UNIVERSAL EDUCATION, EMPOWERING WOMEN, IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON DEVELOPMENT AMONG ISSUES, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-POVERTY GOALS

3 April 2008
GA/10699

UNIVERSAL EDUCATION, EMPOWERING WOMEN, IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON DEVELOPMENT AMONG ISSUES, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-POVERTY GOALS

3 April 2008
General Assembly
GA/10699
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Plenary

92nd & 93rd Meetings (AM & PM)

UNIVERSAL EDUCATION, EMPOWERING WOMEN, IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON DEVELOPMENT

AMONG ISSUES, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE ON ANTI-POVERTY GOALS

As the General Assembly continued its thematic debate entitled “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”, representatives from around the world today took stock of progress made on everything from poverty and hunger eradication and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal education and health care and empowering women.  

Shedding light on their respective efforts and challenges to achieve the ambitious millennium targets, speakers noted many national and regional successes, but also pointed to areas that required far greater political, financial and technical commitments on the part of the international community. 

Djibouti’s representative said Africa had made the least progress towards the Goals related to poverty, education and health care.  Food levels were at their lowest since 1973, due to recent soaring oil prices.  That situation, coupled with the negative impact of climate change, meant Africa’s food production would likely shrink at least 20 per cent.  Sub-Saharan Africa was particularly behind in achieving the first Millennium Goal of halving the percentage of people living on less than $1 a day.  Domestic resource mobilization was crucial to attaining that end, but developed countries must also do their part by eliminating unfair agricultural subsidies, whose monetary value was often more than three times that of their official development assistance. 

The representative of neighbouring Eritrea said his country had invested hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly in infrastructure for food security, in order to make hunger history.  According to its first national Millennium Development Goals report in November 2006, Eritrea was on track to achieve the Goals related to primary education, access to safe water, child health, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.  But, like many sub-Saharan African countries, it was struggling with limited human and institutional capacity.  The no-peace, no-war status imposed on Eritrea by Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, and the international community’s failure to enforce the Commission’s decision, was the single biggest obstacle to Eritrea’s development.  It would need an estimated $1.47 billion during the 2004-2015 period to achieve the millennium targets.

China’s representative said his country had been the first to reach the target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and it had achieved universal primary education ahead of schedule.  But, while China enjoyed economic growth and reform, its economic foundation was not strong and the fruits of its development had to be shared by 1.3 billion people.  The populous nation was under tremendous pressure to make gains in employment, poverty reduction, resources, energy and environmental protection and it still had a long way to go to ensure that “development is shared by all”.  While China was making its best effort, the international community really could and should do more to level the playing field, so that all developing countries could engage in global trade and benefit more from globalization.  Further, south-south cooperation must be expanded and the downward trend in official development assistance reversed. 

Spain’s representative said his country was committing to doing just that, tripling its official development assistance in the past three years to 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008.  Spain had committed 20 per cent of that aid to the world’s poorest countries and 20 per cent to basic social sectors.  It was also very concerned about the increase in food prices and had pledged $47 million to the emergency appeal of the World Food Programme (WFP).  Poverty eradication required an increase in the quantity and quality of aid, he said, stressing that Spain was committed to the instruments and procedures that guaranteed greater effectiveness, such as the Paris Declaration.  

Costa Rica’s representative said effectiveness and efficiency must also be a priority of all nations in public spending and national action programmes.  The Goal of sustainable development could be achieved if nations reduced military spending and consumer waste, while increasing investment in health, education, roads and housing.  Costa Rica was following that road map, pouring funds into programmes to expand primary and secondary school education and health care, as well as into efforts to cut the poverty rate -- now 17 per cent -- in half by 2015.  Its efforts were bearing fruit, he said, noting that 98.8 per cent of the country’s children were enrolled in primary school and that maternal mortality, infant mortality and deaths due to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis had dropped since 2000.

Afghanistan’s representative said that his country, which was embroiled in conflict in 2000 when the Goals were adopted, had extended its millennium timeline to 2020 and had revised most of the targets in line with the country’s needs and current situation.  Further, it had added a ninth goal of “enhancing security”.  Despite progress in some areas -- some 7 million children had returned to school, 81 per cent of the population had access to basic health services, and infant and maternal mortality were declining -- many challenges remained.  Poverty and unemployment had spurred terrorist activities and could jeopardize the gains of the past six years.  He reminded donors of their commitments under the Afghanistan Compact to improve aid effectiveness and scale up funding to help Afghanistan achieve the millennium targets.

The representatives of Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Denmark, Kenya, Lebanon, Benin, New Zealand, Montenegro, Croatia, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Malta, Senegal, Maldives, Algeria, Nepal, Poland, Cape Verde, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Belarus, Argentina, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, El Salvador, Bulgaria, Guinea, Suriname, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ireland, Venezuela and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also made statements.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 4 April, to conclude its thematic debate.

Background

The General Assembly met today to continue its thematic debate: “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”.

Statements

ÍÑIGO DE PALACIO ESPAÑA ( Spain) said that, for his country, poverty eradication required an increase in both the quantity, as well as the quality of aid.  It was committed to instruments and procedures that guaranteed greater effectiveness, such as those embedded in the Paris Declaration.  Millennium Development Goal 8 called for the creation of a global alliance for development.  Spain was increasing development aid.  Its official development assistance (ODA) had tripled over thee past three years and would reach 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008.  Spain committed 20 per cent of ODA to the poorest countries and 20 per cent to basic social sectors, without prejudice to its support for middle-income countries.  Greatly concerned at the increase in food prices, Spain had announced a contribution of $47 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) emergency appeal.

As for education, Spain supported development of elementary education through the strengthening of the public education system, he said.  It had contributed €45 million to the Catalyst Fund for the Fast Track Education for All Initiative.  All cooperation was inspired by an integrated concept of the Millennium Development Goals.  That holistic and transversal concept of development was the basis for the Spain-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Fund, with horizontal thematic windows such as “children, food safety and nutrition” or “youth, employment and migration”.  Spanish cooperation also integrated other essential aspects for development, such as gender issues and environmental sustainability.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) said his county had established an open-market economy and diversified it economy, so that it was not totally dependent on petrol products.  As a result, it had become an important financial centre in the Middle East.  Bahrain had started with a phased policy in order to implement the Millennium Development Goals.  Eradication of extreme poverty was the main priority for any society.  In his country, the percentage of people living on less than $1 a day was zero.  Among its common efforts to combat poverty, the Government subsidized needy families, had lowered electricity rates for needy families and had established a fund for social housing.  A new law for social security had also been introduced.

