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Jan Elliasson: We need to mobilize hope

Jan Eliasson

October 22 2016

“I find that women’s empowerment is perhaps the biggest hope for the next few decades.”

Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations on finding hope in women, young people and our capacity for innovation.

Sherah Beckley for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: Thinking about the future – future men and future women – what should future generations be doing in order to continue to go down the right path?

Jan Elliasson:

Well firstly, I must say that my generation ought to admit to a bit of guilt and responsibility for handing over the world as it is now. I say that very openly, that many, many years were going on while we were growing, but the environmental dimension was not taken into consideration. We were robbing nature, we were polluting the rivers.

So, we have to take strong responsibility and, I feel, a certain element of guilt that we hand over this enormous responsibility to the next generation.

But I think we now have laid the foundations last year with the agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals; with the agreement in Paris on climate change; on the Sendai; on resilience; and Addis Ababa, on financing the agreement. I think we did a good job at laying the foundation for work, and I think we should all now accept this as a responsibility. Not only governments, but parliaments, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community.

And then we think to introduce more of hope because there is a sense of, “Oh we are losing control! Where is the world going? Stop the ride, I want to get off!”

So therefore, I think we need to mobilize hope, and I find hope in women. I find that women’s empowerment is perhaps the biggest hope for the next few decades and I think there will be full women’s empowerment within the next few decades.

Secondly, I believe in young people. We should not only work for youth, but we should work with youth. We shouldn’t consider them objects, but subjects – bring them into the processes, whether it’s education or jobs. We have to have the dialogue with them.

The third source of hope for me is knowledge – science, technology, our brains, our innovation capacity. And if you add these three factors, women, youth, innovation and knowledge, and add the need to work together, understanding that in today’s world that we have to do things together internationally as well as nationally. But we need a mobilization of good forces in a world which is full of uncertainty and insecurity.

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