21 June 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Millennium Development Goals

 


Highlighting a number of events taking place this month that will feed into September’s summit on the Millennium Development Goals, top United Nations officials this afternoon stressed the importance of political will for reaching the anti-poverty targets by their 2015 deadline.


“This can be done,” said Olav Kjørven, Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy.  “There is no rocket science in any of the action points.  It’s a matter of political will,” he stressed, pointing out that such will had to be exercised by both donor and developing countries, as well as the private sector in international organizations.  “No one is off the hook,” he said.


Joining Mr. Kjørven at the Headquarters press conference were Robert C. Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


Mr. Orr pointed out that there was a lot happening on the Millennium Development Goals this week.  Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released the Global Pulse report, focusing on recovery from the global economic crisis from the perspective of the poorest, which he said could be accessed at unglobalpulse.org.


The report, he said, shows that, despite the recovery, there was still a lot of suffering in developing countries; in fact, it suggests that some of the adjustments that have been made at the national and international level have been paid for at the household level in those countries.  Mr. Sundaram commented that reductions in poverty were being achieved, but there was deep concern over an increase in hunger and the achievement of other Millennium Development Goals.


Also out this morning, Mr. Orr said, was the Secretary-General’s letter to Group of 20 (G-20) leaders ahead of their Toronto summit on 25 to 27 June, which maintained that inclusive and green growth was needed to sustain the recovery.  On Wednesday, Mr. Ban will launch the Millennium Development Goals progress report 2010, which complements a UNDP report released last Thursday, to give a good picture of where the world stood in achieving the Goals.


Mr. Sundaram said that the letter drew attention to the fact that the recovery was fragile and it reiterated the need to address a number of challenges — including employment, climate change and food security — within the recovery effort in order to shape it in a more inclusive and sustainable manner.


Mr. Orr also noted that, at the end of this week, the United Nations Global Compact was holding a summit that projected the unprecedented attendance of 1,300 business leaders to discuss how business, labour and civil society could support achievement of the Goals.  The event, to be held at New York’s Marriot Marquis Hotel, would mark the 10-year anniversary of the initiative’s founding, with a blueprint for more proactive cooperation of business in achieving United Nations goals.


Elaborating on the UNDP report on attaining the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Kjørven said that an eight-point action agenda had been formulated from an in-depth study of 50 countries.  It advocated that Governments needed to be empowered to be in charge of efforts to meet the Goals in their countries.


The report also urged a focus on jobs, agriculture, clean water and access to education and clean energy, all of which had multiplying effects on poverty alleviation.  It prioritized, as well, domestic resource mobilization, including broadening the tax base, and the fulfilment of promises to increase the amount and effectiveness of aid.


He expressed hope that all the reports now being issued would help the summit agree on a concrete action agenda to achieve the Goals by 2015, saying that a lot of progress had been achieved in the previous 10 years, but the large gaps required more will on everyone’s part.  “We will not make it happen through business as unusual.  What we need is business as unusual,” he said.


Asked how the G-20 was viewed by the United Nations, Mr. Orr noted that there was diversity of opinion among Member States, but there was broad support for the Secretary-General’s attendance at the summit to deliver a strong message, because, by any measure, the G-20 was central to shaping the recovery.


In response to other questions, panellists said that they had seen a strengthening of political will recently, particularly in investment in public health, although it was a tough environment, because of tight budgets.  Mr. Orr stressed that success could motivate Governments, and successful models for progress had helped broaden the coalition in the private sector, in particular.


Asked what had not succeeded over the past 10 years, Mr. Kjørven said that it was clear that, if Governments had priorities set elsewhere than poverty reduction, “that’s where a lot of things go wrong at the get-go”.  He also pointed to policy failures, such as setting user fees for social services and de-prioritizing small-holder agriculture.  Remedying those mistakes was a big effort now.


Asked if corporations that had signed the Global Compact were being held accountable for the social effects of their actions, Mr. Orr said that many had indeed been de-listed, though mainly for non-reporting, but the reports required a great deal of transparency.  The next phase of the initiative should bring about a more proactive business agenda to support United Nations goals.  He declined to comment on accountability in relationship to BP or Petrochina.


In the area of innovative resource generation, Mr. Orr described the voluntary airline tax, the long-proposed currency exchange tax and the broader taxes on financial transactions that have been recently suggested and had much support in Europe.  There was much discussion on the scope and nature of such taxes, and they would probably be resolved on the national level.


On accountability for delivering on pledges, the panel acknowledged that there were large gaps in pledge delivery from several summits, but Mr. Orr said that the Group of Eight’s Joint Action Plan on maternal and child heath included an unprecedented accountability framework that donor Governments were not shying away from, and that was a big step forward.  In that context, Mr. Kjørven stressed that bringing the poorest into the economy was an investment in the stability of the entire world.


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For information media • not an official record