He said the literacy rate for the 15 to 25 years age group was 97 per cent, and 100 per cent of elementary school students were promoted to the fifth grade.  The State had improved scholarly development and promoted the teaching of English, mathematics and subjects regarding the environment and human rights.  Education also benefited from new technologies.  The infant mortality rate had dropped to 8.9 per 1,000, and mortality for children under age 5 to 10.9 per 1,000.  The State also addressed the health of mothers, with prenatal and postnatal programmes.  A committee had been established to address the issues of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  There had not been any cases of malaria reported and the number of people with tuberculosis had been reduced to 23 in 2005.

ROBLE OLHAYE ( Djibouti) said Africa appeared to have made the least headway towards achieving the goals on poverty, education and health care.  The most basic of all needs was that for food.  Soaring oil prices had affected the levels of food flows, now at their lowest levels since 1973.  The growing impact of climate change was also daunting.  As a result of those factors, Africa would probably suffer a decline in food production of at least 20 per cent.  Achievement of the first Millennium Goal -- to half the portion of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015 -- was behind projections, especially for sub-Saharan Africa.  While mobilization of domestic resources was key to attaining that Goal, there was also the need for developed countries to eliminate their unfair agricultural subsidies, which often reached more than three times the level of their ODA.

He said that, while there had been a significant increase in primary school enrolment in Africa, the dropout rate was staggering.  The need for competent teachers remained high, and children must be fit to learn -- fed, healthy, clothed, protected and encouraged.  As for improving health, the picture seemed disjointed.  The emerging role of foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, global funds and targeted bilateral programmes were having a notable impact.  However, donor financing commitments for health and other goals remained far ahead of actual aid flows.  Add to that the unpredictability of external financing, and the difficulty in planning health services became more understandable.  There was certainly a need to develop mechanisms to hold all partners accountable for their performance against international commitments.

NASSIR ABBDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said international partnerships were a significant vehicle for supporting the efforts of developing countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the first one related to guaranteeing full and productive employment for citizens.  His country acted on that belief not only by undertaking development projects in both rural and urban areas, but also by responding rapidly to relief and humanitarian appeals.  At the national level, the allocation of 21 per cent of the 2008-2009 budget to education and 9.6 per cent to health and human services was evidence of Qatar’s commitment to achieving sustainable and comprehensive development.

Continuing, he recalled his country’s role in promoting partnerships for development in hosting the 2001 Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization that had resulted in the Doha Development Round.  He said negotiations on the Round should have ended in June 2005, but they were still under way.  In November to December of this year, the International Follow-up Conference on Financing for Development would take place in Doha, as an outcome of a commitment made at the 2005 Millennium Summit.  Other initiatives his country carried out beyond contributions to United Nations funds and programmes included the provision of generous and systematic bilateral assistance in response to disasters and emergencies.  Still, much more needed to be done if the Millennium Development Goals were to be realized by 2015.  The rate of reducing extreme poverty would have to double over what had been achieved so far.  Expediting international trade negotiations in context of the Doha Round was another commitment, as was the goal to establish fairer rules in foreign trade.  Debt cancellation and development assistance were extremely important in leapfrogging the growth of least developed countries and marginalized economies.  The Goal of alleviating poverty was best served by activating international partnerships to assist developing countries in implementing measures aimed at providing decently paid employment opportunities for citizens.

Mr. BIN HASSAN ( Yemen) said his country was committed to making every effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date.  Since 1995, Yemen had integrated the Millennium targets into its development policies and its 2006 to 2011 national development plan.  It had made investment programmes in small- and medium-sized businesses a priority and was conducting a review of financial legislation.  Yemen had worked to strengthen its social security network and human resources opportunities, particularly for the poor, in order to increase their participation in productive employment.  It had set up mechanisms for good governance and for combating corruption.   Yemen had achieved high economic growth and, since 1998, had reduced poverty by 50 per cent.

Official development assistance per capita was still low, he said, noting that Yemen’s level was $13 per capita annually, while the international level of assistance per capita for least developed countries was $33 annually.  The increase in staple food prices had further exacerbated challenges to poverty eradication and sustainable development.  Development partners must honour their commitments to allocate 0.7 per cent of GDP in aid for developing countries and 0.2 per cent for least developed countries by 2010.   The distribution of such aid should be done in a fair and equitable manner for all.  An evaluation mechanism should be set up to evaluate implementation of commitments.

CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said there was a need to focus on one issue that could be addressed quickly and effectively, namely the economic empowerment of women.  Gender equality was not only a basic human right, but also smart economics.  Providing women equal opportunities to educate themselves and actively participate in productive economic activity on equal terms with men was imperative in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  The political commitment to gender equality and empowerment took more than words; it took concrete actions and priority of resources.  Investment in gender equality should be a national priority, primarily financed by domestic resources.  Increased ODA targeted at women was also essential.  Denmark had committed to double its assistance focused on gender equality from 2008 to 2010.

He said gender equality was all too often treated as a “cross-cutting issue”.  Empowerment of women, however, should be a goal in itself.  Without empowered women, the Millennium Development Goals would not become a reality in Africa.  To ensure that Goal 3 was kept at the forefront of development efforts at all levels and by all actors, Denmark proposed a global coalition of Governments, international organizations, private sector actors and civil society that was committed to making gender equality and women’s economic empowerment a key issue in the run-up to the United Nations high-level meeting on 25 September.  The coalition should work for, among other things, a substantial increase in resources to gender eq1ulity; a strengthened accountability in relation to Goal 3 efforts at both international and national levels; and a strong and active involvement by the private sector.

ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya) said that, in spite of initial high expectations, the latest reports indicated that most African countries were far off track in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.   Kenya had made uneven progress.  In 2002, it had had its lowest growth in GDP, namely 0.2 per cent, with spillover effects on other Millennium Development Goal indicators.  Thanks to Government efforts, growth for 2007 was at an estimated 7.1 per cent.  The percentage of Kenyans living in poverty had been reduced by 10 per cent during 2002 to 2006 and net enrolment in primary education stood at 86.5 per cent in 2006.  The Goals were being mainstreamed in policies and budgets.  A total of $5.9 billion annually would be needed to achieve the Goals.

Government efforts to achieve the Goals had been faced with challenges, such as inadequate resources, poor infrastructure and inadequate capacity and policy frameworks, he said.  In that regard, the international community was called upon to review and meet their commitments, particularly in the area of provision of resources, technology transfer and capacity-building.  Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals required the implementation of commitments by all stakeholders.  All parties must live up to the challenge bestowed upon them in the Millennium Declaration.  If that was done, regardless of how far off track countries were, there was still hope.

NAWAF A. SALAM ( Lebanon) said implementation of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 was still possible if all stakeholders made good on their commitments and respected their pledges.  But, challenges still existed, such as the negative impacts of globalization, climate change and the disparities between rich and poor.  Since 2000, Lebanon had made many efforts to implement the Millennium targets.  It had reduced those who lived below the poverty line from 27 per cent in 1995 to 20.6 per cent in 2000.  Primary school enrolment was up and illiteracy among women was declining.  More girls were attending primary school and university.  But, women still did not participate in decision-making on the same level as men.  The National Committee for Elections, set up by the Council of Ministers in 2005, proposed a quota for women in order to increase their role in political decision-making. 

Lebanon was also working to reduce infant mortality and maternal mortality, he said.  The number of HIV/AIDS cases had been reduced from 15 per 100,000 to 9 per 100,000.  Lebanon’s strides towards environmental conservation had been thwarted due to Israel’s destructive acts in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.  Israeli air strikes on 13 and 15 August 2006 had hit electricity-generating companies in Lebanon.  Indebtedness was also a big problem for the Lebanese economy.  Lebanon had worked to reduce the budget deficit and attract more investment.  The Government had received $7.6 billion in international financial assistance in 2007.  Aid was contingent on the holding of presidential elections and providing institutional capacity-building, as well as strategies that could create good employment opportunities.  He stressed the need to give developing countries financial and technical assistance and to promote partnerships that were essential for achieving the Millennium targets.

JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU (Benin) said that, as one of the least developed countries, his country was striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but was challenged by insufficient financial resources and suffering from a downward trend in the price of cotton as a result of unfair trade practices and difficulties in accessing international markets.  Benin had tried to create a favourable environment regarding the Millennium Development Goals through the “Benin 2025 Alafia” plan, its strategic development guidelines for 2006 to 2011, as well as its overall strategy for poverty reduction for 2007 to 2009.   Measures taken by the Government had been reflected in considerable progress in some areas, and modest progress in others.  Poverty, however, had been worsening and achievement of the Goals was under threat.  Benin had, therefore, drawn up a second generation poverty reduction strategy that addressed sectors such as health, gender, education, sanitation, energy, transport and water.

There was, however, a significant funding gap for implementation of programmes and plans, he said.  He hoped efforts would be made to ensure that poverty could be overcome.  It was necessary that ODA to Benin be substantially increased.   Benin was committed, with the private sector and civil society, to improve the national macroeconomic framework.  Benin’s membership in regional and subregional bodies had been a major benefit as a result of regional development policies.  He appealed to the Bretton Woods institutions and all development partners, both public and private, to increase the resources within the framework of agreed international commitments for the financing of development.

KIRSTY GRAHAM ( New Zealand) said that, at the halfway point of the Millennium Development Goals, the development challenge had never been higher on the international agenda.  New Zealand had recently signed up to the “MDG Call to Action” and looked forward to participating in the Secretary-General’s high-level event, scheduled to take place on 25 September.  While positive achievements had been made, there were troubling signs that the global community had not been making sufficient progress with the Goals.  Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific were two subregions that were the most off track.  The stakes were high, especially for the millions of people trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty or dying of hunger and tropical diseases, as well as for the millions that lacked access to basic education.

The international community could, and must, do better, she said.  That required a truly global effort across a range of issues, including peace and security, governance, economic growth, trade and investment, particularly in the agricultural sector, and development assistance.  New Zealand stressed the importance of Goal number 3 –- gender equality and women’s empowerment -– for achieving all Goals.  Gender inequality and poverty were inextricably linked, but continued to be among the most persistent and pervasive global challenges.  It was critical that Governments recognize the negative impact and opportunity costs of gender inequality and stepped up the pace to achieve positive development outcomes, particularly at the country level.  Further, New Zealand recognized that no gains would be made against any of the Goals without strong global partnerships.  Partnerships and alignments expressed in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness had allowed New Zealand to align its support with the larger contributions of others.  At the same time, greater coordination among development partners could help to achieve the Goals.

NEBOJŠA KALUDJEROVIĆ ( Montenegro) said that, since regaining independence, his country had undertaken numerous reform processes and had adopted several strategic documents that defined its overall development path towards European Union integration and represented significant tools for fully achieving the Millennium targets.  They included the Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Agenda of Economic Reforms, the National Action Plan for Children, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and other strategies, laws and action plans.  Thanks to sound economic policies, Montenegro had achieved macroeconomic stability and prospects for economic growth remained strong.  It had taken comprehensive measures to strengthen the rule of law and achieve good governance.

Empirical data in Montenegro showed that significant steps had been taken and recent analysis indicated that the percentage of people living below the absolute poverty line was relatively small, 10.9 per cent, he said.  The unemployment rate had fallen to 11.8 per cent this year.  However, one third of the population was considered to be economically vulnerable.  The recent increase in income levels and vigorous economic activity was expected to significantly reduce poverty and relative poverty.  Despite such favourable conditions and pro-poor economic and social policies, some challenges remained.  The regional distribution of poverty was uneven.  Since 2000, Montenegro had undergone comprehensive education reform and had adopted a wide range of education legislation.  Montenegro was on track to achieve the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals.  Between 92 and 98 per cent of all children had been immunized.  Combating HIV/AIDS was a top Government priority.  Montenegro had founded the National HIV/AIDS Commission, which cooperated closely with governmental and non-governmental actors, international organizations and the donor community.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said that, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, official development assistance must be strengthened.  Developing countries also needed to ensure that those commitments were reflected in key national development and poverty reduction policies and that the multidimensional causes and effects of poverty were being equally addressed.  At the same time, agriculture and infrastructure were key for economic development, and a country lacking the means of developing those, combined with a burden of debt, could not be expected to move anywhere.  Without forgetting the overall development agenda and the need to promote equitable and efficient distribution systems, the international community had to put the focus back on improving access to agricultural land and resources for people living in poverty.  For its part, his country attached significant importance to the implementation of the Goals.  As an emerging donor, it would also consider ways of giving stronger support to poor countries.

Saddened by the fact that around 72 million children were still not enrolled in primary school, he hoped that the United Nations and countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia would find ways to change the opportunities for children, especially by abolishing primary school user fees and ensuring safe and equal access to schools for boys and girls.   Croatia had gone one step further, by introducing mandatory secondary education for all.  High priority should also be given to achieving universal access to reproductive health services, especially through budget allocations.  Laws and raising awareness against various forms of harmful traditional cultural and religious practices could not be neglected.  Also, with 1.7 million new HIV infections in Africa every year, it was important to invest in health systems, train health personnel and ensure cooperation between the State and civil society.  Existing coordination mechanisms needed more support, and a common framework for monitoring the progress had to be formed.

AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country was concerned by the overall slow progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, yet encouraged by the spirited efforts made by African States to achieve some Goals, where political determination prevailed and assistance from developing partners was forthcoming.  The United Nations should continue to show robust leadership on how to address the negative effects of climate change and should, with urgency, assume leadership in spearheading action on the global energy crisis.  Without those comprehensive measures, efforts to achieve the Gaols would be seriously behind schedule in many developing countries.  Investments to achieve the Goals must be linked to long-term infrastructure and growth sectors.

His country faced a daunting challenge of translating economic growth into poverty reduction, as measured by household incomes, he said.  Accelerated economic growth was needed in order to enhance the domestic resource base and improve the Government’s ability to provide public services.  In February, a $698 million compact had been signed with the United States to stimulate sustainable economic investment in key economic sectors.  That historic intervention would support national efforts to achieve the Goals and accelerate the country’s development.  His country was on track towards achieving Goal 2 on education, but the target of eliminating illiteracy remained a challenge.  Goals 4 and 5 were lagging behind, despite the existence of an elaborate national strategy.  For that reason, he welcomed a five-nation global initiative, led by Norway, to mobilize additional resources for scaling up investments in the two health-related Goals.  He called for more coordinated international and national arrangements for tracking and speeding up pledges and commitments.  The private sector and international financial institutions should also be encouraged to have greater involvement with the Goals, similar to the initiative with the MDG Steering Group for Africa.

TARIQ K. AL-FAYEZ ( Saudi Arabia) said efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals should be enhanced.  His country gave priority to supporting efforts to combating poverty and enhancing education and health.  They were the building blocks for his country’s 2007-2009 plan, of which the reduction of poverty was the cornerstone.  His country wanted to ensure a fair distribution of wealth and help poor families with health and education services, social security and housing, and also strengthen social institutions.  Favouring access to education for all was the basis for development and the best way to combat poverty.   Saudi Arabia had emphasized education for all by increasing expenditures.  95 per cent of children had been enrolled in primary education in 2005.  Also, health services had made progress over the last 20 years, as reflected in the health indicators.  Under-age-5 mortality rates had decreased to 20.5 per 1,000 in 2005.  Health infrastructure was being built, including hospitals, so that all had access.

Saudi Arabia had exceeded the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals and was helping others to combat poverty, in particular the least developed countries.  Describing several projects to which Saudi Arabia had contributed, he said it had given $6.6 billion for developing projects in 68 countries.  Together with other Gulf States, it financed United Nations assistance programmes.   Saudi Arabia was a member of the African Development Group and had also contributed to the Arab Development Group.  Ownership by developing countries should be at the forefront of United Nations efforts.  Success would depend on adopting development modes that were suited to specific countries.

SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) said the eight Millennium Development Goals formed an interrelated whole and should be considered and attained as a universal framework of development.  Malta, in line with commitments made by the European Union, had undertaken to reach a level of 0.17 per cent of GDP for ODA by 2010.  In the 2007 Malta Overseas Development Policy document, his Government had highlighted the notion of “combating poverty through development”.  Development was a fundamental catalyst in ensuring that globalization was a force for good, narrowing the wealth gap and ensuring that human dignity remained at the centre of economic and political action.  That was why the Millennium Goals should be addressed in a multidimensional way, both through the conduct of political and economic decision-making, as well as through social and environmental factors related to culture, gender equality, geography, climate and energy.

He said that, at the national level, various targets had been achieved in universal primary education, including free access to kindergarten, an increased awareness of environmental and gender issues, and in promoting acceptance of linguistic and cultural diversity.  Through scholarships, Malta was also contributing education to nationals from developing countries.  Surveillance was going on for cases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  Treatment for all three diseases was available to all, free of charge.  Malta had also launched various education programmes to increase awareness of sexually transmitted diseases.  Eradication of poverty did not only create a more equitable world, it was also a major contribution towards a more peaceful and secure world, he said. 

LIU ZHEMIN ( China) said that, as the year 2015 approached, the international community needed to take integrated and effective measures, with a high sense of mission and urgency, to quicken the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Poverty reduction should remain at the top of the agenda and be used to promote development in other areas.  It was also necessary to strengthen the capacity of developing countries.  Developing countries’ efforts were very important, but external support was also indispensable.  The international community was duty-bound to level the playing field for developing countries to engage in global trade, so they could benefit from globalization.  The Doha Round should truly be a “development round” that offered developing countries opportunities to promote development through trade.

Stressing the need for developed countries to show sincerity in fulfilling their commitment of devoting 0.7 per cent of their GDP to ODA, he said the top priority now was to reverse the downward trend of ODA.  He also highlighted the importance of further expansion of South-South cooperation, with increased support to the least developed countries and African countries; mobilization of the entire society to promote development; and full utilization of the role of the United Nations.  Turning to China’s efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals, he said his country had been the first to reach the target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty.  Several targets, including the one on achieving universal primary education, had been met ahead of schedule in China.  Thanks to three decades of reform, opening up and economic growth, China’s poor population in rural areas had been reduced from 250 million in 1978 to 21.48 million today.  Nationwide, nine-year compulsory education now covered 98 per cent of the population.  Of course, China’s economic foundation was not strong, and the fruit of development had to be shared by 1.3 billion people.   China was faced with tremendous pressure in population, employment, poverty reduction, resources, energy and environmental protection.  There was still a long way to go to ensure that “development is shared by all”. 

ROKHAYA SENE ( Senegal), thanking the United Nations for having selected Senegal as one of the eight pilot countries in the Millennium Project, said the Millennium Development Goals reflected the hopes of millions of people in poor countries.  Describing progress made in her country, she said the implementation of the first poverty reduction strategy paper, 2003 to 2005, had reduced the percentage of people living in poverty from 48.5 per cent of the population in 2002 to 42 per cent in 2005.  Economic growth now stood at an average of 5 per cent and inflation was less than 2 per cent a year.

She said more than 82 per cent of Senegalese children were now enrolled in education, compared to 72 per cent in 2002.  As for health indicators, establishment of clinics and subsidies had led to a drop in infant mortality from 157 per 1,000 in 1992 to 121 per 1,000 in 2005.  Although trends were positive, the objectives of the Millennium Goals could not be achieved by 2015.  The HIV rate now stood at less than 1 per cent.  Malaria, however, was a major cause of death among vulnerable groups.  Tuberculosis was also a priority for Senegal.  Senegal was emphasizing such areas as wealth creation; improving access to basic social services; social protection and preventing risks of natural disasters; and good governance.  There was no silver bullet, however.  Poverty was the result of man-made injustice.  To eliminate that injustice, it was essential that words be followed by action.

ARAYA DESTA ( Eritrea) said his country was committed to doing its best to achieve the Millennium targets.  It had invested hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly in infrastructure for food security, in order to make hunger history.  According to its first national Millennium Development Goals report in November 2006, Eritrea was on track to achieve the Goals related to primary education, access to safe water, child health, maternal health and HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.  That report, which was guided and managed by the Ministry of National Development, set out to determine Eritrea’s benchmark vis-à-vis the Millennium Development Goals’ indicators and targets, provide a road map to achieve the targets by 2015 and indicate in broad terms the resources required to do so.  Once Eritrea’s benchmark had been established for each Goal indicator, linear projections had then been made on whether the Goals would be achieved by 2015.

