Global Engagement Summit
Photo: UN Partnerships/Noor Zubair
16 February 2024

Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships Annemarie Hou speaks at the UN General Assembly Hall

Distinguished colleagues and friends. Welcome to the United Nations.

I want to start by thanking UNA-USA, the UN Foundation, and the Better World Campaign for your work in support of the United Nations.

We are here at the Global Engagement Summit with a remarkable Fashion Showcase that celebrates the intersection of creativity, sustainability, and global collaboration.

Fashion is not just about the clothes we wear. 

It's a language, an expression of ourselves, and a reflection of the world around us. 

And let me say that by putting on clothes this morning, you are all part of that movement—thank you. 

From the moment we wake up and decide what we wear, to the trends we follow and the brands we support, fashion is deeply embedded in our daily actions and lives. 

Think about it: the cozy sweater you reach for on a chilly morning, that vibrant scarf that adds a pop of color to your outfit, or the statement shoes that make you feel unstoppable — all these choices speak volumes about who we are and what we stand for.

Today, as we gather here to celebrate fashion's beauty and influence, we also acknowledge its impact and responsibility. 

I’d like to express my appreciation to the fellow members of the UN Sustainable Fashion Alliance for their unwavering commitment to promoting sustainability and ethical practices within the industry. Collaboration is key, and together, we can drive meaningful change.

Which takes me to Sustainable Development Goal 17.

Who knows what this Global Goal is? I’m assuming all of you do.

It’s about partnership which is why I’m thrilled to announce that the UN Fashion and Lifestyle Network has surpassed 250 partners — a testament to the growing momentum behind sustainable fashion initiatives worldwide. 

This network, an initiative of the UN Office for Partnerships and the Fashion Impact Fund, represents not just a community, but a movement — one that recognizes the power of fashion to shape our world for the better. 

Through strategic partnerships, knowledge-sharing, and collaborative projects, we can drive tangible impact, fostering a culture of innovation and accountability within the fashion ecosystem.

Now, let's talk about numbers for a moment. 

Did you know that the global textile market is estimated at a staggering $3 trillion? With such power comes great responsibility. 

Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are contributing directly and significantly to the planetary crisis, not to mention social injustices worldwide. 

According to the latest data, textile production contributes a staggering 10% of global carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions of the entire European Union. 

Show of hands? Who has a pair of jeans?

Your pair of jeans took about 2000 gallons of water to make. Did you bring a water bottle today? So that’s about 15,000 refills of that water bottle for your pair of jeans. 

This is important to know because about 2 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. 

And nearly half the world lacks adequate sanitation services. So it’s time to ask, do we truly need another pair of jeans? Could we delay that? 

It’s really not the time to lose hope because we have all of you in this room. Part of that movement that we talked about. 

2024 marks the beginning of the second half of the Sustainable Development Goals, and we all know that every match is won in the second half.

So there is very much hope for all of us to make a difference.

Here is where Global Goal 17 comes in again. 

We need to come together in a spirit of unity, and commit to invest in sustainable development and climate action, and to act for a better future for people and planet where no one is left behind.

And yes, we can do that with a pair of jeans. 

The Summit of the Future which will come in September will play a pivotal role in defining the key next steps in our quest to achieve the SDGs by their deadline.

And we need your voice and we need to make sure you’re part of that solution that we’re looking for in the second half.

Together, let's harness the power of fashion to inspire change, to spark conversations, and to shape a brighter future for generations to come.

Thank you again to our dear colleagues at UNA-USA for bringing us together, and to all of you being delegates at the UN today. 

You all know what it means to make a fashion statement as I can see by the incredible outfits we see today. 

We count on each one of you to make sustainability our fashion statement. 

Thank you.