|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on United Nations Development Programme Report
on Achieving Millennium Development Goals
With the United Nations poised to host a summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), today urged world leaders to consider an “acceleration framework” based on real-life national successes, in order to bring the Goals to fruition by 2015.
Ms. Clark appeared at a Headquarters press conference to launch a new report by UNDP, “What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals? An international assessment”, which identified a range of tried-and-tested policies that experts said would help Member States achieve those Goals on time, when scaled up in ways that were appropriate to different national contexts.
“The report offers our take on what would help, and raise ideas for bold initiatives that could make a significant difference,” she said. UNDP country teams were already using “acceleration tools”, in tandem with the report, to help Governments and development partners to identify constraints and break through them.
She called on leaders to agree on an “action agenda” based on country successes in several areas: fostering inclusive economic growth; improving the status of women and girls; enhancing delivery of health, education, and clean water and sanitation services; providing social protection and employment programmes; expanding access to energy while promoting low-carbon development; increasing domestic resource mobilization; and improving the predictably of aid spending. An eighth area of focus should be to support country-led development.
She highlighted the report’s recommendation to promote jobs in agriculture, especially in countries with large numbers of people living off the land. At the moment, 2.5 billion people in the developing world depended on agriculture for their livelihood. In such countries, farmers needed to be given access to fertilizers, seeds, agricultural extension services, secure land rights and access to markets, she said, pointing to Ghana, which improved food production by 40 per cent through a nationwide fertilizer subsidy programme.
In 2009, the Group of Eight (G-8) had agreed in L’Aquila, Italy, to invest in global food security, which, if lived up to, would help bolster sagging levels of official development assistance targeted at agriculture, she added. But the Group was already falling short of its foreign aid target for 2010, set five years ago at the Gleneagles Summit.
Nevertheless, she stressed that the gap be filled, even in these financially challenging times, saying official development assistance was “absolutely catalytic” for meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Domestically, countries were encouraged to broaden their tax base to collect enough revenue to fund much-needed agriculture programmes. They were also recommended to evaluate their spending habits at regular intervals.
Ms. Clark was accompanied by Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, whose country sponsored the assessment and also funded 30 of the 50 country studies which informed its findings. Also present was Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic, who served on a panel of experts that provided technical advice in the writing of the report.
Beginning in 2013, the United Kingdom would devote 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to development aid, according to Mr. Lyall Grant. At the moment, its Government was strongly focused on the most off-track Goals, particularly in maternal health.
Mr. Camillo added that leaders should ask themselves whether their nations had the kind of progressive tax policies needed to ensure access to quality social services. Around $250 billion per year was required to meet the Millennium Development Goals, he said.
Agreeing, Ms. Clark underscored the importance of social protection in an era beset by economic, food, fuel and financial crises. UNDP worked country by country to assists Governments reeling under those crises, and was examining ways to improve its own work procedures to better serve developing nations. Improved procedures were particularly relevant, especially since a considerable amount of official development assistance was being channelled through UNDP.
Asked to comment on the main reasons for failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in certain countries, Ms. Clark offered her “gut feeling” on the issue — that it was rooted in the failure to reduce poverty. If growth did not touch the agriculture sector, countries had less of a chance to build wealth.
The report also pointed to a range of actions that could be taken in the area of political and economic empowerment for women, she said, adding that she personally believed in achieving a critical mass of women in decision-making in order to make a difference for women. She also noted the importance of resolving issues of legal status — allowing women to inherit property, open bank accounts or own land — so that they could be economically empowered.
She cautioned against a too-narrow approach to the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality, arguing, for example, that it was useless to merely improve “access” to health services to both men and women, if women did not have the confidence, esteem, or ability to exercise authority over their own lives.
One journalist asked what was being done to address the bottom 30 or 40 nations in the Human Development Index, citing religious and cultural issues that she said had dogged the achievement of gender equality in certain countries. Ms. Clark quickly responded that, even among the lowest ranking countries on that Index, some were experiencing significant achievement on certain Millennium Goals, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, where “huge” progress was being made to enrol children in school and to meet HIV/AIDS goals.
She countered the argument of another journalist, who suggested that political factors were restricting progress in countries such as Myanmar. Ms. Clark admitted that UNDP was not able to run a full programme in that country, but also recalled that it had the lowest level of official development assistance per capita in the world.
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