Skip to main content

Tarja Halonen: To Achieve Sustainable and Resilient Development, We Need to Reduce Inequalities and Vulnerabilities

Available in EnglishEspañol
12 September 2023|Press Release

The former President of Finland gave a keynote speech at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile, where she was received by the Executive Secretary of the UN regional organization, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs.


Photo of the presiding table at ECLAC's Raúl Prebisch conference room
Former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen (left) during her keynote lecture at ECLAC, joined by the organization's Executive Secretary, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs (center), and the President of the Permanent Forum on Foreign Policy of Chile, Juan Somavía.
Photo: ECLAC

The former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, delivered a keynote speech today at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, in which she stressed that to achieve sustainable and resilient development, we need to reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that risk to leave individuals, communities and entire countries behind.

The Finnish lawyer and politician, who on March 1, 2000 became the first woman to hold the Presidency of her country, gave a lecture entitled The Social Dimension of the 2030 Agenda: The Global Challenge Ahead, where she emphasized that “there is no peace without sustainable development and no development without peace.”

She was received by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations regional organization, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, who welcomed her on behalf of ECLAC. Juan Somavía, President of the Permanent Forum on Foreign Policy of Chile and former Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and Johanna Kotkajärvi, Ambassador of Finland in Chile, also participated, among other figures.

“In her long and distinguished career, Tarja Halonen has demonstrated an unwavering commitment and inspirational leadership to the cause of social justice and sustainable development, core values in ECLAC's mission,” said José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs in welcoming the former President of Finland.

“As we are all well aware, the 2030 Agenda addresses critical challenges ranging from eradicating poverty to promoting gender equality, combating climate change and promoting decent work for all. Tarja Halonen's efforts and contributions in these areas are a testament to her deep commitment to a better and fairer world,” added the senior UN official.

“In a world that is increasingly interconnected and interdependent, but where conflicts are constantly surfacing, collaboration among nations is crucial to our existence as an interdependent humanity and to sustainable development and a prosperous future. Today we live in a world marked by unprecedented global challenges. From climate change to economic inequality and poverty, these challenges require a collective and coordinated response,” emphasized Salazar-Xirinachs.

Juan Somavía highlighted the leadership of the former President of Finland and warned about the social regression that the world is experiencing today. “We are seeing more and more people distancing themselves from institutional systems,” he said.

“The 2030 Agenda is a very powerful document that even went beyond what was possible. But at the United Nations we are used to this. We know there will be difficulties along the way. What brings us together today is also a vision of the future, and the ability to think together about what needs to be done,” said the former ILO Director-General.

At the beginning of her speech, former President of Finland Tarja Halonen thanked ECLAC for the invitation to take part in this series of keynote lectures on the occasion of the Commission's 75⁰ anniversary and congratulated the agency for its work. “ECLAC has been at the forefront in providing concrete solutions and policy action for more inclusive sustainable development in the region and globally. I would also like to commend ECLAC for the work on advancing equality and women's rights. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before him have underlined, sustainable development will not be achieved without progress on gender equality,” she said.

“We must promote dialogue and peaceful solutions and ensure that democracy is at the center of our solutions. A sustainable future needs a solid democratic structure in which everyone can fully participate..... Next week in New York, the SDG Summit will mark the halfway point in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Summit will provide a crucial opportunity to accelerate the efforts for a fairer and more sustainable future for all,” emphasized Halonen.

"But let's be honest. We are lagging behind on the implementation," she warned. Halonen explained that according to a recent assessment, around 140 targets with data show that about 12% are on track. Around half are off track. On more than 30% of the targets, there has been no movement or there has been regression. For example, the number of people living in extreme poverty and experiencing hunger has increased.

The former president highlighted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the first time tied together environmental, economic and social sustainability. It confirmed that we cannot solve global problems in silos. “Conflict and poverty are deeply interconnected. There is no peace without sustainable development and no development without peace,” she remarked.

“To achieve sustainable and resilient development, we need to reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that risk leaving individuals, communities and whole countries behind. Human rights, gender equality, social inclusion, decent work and education are truly critical for sustainable development. We must end poverty and build peaceful, just and inclusive societies," said Tarja Halonen.

The former President of Finland insisted that it is important to remember that sustainable development requires everyone’s effort. “Political leadership has and has had an important role, but a much broader base is needed to achieve the SDGs, including governments, businesses, academia, civil society and labor movements, as well as individuals,” she said.

Finally, Halonen said that to lift people out of poverty and create equal opportunities for all, we need to increase efforts to ensure universal social protection. This is a smart investment that can provide important support for achieving the SDGs. “We must also facilitate the transition from the informal to the formal economy. Decent work is a precondition for accessing both social protection and adequate income. Securing decent work enables individuals to build a better and more prosperous future for themselves, their families and their communities,” she said.

She also stressed once again the importance of gender equality, not only because women make up half of the global population, but also because gender equality is a human right and a precondition for a successful society.