Message of the Secretary-General

Dear friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor to be here with you today as you review progress toward the Millennium Development Goals for the Asia and the Pacific region.

It is also an honour to deliver the following message to you on behalf of the Secretary General.

I quote:


It is a pleasure to send greetings to all the participants in this Special Ministerial Meeting.

Ten years ago, Heads of State and Governments made a solemn promise to spare no effort to fight extreme poverty and inequalities, and to build a global partnership for development by 2015.

Next month, world leaders will return to New York to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and, we hope, agree on strategies and concrete steps to accelerate progress so that we can fulfil the promises that were made.

To date, the global record is mixed: there have been many important gains, but much remains to be done.

Despite the recent food, energy and economic and financial crises, the developing world remains on track to halve extreme poverty from its 1990 level. A number of countries have registered major successes in combating hunger, improving school enrolment and child health, expanding access to clean water and HIV treatment, and controlling tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases. These improvements have happened in some of the poorest countries, demonstrating that the MDGs are indeed achievable.

Nevertheless, the gains have been uneven across the goals and from country to country. And the recent crises have made this work harder still. Progress has been slow in improving maternal health and reducing maternal mortality. There has been insufficient progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Almost half of the people in the developing world continue to live without access to basic sanitation. Too many people remain jobless or under-employed. And more attention needs to be given to sustainability and green growth.

The Asia and Pacific region, for its part, has made significant gains, thereby contributing to global successes. This meeting is a timely opportunity for you to highlight which strategies have worked well in your countries and brainstorm about how your success stories can be replicated elsewhere. Indeed, one of the main goals of the September Summit is to showcase what works — in order to scale it up.

This meeting will also allow you to address the remaining gaps and continuing challenges. In particular, we must assist those countries that have fallen behind, especially the region’s fourteen least developed countries and the Small Island Developing States.

The United Nations will continue to be your partner. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific will continue to work with its UN system partners and regional organizations to report on progress and policy challenges, and to carry out capacity building programmes.

I trust that you will use this ministerial meeting to advance our common objectives. Your efforts can help maximize our success at the September Summit. Please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

That concludes the message of the Secretary General.

Along with the Secretary-General, I congratulate you on this region’s numerous MDG success stories and for their strong impact at the global level.

The sharpest reductions in poverty worldwide continue to be recorded in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, where the target of halving extreme poverty has already been met. The percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day in Eastern Asia dropped from 60 per cent in 1990 to just 16 per cent in 2005. In South-Eastern Asia it went from 39 to 19 per cent. The poverty rate in China is expected to fall to around 5 per cent by 2015.

Most of Southern Asia, however, is in danger of not halving extreme poverty rates by 2015. And the prevalence of hunger there has actually increased slightly between 2002 and 2007.

In all parts of Asia, vulnerable employment — characterized by inadequate earnings, substandard working conditions and a lack benefits — had declined between 1998 and 2008. But since 2008, progress has slowed or reversed.

In Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, although school enrolment has always been relatively high, there has been little change since 1999. If these trends continue, primary education will not be universal in these two sub-regions by 2015. Indonesia, however, is a notable exception. Here, enrolment at primary level is almost universal.

In Southern Asia progress in school enrolment has been remarkable. The enrolment rate reached 90% in 2008 and that sub-region is on track to meet the universality target by 2015.

Gender equality in education is still uneven across Asia, but some regions have shown us what is possible. In Eastern and South-Eastern Asia the gender gap has been closed at all three levels, with as many girls as boys enrolled in school.

I am very proud of the MDG accomplishments in Asia in a relatively short period of time. We should recognize and celebrate the fact that in many ways, this region is a model for others to follow. But this celebratory pause should be brief. For as we can see, disparities exist among our neighbors.

We convene here today to identify innovative approaches that will accelerate progress. Please seize this opportunity to learn from each other. Study what has worked in neighboring countries. How can you apply similar strategies? How can you influence policies that support Goal achievement? With just five years until 2015, it is crucial that policies are changed or tightened now.

How can current development aid structures be reworked to support the Goals? How can you push harder to make medicines and new technologies more accessible to the poor? Please think creatively and consult with others. With continued hard work and more innovation, Asia can become an even greater Millennium Development Goal success story.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In September, world leaders will gather in New York to consider the second comprehensive review of the Millennium Development Goals. At this critical time, therefore, your input and participation is so important. We can still accomplish what we set out to achieve. Please help us in every way possible to do just that.

For our part, all UN organizations are focusing on these Goals. My department, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, known as ‘DESA,’ is working with Member States and other development partners in many ways.

We conduct research and analysis, including with ESCAP and other UN partners in Asia. We improve MDG monitoring through data collection and national statistical capacity building. Along with other UN entities we help Member States implement national development strategies that empower women and protect vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities. We support the needs of least-developed countries, small island developing states and land-locked countries through intergovernmental processes.

My department is also leading preparations for the MDG Summit, including by providing substantive support to Member State consultations on the draft outcome document.

In closing, I wish to underscore DESA’s commitment to support and partner with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. My department and all UN system organizations stand ready to work with renewed vigor in coming years so that all targets are achieved in all Asian sub-regions.

Let us amplify the successes already seen in Asia. Let us inspire the world with more hard-fought gains in the battles against poverty, gender inequality, disease and environmental degradation.

Thank you for your participation today and I look forward to the results of this MDG Review meeting. I trust that your work here will make strong contributions to the MDG Summit in September.