Most of Sub-Saharan Africa found the Millennium Development Goals to be very ambitious, he said.  The financial resources required to achieve them were huge and, given current human and institutional capabilities, beyond the reach of most African countries.  Their social, economic and physical structure was at such a low level, thus constraining their productive capacity and limiting trade and regional integration.  Many countries were in, or emerging from, devastating conflicts.  All those factors were major contributors to low growth.  But, economic growth was needed for poverty reduction.  The no-peace, no-war status imposed on Eritrea by Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and the international community’s failure to enforce the Commission’s decision was the single biggest constriction to Eritrea’s development.  Eritrea was off track to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to achieve universal primary education.  It would need an estimated $1.47 billion during the 2004-2015 period to achieve the Millennium targets.

AHMED KHALEEL ( Maldives) said that, despite the setbacks his country had suffered due to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, careful planning, prudent policies, strong leadership and hard work, coupled with generous assistance and cooperation of development partners, had put the country back on track to achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.   Maldives had already achieved the Goals of eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and universal primary education.  The country was also on track to achieving the Goals on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating communicable diseases.  While challenges remained, significant progress had also been achieved in gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Concerted efforts were being made to meet the nutrition targets for children.  Sustaining that remarkable progress, however, was proving to be a formidable challenge.

Following his country’s graduation from the least developed countries group, development assistance and favourable market access had dwindled and the tsunami had given the Maldives a glimpse of the extent of the vulnerabilities it faced, he said.  Other important factors included the frequency and strength of the extreme weather pattern the country had been experiencing recently, and frequent flooding.  Rising temperatures would not only threaten the country’s development, but also kill its prized coral reefs.  Therefore, achieving Goal 7 on environmental sustainability remained a priority.  For his country, climate change was not a future possibility -- it was present, real and directly linked to the country’s development.  “We do not have the luxury of time, nor can we survive with hollow words,” he added.  What was needed now was swift and targeted practical action to fulfil the commitments made at various summits and conferences to protect and preserve the global environment, to reduce and eliminate poverty and hunger, and to achieve sustainable development.  Most importantly, it was necessary to properly fund various action programmes that had been agreed upon for the most vulnerable groups, small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries.  The partnership envisaged in Goal 8 was key.  The international community had the capacity and resources to do that, and the political will of all was needed.

YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) said his country was well on its way to achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  All efforts had been made to combat poverty, illiteracy, hunger, gender inequality, infant and maternal mortality, and environmental degradation.  Although progress had been made in several areas by developing countries, numerous countries, particularly in Africa, would not be able to achieve the Goals by 2015 and were confronted with extreme poverty among large parts of their population.  The Goals offered States, the international community and the United Nations a good opportunity to improve the work of development agencies and the principle of shared responsibilities.

He said success stories in Africa should be encouraging support for national growth and investment policies.  He underlined, in that regard, the importance of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a platform for development.  The international community must redouble its efforts to meet its commitments towards sustainable development.  Initiatives to achieve the Millennium Goals should be linked to national development strategies.  It was up to the developing countries themselves to realize the Goals, but the international community had an important role to play by combating systemic asymmetries.  Success in implementing the Goals also depended on improvement in coordination between local, national and international actors.

SAUL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) said the sharp increase in oil prices and basic food was a heavy burden on the poor and middle class.  Human activity was also having a devastating impact on the natural planet.  Sustainable development -- characterized by a drop in military spending and consumer waste and by an increase in investment in health, education, roads and housing -- was necessary.  Donor countries must honour their commitment to give 0.7 per cent of GDP in ODA for developing countries.  All countries must assign resources for public spending and carry out action programmes in a more effective, efficient manner.  He stressed the importance of achieving the 2000 World Summit goals, which in most cases, particularly in countries mired in armed conflict, were not on track for being fully achieved. 

Poverty stood at 17 per cent in Costa Rica, he said.  The Government aimed to cut that in half by 2015 or to at least reduce it to 10 per cent.  In 2005, primary school enrolment was 98.8 per cent and programmes were under way to increase enrolment in both primary and secondary schools.   Costa Rica had also made progress in achieving gender equality.  Women now held 40 per cent of parliamentary seats and their participation in the labour force had increased from 35 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent in 2005.  However, unemployment had risen for women too, from 6.8 per cent to 9.6 per cent over the same period.  Infant mortality had fallen from 10.4 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 9.5 per 100,000 live births in 2005.  Maternal mortality stood at 3.4 per 10,000 live births in 2005.  The HIV/AIDS death rate had fallen from 3 per cent in 2000 to 2.7 per cent in 2005, while the tuberculosis mortality rate fell from 3 per cent to 1.3 per cent over the same period.

MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said that, since the Millennium Declaration and subsequent conferences, countries on either side of the development agenda had made certain commitments.  The developing countries would take ownership of their own development, provide good governance and improve their economic and social sector reform and achieve certain indicators of development.  The developed partners would provide the necessary resources and enabling environment, including freer access to markets, debt relief, capacity-building, technology transfer and sustained flow of investment.  Since those commitments were made, the developing countries had made great strides, especially in poverty reduction and many other Millennium Development Goals, but those achievements had been restricted to some regions and countries.  The achievement of the Goals in the world’s poorest countries, where the so-called bottom billion was mostly concentrated, hung precariously on the sustained flow of resources and enabling environment that was committed in the compacts.

Nepal had achieved mixed progress in the Goals, he went on.  Despite the last 12 years of internal conflict, there had been substantive progress in poverty reduction and the country’s poverty line had been reduced from 42 per cent in 1996 to 31 per cent in 2004.  The current interim development plan (2008-2010) aimed at reducing poverty below 24 per cent.  Thus, the country was on track to achieve the Goal of halving poverty by 2015.  Nepal hoped that the ongoing political transformation process, including the forthcoming elections to the constituent assembly on 10 April, would pave the way for further accelerating efforts towards achieving the Goals while creating an environment for long-term peace, development and stability in the country.

ANDRZEI TOWPIK ( Poland) said that the international community needed to step up the efforts aimed at full achievement of the commitments undertaken in 2000.  For that reason, Poland had joined the Millennium Development Goals Call to Action Declaration, which had been presented last July at the initiative of the British Prime Minister.  The high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals in September would provide a good opportunity to assess the progress made so far.  Thanks to its successful political and social transformation, Poland had become a donor country now.  The country had undertaken to increase its ODA, with the target of 0.17 per cent gross national income (GNI) in 2010, and had been making steady progress towards that goal.  In 2006, the volume of Polish ODA had increased by 40 per cent, compared to the previous year, and amounted to $297 million.  While scaling up its development assistance, the country strongly supported the principles of aid effectiveness, as defined in the Paris Declaration, as well as the European Consensus on Development.

