenomenal. In July, I stood in front of a packed arena in Hamburg with Coldplay and Pharell Wiliams to advocate for women's rights. VTM made this report at the time.
Tonight I will be taking to the stage for one of my other favourite topics: the use of new technology for development and humanitarian aid. If we focus more on innovation and new technology - think of humanitarian drones for example - we can save more lives. I will also be announcing an important commitment on the part of Belgium. Find out more tomorrow!
Strong girls and women
Another important appointment will take place this afternoon with the so-called “Torchbearers” from She Decides. This is the group of people who are actively engaged for She Decides and who support the rights of girls and women, especially their sexual and reproductive rights.
Since its inception, Belgium has played a leading role in She Decides. In March, I organised the first international She Decides conference, in Brussels. This was in response to the withdrawal of support for the sexual and reproductive rights and girls by the new American President Trump. Together with more than 50 countries and organisations, we managed to raise EUR 181 million in additional funds so that girls and women have better access to family planning, contraception and safe abortion.
Six months later, the She Decides movement is stronger than ever. We will shortly be discussing how we can make the She Decides movement and, above all, women and girls, even stronger. This Thursday, together with my colleagues from Benin and Senegal, I will be organising an event at the United Nations on how we can further improve access to family planning services with big data and digital technology. Incidentally, the discussion will be moderated by the capable hands of Goedele Liekens, Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). You can read more about it in the coming days.
See you tomorrow! In the meantime, I wish you a lot of reading pleasure on this new online Glo.be.
Alexander De Croo,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation