(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Your Imperial Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Just over 60 years ago, Japan joined the United Nations as its 80th member.
Secretary-General at the time was Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat with a great interest in Japanese poetry. His diary notes, published after his death, contained 110 haiku inspired poems.
At the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s secretary-generalship, the environment was barely on the UN agenda. It was an age of ecological innocence.
Today, we know better.
Today, we know that environmental crime – like poaching, wildlife trafficking and illicit fishing – is a global security issue.
We know that the effects of climate change affect poor countries to a greater extent than richer parts of the world.
And we need only to open a newspaper to read about drought-related violence killing men, women and children.
The facts are there, in plain sight.
The question is: how do we act upon them?
I would like to quote something that the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld said at the University of Chicago in 1960. In a speech that he would later refer to as his “confession of faith”, he stated:
“Working at the edge of the development of human society is to work on the brink of the unknown”.
He added that much of what is done will one day prove to have been of little avail. But, he said, there is no excuse for the failure to act in accordance with our best understanding.
Our best understanding.
The facts on the table.
A year and a half ago, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its 17 global goals.
This was a major achievement by the member states. I am convinced that Japan, with its long history of great contributions to the work in the UN, will be a force to reckon with in the years to come.
All my life, I have had the privilege to live near the water. My most precious childhood memories are connected to the sea. So when I had the honour to be appointed as Advocate for the global sustainable development goals, it was an obvious choice for me to focus on issues related to water and health. It is this commitment that has brought me to Japan - and to this seminar here at the UN University.
Today, we are going to talk about sustainable oceans. But what we are really talking about is our ability to feed a growing global population.
Fish is the largest source of animal protein in the world. But almost 60 percent of all stocks are already fully fished. 30 percent are even overfished.
Let there be no doubt: the situation is urgent!
The figures can be overwhelming. But let us remember: together, we have a superpower. The power of consumer demand. The choices we make in our everyday lives have enormous impact on the future of our planet.
As consumers, we have a right to know and an obligation to ask. We need to let producers know that we want the right choice to be the easy choice. So please, let us make use of that superpower! Today and every day.
Dag Hammarskjöld spoke about working on the brink of the unknown. Today, just like then, we have more questions than we have answers about the future.
Will we be able to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius?
Will we succeed in our efforts to end poverty and hunger?
And will future generations thank us for what we did, or blame us for not doing more?
The truth is, we don’t know.
But we do know that Dag Hammarskjöld was right:
We all have a moral obligation to act in accordance with our best understanding.
And right now, that means doing everything we can to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda.
This is not only our obligation;
it is our only option.