My speech at the launch of Sydney University’s Planetary Health Platform

Sydney 2017 Planetary health December 14Planetary Health Launch Speech 14 Dec 2017

On Thursday 14 December, I was pleased to launch the new Planetary Health Platform at Sydney University. Planetary Health recognises the links between human systems and the earth’s natural systems. If we damage the latter, then we also damage the prospects for human well being.

The landmark Rockefeller Foundation – Lancet Commission on Planetary Health concluded that continuing environmental degradation threatens to reverse the health gains of the past century. It stated that “we have been mortgaging the health of future generations to realise economic and social gains in the present”.

In my speech, I noted that “development”, as we have known it, has been seriously out of balance. The long we travel that road, the more we will undermine development gains, including in health, which we had taken for granted. The issues presented by climate change are especially stark.

To achieve sustainable development, we need to think and act holistically across the economic, social, and environmental spheres. The contribution of universities can be to foster cross-disciplinary research which generates the knowledge required for evidence-based policy. The new Planetary Health Platform at Sydney University is an excellent example of how to build  the basis for co-operation across faculties and research centres in the common cause of improving human health and protecting the world’s ecosystems on which life depends.

The link to my speech is above – under the photo.






Local Government has a big contribution to make in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Malta CLGF 2017.jpg

This week I’ve been in Malta in my capacity as Patron of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). The Forum works to promote global goals, and has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as not only highly relevant to local government, but also as goals to which local government has a great deal to contribute.

Many of the critical decisions to be made about sustainability lie with local government; for example, on urban design, transport systems, waste disposal, and energy efficiency. Local government can also create environments for productive investments which generate jobs, and it can foster social cohesion with the aim of leaving no one behind.

My speech focused on what would help local government to play its full role with the SDGs. I advocated empowerment of local government to act, noting that many central governments keep local government on a short leash.

I observed that local government should be a model of the inclusive and responsive governance advocated in SDG 16, and work to ensure that the voices of women, youth, and marginalised communities are heard in decision-making.

I underlined how critical zero tolerance of corruption is – to build trust between citizens and authorities.

I noted that local government has a history of planning – but that planning for sustainable development raises new challenges. Grow now and clean up later is not an option. Growth should be both inclusive and sustainable.

On resourcing, I noted that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda from the Third International Conference on Financing for Development offers good guidance, but that there are traps in public-private partnerships if they are not well designed.

Here is the text of my speech CLGF Speech Malta

Gender Equality for Inclusive Development.

Mauritius 2017 Helen addressing Public Lecture 6 NovMauritius Speech on Gender Equality

Today in Mauritius, I delivered a public lecture on why gender equality matters for development, drawing on my New Zealand and UNDP experience. The new global development agenda, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals identify gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a top priority. SDG Five is dedicated to those objectives, and they are also mainstreamed across all the other SDGs.

It is concerning to read in the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report that the gap is widening. All countries need to make serious efforts to address that. The evidence is clear: gender inequality prevents women reaching their full potential and holds whole countries back.

My speech focuses on women’s political and economic participation, and looks at some of the practical steps countries can take to remove obstacles to that. The text is here: Mauritius Speech on Gender Equality


“The Importance of Decent Work for Sustainable Development”

Geneva 2017 Kofi Annan 31 OctGeneva Graduate Institute speech Oct 31 2017

Last night I was in Geneva to give the keynote address at an awards ceremony at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. The Institute runs an annual international contest on advancing development goals. This year’s contest asked contestants to address the challenge of finding employment for all.

In keeping with that, my address was titled “The Importance of Work for Sustainable Development“. Employment is specifically targeted in Sustainable Development Goal 8. Yet the world is currently experiencing growing unemployment, and tremendous disruption in the world of work. My speech addressed why work matters, the scale of the challenge of achieving decent work for all, and how transitions through the current phase of disruption to work resulting from deepening globalisation, technological change, and tackling the climate change challenge might be managed. The text of my speech is here: Geneva Graduate Institute speech Oct 31 2017

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is shown in the photo above, awarding the prize to graduate students from South Africa for their project on finding employment solutions.

Forced Displacement: Responding to a Global Crisis

Canterbury Cathedral address on Forced Displacement

Last night I was privileged to address the United Nations Day Peace Service at historic Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, United Kingdom. This is an annual service organised by the local branch of the United Nations Association.

