New York 24 September 2015

Today, President Kagame spoke to over 800 students and faculty at the International Conference for Sustainable Development held at Columbia University. Themed “Implementing the SDGs: Getting Started,” the conference brought together various stakeholders to discuss the sustainable development goals.

Speaking on three factors forming the triangle of development, President Kagame emphasized the importance of citizen involvement:

“Sustainable development is not about what “we”, all of us here, do for them, but about the choices they make each day, over and over.”

“Development is what happens when citizens are convinced about the logic and pace of change. When citizens are on board, they do the work themselves, unaffected by the many generalisations made about them out there,” President Kagame added.

Sharing the approach chosen by Rwanda to achieve development, President Kagame pointed to citizens as key to any achievement to date:

“For Rwanda, there is nothing casual about the term “lessons learned”. We have been changed by real learning from our experiences and circumstances. Therefore we have had to do things differently, earning us different results. At the core of our political mobilisation work, are the principles of inclusiveness, taking responsibility and building consensus.”

With the upcoming SDGs, President Kagame called on a less theoretical and more citizen centred approach to development:

“The SDGs are the next chapter in global collaboration on development and hopefully, a new opportunity to move away from the business as usual mode. Let’s work to complement the new SDG framework, with a genuine effort, to objectively assess the degree of citizen buy-in and involvement, in decision-making and accountability. It is up to us, to make the most of this new opportunity.”

The two day International Conference on Sustainable Development brought together leaders in various fields to identify and share practical, evidence-based solutions that can support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be agreed upon at the United Nations immediately following the conference.

Introducing President Kagame, Professor Jeffrey Sachs described him as the MDGS President and defined Rwanda as having made more progress in MDGs than any other country in the last 15 years.

Concluding the conference, Professor Jeffrey Sachs announced Rwanda as the location for the Sustainable Development Centre for the African continent.

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