Opening remarks at Social Good Summit

21 Sep 2013

Social Good Summit, Shenzhen, China - Patrick Haverman, UNDP China Deputy Country Director

Honourable Mr. Dou Yupei,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and an honour to open the China chapter of the Social Good Summit 2013. UNDP was proud to participate in last year’s first-ever Social Good Summit in China, and we’re excited to be back again this year. I would like to thank the government of Shenzhen for being our gracious host and would also like to express our gratitude to our co-organiser, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for helping to make this event happen.

Staying current with world events is a daily challenge, and it’s even harder to be ahead of the curve. Many times, while we are still reacting to news, the world has already moved on.

With the explosion of information being disseminated instantaneously via the Internet and social media, it is imperative that we increase awareness and respond in real-time in order to stay relevant to the discussion. (Incidentally, if you are not following our Weibo, you should do so immediately.)

In light of such a great challenge, we ask, “How can new media, innovation, and technology be used to make the world a better place?” The annual Social Good Summit – a global set of conferences that brings together forward thinking creatives from the worlds of technology, media, philanthropy, politics and social activism – seeks to answer this question.

The Summit is a unique space open to anyone, anywhere. Around the world, local Summits welcome people whose voices would not otherwise be heard. Last year, attendance spanned from 30,000 participants at our Bangladesh location to 7 people at our Syria Office, who responded amidst civil conflict.

This year, speakers at our star-studded flagship event will include amongst many distinguished others: Jim Yong Kim, CEO of the World Bank; Mette-Marit, Princess of Norway; Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation; and UNDP’s own Administrator Helen Clark, who will speak tomorrow at noon in New York.

But, just as importantly, it will include local bloggers, Tweeters, students, activists, and people of all ages, nationalities, and dreams. Everyone’s involved – after all, a globally collective conversation is built upon public contribution.

Today, here together, we also get our say. Let us collaborate on bridging the gap between the toughest development challenges and the best long-term solutions.

The global theme of this year’s Summit, 2030 NOW, encourages new solutions via new technology. We coined the phrase with the intent to lead idea-generation on how tech innovation can be used to effect social change and pave the way for a better future by 2030.

The China-specific tagline of “Youth + Technology” spotlights the world’s youth, as well as popular and emerging digital tools, as the driving forces behind the change we desire.

The youth of today are the first generation to grow up in a vastly digital environment. These kids are information technology ‘natives’ as well as active, resourceful citizens. As practiced social media users, they are able to communicate, raise awareness, and drive action on an increasingly global network and scale. Our youth are our key to finding new solutions to old problems. It would serve us well to learn from their information-sharing habits.

As for UNDP, we’re also aiming to become a leader in the use of new media. Having been a thought leader in Information Communications Technology for development for over 2 decades, we want to further innovate – and social media has shown a knack for inspiring people to action. There is no doubt that technological innovation has already become, and will continue to be, a primary means of supporting our work on the ground.

We are all living a digital revolution. How we decide to use and interface on new platforms may determine cutting-edge methods of empowering people and enhancing human development. As digital audiences multiply across global outlets, so will societal dialogue on all levels. Our future looks to be one that will embrace big conversation and tap into the synergies enabled by technology – I hope this translates into a similarly good outlook for the social good.

Staying ahead of the curve is important. But, never forget why we innovate: never for technology’s sake alone, but always for people – families, neighbours, and future generations. Accordingly, I would like to leave you with a quote that sums up what I believe is the reason we’re all here today. Albert Pike, a 19th century writer, once said, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

Thank you very much, and welcome to one of the world’s largest conversations.