He said that addressing climate change also meant addressing a wide range of issues of development, health, demographic change and natural disasters.  Any integrated approach to sustainable development must include measures connected with the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.  With that in mind, Poland was honoured to host the fourteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December this year.  His country would like to ensure that the Conference made an important contribution to setting out specific measures in the scope of mitigation and adaptation.  Special attention should be devoted to modern technology and its transfer to developing countries, as well as measures related to adaptation to climate change, in particular to principles and functioning of the Adaptation Fund.  The Conference would be an excellent forum for demonstrating existing good practices and adaptation measures and should become an important milestone towards reaching consensus on differentiated commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen in 2009. 

ANTONIO PEDRO MONTEIRO LIMA ( Cape Verde) welcomed the interest of Member States in long-term solutions for Africa, especially those that went beyond mere debt relief.  Further, the Millennium Goals were not a panacea.  Achieving sustainable development for all, especially for African countries, meant generating the political will required to fulfil past commitments and to create the requisite partnerships to ensure enabling environments for socio-economic growth and development.

Cape Verde, for its part, had focused its efforts squarely on ensuring economic stability and improving health and education indicators.  Through the practice of good governance, transparency in administration, and proactive development measures, it had been de-listed from the group of least developed countries and was now also a member of the World Trade Organization.

He said Cape Verde hoped that expanded socio-economic stability was on the horizon.  It had the political will to ensure that its development goals were met, with the help of the international community.  At the same time, as part of a fragile archipelago, it was still vulnerable to the vicissitudes of sea level rise and other fallout from global warming, as well as marginalization from mainstream trade routes.  He stressed that the Millennium Declaration’s call for a global partnership was not a license for “perpetuating dominance of the strongest over the weakest”.  It was a call for nations to work together to rid the planet of poverty and hunger and ensure the future of humankind.

KIM HYUN CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said that, if urgent action was taken with more commitment and dedication, most, if not all, of the Millennium Development Goals could be met by 2015.  It was, in that regard, important for developing countries to align their national development strategies and priorities with the Goals.  Progress towards achieving Goal number 1 had been uneven, with sub-Saharan Africa in particular lagging behind.  In the developing world, 143 million children under age five continued to suffer from inadequate nutrition.  Recent unprecedented hikes in basic food and energy prices added more complexity to the problem.  An urgent scale-up of financial resources would be essential to counter those emerging challenges.  His country was in the process of substantially increasing its ODA. 

As education was a prerequisite to achieving sustainable development and building a more stable and democratic society, the Government had given high priority to the provision of education in its development cooperation policy.  More must be done to achieve gender equality in education, because it was unthinkable to promote the Goals without the full participation of women in the development process.  Welcoming initiatives at global and regional levels to eradicate epidemic diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, he said his Government had participated in the activities of the international drug purchase facility, UNITAID.  It was encouraging to note that progress in fighting epidemic diseases had been supported by a substantial increase in donations, but there was also a need to ensure coordination and cooperation to avoid fragmentation, inefficiency and duplication.

BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said that, following the Millennium Declaration, Viet Nam had translated the eight Millennium Development Goals into 12 Viet Nam Development Goals for 2010, focusing on poverty elimination and social issues.  The efforts had paid off, as the poverty rate had been reduced sharply from 58.1 per cent in 1993 to 14.7 per cent in 2007, allowing the country to attain the first Goal far ahead of schedule.  As currently over 99 per cent of six-year olds were going to primary schools, Viet Nam would achieve the second Goal between 2010 and 2015.

The third Goal, regarding gender equality and improved status for women, would likely be achieved before 2015.  Viet Nam remained the leader in Asia in terms of female parliamentarian membership and female students accounted for some 46 per cent of enrolment.  As for health, Viet Nam had also succeeded in reducing maternal and child mortality rates.  It had cut down malaria morbidity 4.5 times and malaria mortality by 9 times.  However, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS had increased the risk of failing the sixth Goal.  Viet Nam had scored positive gains in ensuring environmental sustainability, among other things through increasing forest land area; conserving nature areas; doubling the rate of access to clean water by rural populations; and raising the rate of urban waste collection to 71 per cent.  Viet Nam, in respect to the establishment of a global partnership for development, had reached out to the world; improved its policy and legal systems; attracted and better used external resources; and intensified cooperation with the private sector.  The Government would continue its pro-poor policy and strive for a more organic linkage between the poverty reduction strategy and the socio-political development strategy.  To that end, the country counted on continued support from the international community.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus) said his country was committed to achieving the Goals and the Government had integrated the relevant 8 targets into its development policies and plans.   Belarus had, among other things, succeeded in cutting infant mortality in half, which was high among Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.  It had also made significant strides in other areas, including education and social development.  Those and other advances had been achieved against a backdrop of the Government’s efforts to overcome the devastating effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, one of the most devastating technological disasters in human history.

He went on to say that, while speakers at events like this were concerned with how internationally-agreed development objectives were going to be met in the future, Belarus was also concerned with the harm that had already been done to the Millennium Development Goal process, chiefly by the continuation of unequal and inequitable trade regimes and unilateral economic sanctions, such as those imposed against Belarus by one United Nations Member State.  Country and regional programmes of the United Nations Development Programme and other agencies needed to be scaled up to minimize the impacts of such measures that hindered economic growth in developing countries, or to help them adjust to such circumstances. 

JORGE ARGUELLO ( Argentina) said the Millennium Development Goals had been set on internationally agreed objectives that could be reached if the international community worked together.  The Goals had come to occupy the centre of the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions.  As noted by the Secretary-General, for the first time in history the world had the resources and the knowledge to eradicate poverty.  Halfway down the road in the implementation of the Goals, it was clear that there had been remarkable progress in some areas, but there was still a lot to be done.

In Argentina, the responsibility for following up on the Goals had been assigned to a national council, he went on.  The country was a federal State and, as such, regional differences existed.  There were also features such as internal imbalances that were made more serious by inequalities that existed at the international level.  Some areas of the country had very high levels of human development, while others had very low levels comparable to what had been obtained in other Latin American countries.   Argentina had achieved progress towards the Goals, but with differences across provinces.  In all areas of public policy, action was systematically targeted to the Goals.  Inequality in the country cut across all sectors, particularly with regard to such issues as human rights and the gender perspective.   Argentina believed that it was only by tackling such inequality that equity for all could be achieved.

