Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Remarks at Press Briefing to Launch the MDG Gap Task Force 2013 Report
19 September 2013, New York
Several targets in sanitation will be met by the target year of 2015. This has been the result of a collective effort by governments, civil society, the private sector and the international community. However, there are many areas where bolder action is needed, such as pollution (where CO2 emission levels are 46 per cent higher than in 1990), child and maternal health (where 57 children per 1000 births and 240 mothers per 100,000 births die), HIV prevention (with 34 million people living with HIV), and basic education (with 57 million children of primary school age out of school).
The Global Partnership for Development as defined by MDG 8 is a key element to support the achievement of the MDGs. Austerity measures and their lingering effects have adversely affected the global partnership. This is happening at a time when developing countries need to re-double their efforts to achieve the targets within two years. It is hoped that recovery from the aftermath of the global crisis will facilitate countries to fulfil their commitments to global partnership.
The MDG Gap Task Force Report makes concrete recommendations to strengthen the partnership despite these adversities.
First and foremost, developing countries, especially the least developed countries, greatly rely on official development assistance to finance development-related expenditures. However, ODA fell 4 per cent to around $126 billion in 2012, after falling 2 per cent in 2011. Donors must urgently reverse this downward trend. The Report shows that this can be done, as Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden continue to fulfil their commitment to the UN target, and many other countries such as Australia, Austria and Korea have increased their ODA. The world must realize that helping developing countries benefits the wellbeing of all, including the donors.
Second, allowing for a fairer and freer movement of goods, services and labour would also benefit all. Members of the World Trade Organization will have another chance at the end of this year to come to an agreement in at least three areas: trade facilitation (that is, faster movement and clearance of goods), the prevention of higher tariffs applied after countries import agricultural goods beyond a certain quota and a full implementation of duty-free quota-free market access for LDC goods in developed countries, which now stands at 83 per cent of LDC exports.
Third, the weak global economic situation has unveiled that many developing countries, especially in the Caribbean, have unsustainable debt situations, while lacking any formal mechanisms to help them restructure their sovereign debt. The Task Force recommends that the United Nations convoke an international working group to study options to enhance the international architecture for debt restructuring.
Fourth, pharmaceutical companies should make medicines accessible and affordable. However, patients in developing countries have to pay 3 to 6 times the international reference prices, if they are available, as these medicines are only available in 57 per cent of public dispensaries. Pharmaceutical companies should, thus, work harder at making medicines more affordable to developing countries by applying tiered pricing and making their patents more accessible.
Fifth, information and communication technologies have proven to have a great impact on development, especially through the spread of broadband Internet to facilitate the use of ICT applications, like government-supplied services. Citizen participation and government consultation has jumped by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2012. Therefore, governments are encouraged to establish national broadband policies and make these technologies more accessible and affordable.
All of these tasks are attainable. As the UN and the world begin discussions on the Post-2015 Agenda, I cannot think of a better transition than to accomplish these unfinished tasks. Within the United Nations System, the Development Cooperation Forum established in 2008, under the Economic and Social Council, is the ideal multi-stakeholder forum to address and implement these initiatives.
I strongly urge the international community and all stakeholders to take appropriate action and heed the recommendations of this Report.