|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on United Nations Millennium Campaign, Nigeria’s Progress
towards Realizing Millennium Development Goals
The newly appointed Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria announced a unique partnership today between her office and the United Nations Millennium Campaign, aimed at accelerating her country’s attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Describing the partnership as a key element in her country’s “countdown” strategy, Precious Gbeneol said it would greatly help realize the Millennium Goals, not only in Nigeria but throughout Africa. Accompanying Dr. Gbeneol were Adeyinka Ajayi, of the Millennium Development Goals Committee in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, and Corrine Woods, Director of the Millennium Campaign. Ms. Woods said that because the Campaign viewed citizens and civil society as major participants in the development process, Nigeria’s efforts to invest and engage citizens and civil society in the pursuit of the Goals was commendable.
Focused on strengthening the new partnership, the New York visit by Dr. Gbeneol and Mr. Ajayi included meetings with the Deputy Secretary-General and the Special Adviser on Africa, as well as senior officials of key United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In particular, the partnership would facilitate the strengthening of citizen feedback, a crucial element in measuring the impact of Millennium Development Goals programmes and in directing the parliamentary process.
To date, major accomplishments by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President included the Conditional Grant Scheme recently extended to 113 local authorities, several debt-relief gains projects and an initial baseline survey of basic local infrastructure and social facilities across Nigeria. Dr. Gbeneol emphasized that it was critical that every country redouble its efforts in order for the Millennium Development Goals to become a reality.
Asked about efforts to address maternal mortality in Nigeria, Dr. Gbeneol said “definite progress” had been made, resulting in a significant drop in infant and maternal mortality. Through partnerships with the Office of the Millennium Development Goals and Nigeria’s national family health-care agencies, increased midwife services were now being sent to various parts of the country, she said, adding that village-based programmes were also actively providing services to the community.
When asked about her country’s substantial numbers of unemployed youth and the impact of Millennium Development Goals programmes on their lives, she cited several collaborations between the Office of the Millennium Development Goals and different agencies and sectors, including partnerships with small and medium-scale industries in Nigeria that created employment opportunities for young people, as well as with the International Development Employment Programme.
In addition, she spoke of the existence of training centres as well as employment and skill-acquisition centres, including 36 new ones developed with the Ministry of Youth across the country. Through geographical mapping and grass-roots efforts, she said, her office was reaching out to the youths themselves so as to better address their issues and problems. However, having been in office for only four months and with geographical mapping still ongoing, further identification of specific issues and concerns would need to continue, she said.
Mr. Ajayi commented that from a parliamentary standpoint, there had been “significant and important” efforts to ensure youth employment, but the Millennium Development Goals were specific targeted programmes and issues, and his office continued to appraise all such efforts.
In response to a question about how the partnership between Nigeria and the Campaign had been conceived, Dr. Gbeneol said her predecessor had established a good relationship with the Campaign, and upon taking over, she had decided to enhance and expand those ties. Such partnerships could foster good practices, advocacy and collaboration with other countries in making the Millennium Development Goals a reality.
Asked how Nigeria viewed the top priority of the Millennium Development Goals, halving poverty by 2015, she said that a national campaign that had surveyed and identified poverty-stricken populations was almost complete. It would inform and direct strategies for addressing poverty within each segment of the population, including the elderly, women, children and persons with disabilities. One established programme was a conditional one-year cash transfer to households in need that was structured to transition the recipient households from support to employment.
Mr. Ajayi added that his and Dr. Gbeneol’s presence in New York was a “testimony to the nature of the relationship” between their offices and the United Nations Millennium Campaign in Nigeria, which would contribute to the expansion and strengthening of the knowledge base towards understanding the Millennium Development Goals and help all involved move forward in achieving them across Africa.
Also commenting on the new partnership, Ms. Woods noted that the partnership was focused on several fronts, one of which was how to improve communication from citizens, the realities they faced, and whether policies were “being translated into realities”. That was being done through the harnessing of new technology to expand communications and through partnership with local authorities in reporting back on how programmes were functioning. A further focus was on strengthening civil society to provide feedback, and a third was strengthening parliamentary functions with a focus on how to take good practices into the Network of African Parliamentarians.
Dr. Gbeneol said that one of the ways in which feedback was received was through text messages from citizens and actual participants in the various programmes under implementation. They went directly to her office, she said. “They tell us when we are doing right or when we are not doing right.” Mr. Ajayi added that part of the Parliament’s oversight included raising money, monitoring projects and carrying out on-site visits.
Asked how violence had impacted those programmes, he said the issues of violence was “part of the contemporary world” and was therefore addressed through the “appropriate quarters”, such as security and law enforcement. However, the Millennium Development Goals was a “time-based mission” that called for concentration on achieving the designated targets and then coming together as a global body and deciding where to go from there, he added.
* *** *