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that, having been embroiled in conflict in 2000 when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, his country had been a late entrant to global development efforts and had extended its Millennium Development Goals timeline to 2020.  Most of the global targets had been revised to make them more relevant to Afghanistan, and the ninth Goal of “enhancing security” was added.   Afghanistan’s development framework was aimed at enabling the achievement of the Goals.  Notwithstanding progress, many challenges still remained, however.  Poverty and unemployment had contributed to the increase of terrorist activities in the country and could jeopardize gains made in the last six years.  The Government treated both as priorities.  He also elaborated on the implementation of goals in the areas of education and health, saying that, although some 7 million children had returned to schools, a great number of children continued to face difficulties and the problem was exacerbated by the Taliban and Al-Qaida’s attacks and intimidation of teachers and students.  While 81 per cent of the country’s population had access to basic health services, and the rate of infant and maternal mortality had been reduced, many children and women still died daily.

The main part of Afghanistan’s national development resources were currently provided by the international community, but the delivery and effectiveness of aid were faced with constraints, he continued.  The overall volume of aid to Afghanistan was small in comparison with other post-conflict settings, and there was a growing gap between the amounts pledged and disbursed.  Nearly one third of aid was disbursed outside the national budget; and the proportion of “tied” aid was three times larger than “untied” assistance, which affected the country’s capability to plan and implement its national strategy.  In that connection, he reminded the donor community of its commitment under the Afghanistan Compact to improve aid effectiveness in Afghanistan and to provide resources and support for the implementation of the country’s development strategy, including the Millennium Development Goals.  The forthcoming Conference on Afghanistan in Paris represented an opportunity for the country’s international partners to renew their political and financial commitments.

CAMILLO GONSALVES ( St. Vincent and the Grenadines) said that his country was proud of its recent progress towards achieving and surpassing the Millennium Development Goals.  In the field of education, it had achieved universal access to both primary and secondary schools.  Between 2001 and 2006, the country went from having only 39 per cent of eligible children attending secondary schools to achieving universal access to secondary education.  It was implementing a many-sided Poverty Reduction Strategy that included policies to stimulate growth, trade and investment, increase employment opportunities, invest in human capital, and improve social and physical infrastructure.  On the health front, infant mortality continued on its downward trend and the country was on track to meet its 2015 target.  A multifaceted “wellness revolution” was under way to combat a host of preventable lifestyle diseases.  The Government had also instituted comprehensive programmes to combat HIV/AIDS, although the challenges posed by that deadly disease remained daunting.

The Goals were not final goals, but merely an essential first step in attaining a minimal basis for meaningful development, he continued.  In that regard, the international community needed to begin to envisage the next 15 years of development goals, even as it wrestled with the current targets.  The international community at the United Nations could not simply speak the Millennium Development Goals into existence.  Its words must be accompanied by action.  The endless graphs, charts and projections needed to result in paradigm-altering structural adjustments in trade, assistance and cooperation.  It should be accepted that the achievement of the Goals was a measure of the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations to tackle global ills.  The last steps towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals could not be taken merely on an ad hoc basis by States acting individually.  “We must have the vision to plan and the courage to act, in a manner that fulfils our moral, ethical and human obligations to our fellow citizens.”

COLLIN BECK ( Solomon Islands) said that, for many vulnerable countries, emphasis on achieving the Millennium Development Goals had been overwhelming; so much so, that discussions had sidelined the special situation of less developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing States.  The Brussels Programme of Action and the Barbados Programme of Action, which were supposed to be vehicles for the less advantaged in attaining the Goals, were not featured in regional and international country programmes to address specific challenges.   Solomon Islands remained off-track in achieving the Goals.  It was a country emerging from conflict.  For small island States, many of their issues were considered too small for the international system to handle and hence, those issues got swept under the carpet.  To some extent, those States had become invisible in the debate.  They were seen, but were never given a mention in any of the discussions.  None of the panellists during the present debate had referred to their situation.

If those countries were to get back on track, there must be a change of approach by the United Nations system, he went on.  The United Nations must move from policy to delivering on the ground.  Also, the link between the United Nations and Member States needed to be strengthened.  Further, there must be a genuine change in the international financial and trade architecture to include least developing countries and small island developing States, especially in the agricultural sector.  Finally, the success of achieving time-bound Millennium Development Goals rested on the measure of honouring and operationalizing global commitments in all respects.  That meant doing so financially and structurally in order to ensure that the most vulnerable countries were assisted in attaining the Goals.

CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO HERNANDEZ ( El Salvador) said her country had shouldered its political responsibilities by structuring its national development plans to reflect the targets set by the Millennium Declaration.   El Salvador had also pursued innovative financing methods and stepped up its efforts to generate national resources for development, as called for in the Declaration.  She said that the Government had sought to provide a protection network for the most vulnerable people in the country by launching dynamic health programmes and initiatives targeting youth and rural populations.

The Government had succeeded in making significant strides in the area of poverty reduction, and was launching several relevant projects in the field of education, including literacy programmes for adults, as well as young people.  The Ministry of Public Health was also doing its part and had launched programmes that had led to significant reductions in infant and maternal mortality.  Vaccination of minors had also been expanded, as had antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS patients.  She went on to say that solidarity among Governments was required under the Millennium Declaration, especially to help countries that did not have the capacity to achieve the Millennium Goals.  There was also a need to pay particular attention to the needs of middle-income countries.

RAYKO RAYTCHEV ( Bulgaria) said that, although results in achieving the Millennium Development Goals were remarkable, much more remained to be done.  Only one of the eight regional groups was on track.  In addition, new challenges, in particular climate change, were expected to further impede progress.  Developed and developing countries, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector needed to work harder.  Only coordinated and sustained efforts until 2015 would bring success.

Bulgaria was contributing to the world’s efforts to eradicate global poverty and hunger, he said.  The country was committed to 0.17 per cent of GNI for ODA by 2010 and 0.33 per cent of GNI by 2015.  Eradication of poverty was the main objective of Bulgaria’s development cooperation policy.  Moreover, the development policy fully embraced the principles of ownership, accountability, coordination, complementarity and coherence.

ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW ( Guinea) said that data on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals in his country showed mixed results.  In real terms, GDP had grown by 1.2 per cent in 2003 compared to 2.7 per cent in 2004.  That was against an annual population growth rate of 3.1 per cent.  The prevalence of weight insufficiency or chronic malnutrition among children under five years of age had gone down from 23 per cent to 20 per cent.  If the macroeconomic trends of the last years continued and the increased poverty was not contained, Guinea would not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals target for reduction of poverty and extreme poverty.  In the area of education, important progress had been realized.  Significant improvements had also been recorded in the area of elimination of gender inequalities.  Between 2001-2002 and 2003-2004, the ratio of boys to girls has gone from 0.72 to 0.76 at the primary school level and 0.41 to 0.45 at the secondary school level.  With that trend, it was likely that parity could be achieved by the deadline.

