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.

My remarks at ESCAP panel on finding synergies between global sustainable development agendas and regional integration agendas. Bangkok 18 May

ESCAP 2017 May 18 Helen on panel.Statement at ESCAP panel 18 MAY BANGKOK

Today I was on a panel at ECOSOC in Bangkok, speaking on how the UN can support countries to implement the global and regional agendas. There are many synergies between these, and one hopes that the aspirations so firmly expressed in the 2030 Agenda will resonate with the regional integration agendas. It’s almost an understatement to talk about regional integration in the Asia Pacific when there are big trans-regional initiatives under way – China’s Belt and Road initiative is an obvious example. The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation also spans from Russia to the Far East and South Asia.

My key points – that there must be human development benefits for all living along the big corridors for transport and connectivity; and that the action lies at the national level for mainstreaming and prioritizing global and regional agendas. UN Country Teams will always be advocates for human development. Their work must be context specific to be relevant. See my statement – link above.