This year, the focus of the service was on the world’s major forced displacement crisis and how to respond to it.  65.6 million people were displaced at the end of last year. Close to a third of those are refugees, and most of the remainder are internally displaced persons. I spoke on how the response to this unprecedented displacement crisis is expanding to use the tools of development as well as those of humanitarian relief, drawing on my knowledge of how UNDP and other development agencies are engaged in creating jobs and livelihoods for refugees, the internally displaced, and their host communities. Sadly, many of the crises leading to forced displacement show no sign of ending – hence the need for sustainable and sustained responses.

Here is the text of my address:

Canterbury Cathedral address on Forced Displacement

The collection from those gathered last night goes to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. It does an amazing job leading for the international community on the response to forced displacement, supported by many other international agencies, governments, NGOs, and citizens around the world.

“The Importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Address to Green Templeton College, Oxford, Foundation Dinner, 30 September 2017

Oxford 2017 Helen at GT College Sat 30 SeptOxford 2017 GTCGreen Templeton College Foundation Dinner Address

I was pleased to visit Green Templeton College, Oxford recently, and to address its annual Foundation Dinner. Improving human well being is central to the College’s educational mission, and many of its activities address how to build more equitable and just societies.

This was therefore an excellent opportunity for me to speak on the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for all countries, rich, middle income, and poor, and to comment on how university communities can support its implementation. The link to my speech is above. I was also pleased to interact with students of Green Templeton College at a separate event.

As well, I was the guest at Oxford University’s Women of Achievement annual event, and was “in conversation” with Moira Wallace, Provost of Oriel College on a wide range of issues:  Here’s a podcast of the event:


Keynote Address on Achieving Gender Balance in the Civil Service in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 25 September 2017

Saudi Arabia speech 25 Sept 2017Saudi Arabia 2017 Helen and team 25 September

I was pleased to participate earlier this week in a major workshop in Saudi Arabia on achieving gender balance in the civil service.

This was an initiative of the Ministry of Civil Service which is seeking to meet the expectations of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and National Transformation Plan with respect to the advancement of women.

Specific targets have been set in the Vision and the Plan on increasing the participation of women in the workforce, including in the civil service, and in ensuring that the representation of women increases at the highest and most influential levels of the civil service.

In my address, I made a range of suggestions of practical actions which would help achieve gender balance, drawing on my experience as New Zealand Prime Minister and and as UNDP Administrator. A link to the speech is here: Saudi Arabia speech 25 Sept 2017

The photo shows me with the team of key people involved in supporting the workshop.

My speech on universities and the SDGs

I was in Sydney on Monday to address the Annual Presidents’ Meeting of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities – a grouping of major centres of learning and research from right around the Pacific Rim. I spoke on the relevance of the SDGs to the Asia Pacific, noting that income inequality has been rising and that the “grow now, clean up later” approach to development has left the region with major environmental challenges. That makes a focus on SDG 10 on significantly reducing inequities and on the three environment SDGs on climate change and on ocean and land based ecosystems especially important.

I suggested that universities could help drive progress on the SDGs through their dedication to education (SDG 4), through cross disciplinary research to support meeting the complex and interlinked goals, through support for evidence-based policy making and monitoring and evaluation of progress, and through advocacy. Universities have high status in society, and their voices are listened to. Sydney Harbout Bridge 25 June 2017Sydney sunrise 26 June 2017<a href="APRU 26 June 2017APRU 26 June 2017

My Lecture at Australian National University: the Crawford Oration, Sunday 18 June 2017, on the “Leadership We need – Sustainable Development Challenges”.


I was in Canberra in recent days for the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum held each year at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU). My theme was on the leadership required to meet the challenges of achieving sustainable development. I commented on the role of leadership at all levels from global to national and local; on the need for leadership on Official Development Assistance and on supporting financing for development more generally; and on the roles of civil society and the private sector. I also elaborated on some of the obstacles to be overcome in order to reach the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Here’s the full text:

Speech at Research for Development Impact Conference in Sydney, 13 June 2017.

I was pleased to address the Research for Development Impact Conference held at Sydney University on 1 3 June. The theme of the conference was “Partnering For Impact on Sustainable Development”. I spoke to that theme, setting out the many different kinds of partnerships required across governments, civil society, and the private sector, and across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding silos. The 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement require big, bold partnerships and unprecedented volumes of finance. International solidarity is needed for implementation.