The Government of Guinea had, with laudable success, engaged in the improvement of governance and improvement of rights, as well as engaged in a fight against corruption, he went on.  It expected, at the same time, strong mobilization by the social and development partners.  He called for the reduction of conditionalities, improvement of coordination and coherence of interventions, as well as enforcement of institutional and human capacities.  In addition, Guinea wanted the reduction of barriers to trade and support for the competitiveness of the national economy, both at the local and international levels.

HENRY L. MacDONALD ( Suriname) said that, while his country was committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and had integrated those important targets into its national development strategy, such commitment and policy alignment did not necessarily guarantee the Goals would be met by 2015.  While every country’s needs and accomplishment rates would be different, achievement of the Goals depended broadly on crucial issues such as peace and security, adequate and predictable ODA, debt relief and fair trade.

Turning to the state of the Millennium Development Goals in his country, he said that progress had been made in such areas as universal primary education, child mortality, and combating communicable diseases.  However, progress was uneven in other areas, including poverty reduction, gender equality, maternal mortality and environmental sustainability.  Further, AIDS was the leading cause of death in the 24 to 49 age group, and the increasing feminization of the pandemic was further frustrating the national response.  He stressed a National Council on HIV would be appointed later this year, and that its first task would be to convene a “state of the epidemic” forum.  The Government hoped that would become an annual event.  He also said that the Government had introduced an Integral Gender Action Plan to address the empowerment of women, and that today, it planned to sign the Common Country Programme Action Plan for 2008-2011 with participating United Nations agencies to boost its national efforts to achieve the Goals. 

DELANO BART ( Saint Kitts and Nevis) said that his country had set its own country-specific targets, which directly related to the Millennium Development Goals and was fully committed to meeting them by 2015.  Poverty in the country was associated with very low wages, rather than unemployment.  On 30 July 2005, after a 350-year presence, the sugar industry was closed due to unfavourable external developments that had led to its unprofitable performance.  It left behind a country with high levels of indebtedness and many displaced persons.  In an effort to deal with the first Goal, the Government had partnered with the private sector and had established retraining programmes.  It was now making available land for small farmers.  The country was on track for meeting that first Goal, although much remained to be done.  On gender, he said that the country had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985.  Through the Department of Gender Affairs, it sought to ensure that women and men enjoyed equal access to services offered by the Federation.  There was, however, a need to address the economic, social and cultural barriers.

The Millennium Development Goals had been incorporated into the goals that the Government had for its people, he went on.  It was not an easy road, but the Government was taking it.  It was continuing to invest in its people, in agriculture and infrastructure and was partnering with the private sector.  It was doing what had been asked of it, but needed the help of others.  Its request was that those whose activities had caused damage to the developing world and who had set the terms of a world economic order in which the developing countries had no say, should recognize their moral obligation to provide adequate compensation to those developing countries.

JOHN PAUL KAVENAGH ( Ireland) said the Millennium Development Gaols informed all aspects of his country’s development cooperation programme, Irish Aid, and provided the context in which it operated.  That was true not least, in relation to poverty reduction, which was the overarching objective of Irish Aid’s activities.  Further, Irish Aid had also mainstreamed gender equality, HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability throughout its work.  The Government had committed to meeting the required 0.7 per cent of GDP for ODA by 2012, and was on track to meet that target.  He added that the United Nations remained at the core of collective efforts to achieve the Goals and, to that end, Ireland was preparing to sign multi-year funding agreements with a host of the world body’s affiliated agencies, including the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund.

He said that, while Ireland was proud that its ODA budget this year had totalled some 914 million euros, it was also aware that funding alone was not enough:  a true partnership was required if the Millennium Development Goals were to be achieved.  “We must all strive for greater aid effectiveness,” he said, calling on donors to align with national plans, as developing countries led their own development.  Further, all nations should seek to improve governance at the global level by increasing coherence among donors and other development actors.  At the national level, relevant efforts should include cooperation to help build capacity in developing countries.  “For if we fail to achieve the MDGs, it is the world’s poorest that will continue to suffer.”  He said, “We should be held accountable.” 

AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ ( Venezuela) said that her country considered the eradication of poverty and hunger as crucial.  Poverty was one of the most unholy of issues for humans, because it violated their dignity and human rights.  It could not be eliminated by the capitalist production model.   Venezuela had been carrying out social programmes known as social missions.  Those missions were mass social economic programmes articulated within the new socialist economic model, designed by the country to help persons who had been victims of social marginalization.  The results of that effort against poverty were clear.  In 1998, the percentage of the population in poverty and extreme poverty were 43.9 and 17.1, respectively.  By 2007, only 9.7 per cent of the population remained in extreme poverty.  In that regard, Venezuela was well ahead in terms of achieving the goals for poverty eradication.

Also, she continued, basic education had been on the upswing since 1997.  By 2015, Venezuela expected to achieve universal primary education.  It had been able to eradicate illiteracy, as had been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Over one million citizens had been guaranteed education, giving them opportunities in life.   Venezuela had also achieved gender parity at all educational levels.  On health, in order to guarantee access for all, a series of policies had been implemented.  The main delivery vector was the “barrio mission”, through which free medical attention had been provided to some 18 million peoples on a 24-hour basis.  Venezuela had also built a paediatric cardiological hospital with 260 beds and its health policy for treating HIV/AIDS patients ensured that all registered patients were given medicine, enabling the country to fully comply with that Goal.  At the international level, Venezuela was contributing to help build a fairer world and, thus, helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  In the context of south-south cooperation, it had promoted energy integration and was providing economic relief to other countries.

SLOBODAN TASOVSKI (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said the world was faced with climate change, high food and energy prices, globalization and urbanization.  Worldwide growth had created 45 million new jobs in 2007, but had also caused a growing gap between rich and poor.  Eighty per cent of the gross world product was in the hands of 1 billion people from the developed world, while 20 per cent went to 5 billion people living in developing countries.  Some progress could be noted, however, in eradicating poverty and hunger, decreasing child mortality, globally responding to climate change and implementation of sustainable development principles into country policies.

His country, a candidate for European Union membership, fully agreed that every country bore the responsibility for its own development, he said.  However, global actions were necessary to support national efforts.  The formula that should be applied was:  foreign aid + national effort = Millennium Development Goals.  Each country should take ownership of and responsibility for its development agenda and tailor global Millennium Development Goals targets into national targets and policies.  A National Development Plan for 2007-2009 included objectives such as:  making a detailed assessment of the economic, social and environment situation; formulating strategic and operational objectives; identifying key development/investment priorities; and designing a matrix where development/investment priorities would be met with the country’s financial capabilities.  The programme for achieving the Millennium Development Goals remained focused on:  good governance; reducing poverty; supporting the health and education sector; and improving capacities for sustainable development.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.