BY AMBASSADOR KAKIMA NTAMBI, PERMANENT
MINISTRY OF GENDER LABOUR AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
My delegation and I cherish the opportunity of adding Uganda's voice to those of the previous speakers congratulating you on your election to the Presidency of the current General Assembly Special Session. I express appreciation to the host Government of Switzerland for the welcome and hospitality accorded to all of us since our arrival here in Geneva. The Uganda Delegation also expresses appreciation to the leadership of the UN system for the invaluable contributions and the role it continues to play in furtherance of the positive social developments and changes that are within and among nations.
The Copenhagen Summit recognised that social, economic and technological advancement was important for our countries. This position though welcome and noteworthy was not new. What was distinctively new
and significant was that the Summit went further to agree that any development must be for the benefit of the human person. The Summit overwhelmingly agreed that people must be placed at the very centre of
development for which they ought to be, and are indeed, ultimately, the sole purpose.
The above global understanding, a remarkably unique and historic consensus led to the adoption of wide-ranging commitments the implementation of which would fundamentally transform our societies. The transformation would lead to renewed and dynamic societies within which there would be more respect and less social and economic inequalities.
As you are aware Uganda actively participated in the Copenhagen Summit and fully subscribed to the concluded Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action on social development. We consequently undertook to implement the commitments contained in the Declaration. We committed ourselves to put in place measures that would reduce mass poverty by reducing the percentage of the population living in absolute poverty. We promised to increase Basic Social Services as regards Primary Education, Primary Healthcare and Provision of Safe and Clean Water to our people. The current Session is convened to review the progress of implementation of that Declaration. Uganda therefore is pleased to be participating in this meeting in order to give an account, and share experiences with other nations on the matter and to contribute to the debate on the way forward.
Uganda has taken the issues of economic advancement and social development very seriously for the entire last decade under the current Movement Government. The Copenhagen Declaration went a long way in reinforcing and providing further momentum and encouragement to Uganda in what it was already doing.
On the economic management front, Uganda has implemented a very comprehensive programme of economic reforms designed to inter alia;
correct macro economic imbalances;
· achieve financial stabilisation and structural adjustment policies designed to correct distortions in resource allocations across all sectors;
· improve micro economic efficiency and transform the economy to achieve sustainable growth.
In addition to the above policy actions, public owned institutions have been privatised, the financial markets liberalised and the civil service restructured with a view of making it more efficient. As a consequence of the above policy measures, for the last 10 years Uganda has registered an average annual growth rate of 6 percent of GDP and inflation has been contained at 5 percent per annum.
In line with the Copenhagen Declaration, Government believes that the gap between the haves and have-nots must be narrowed: all citizens especially the vulnerable and marginalised must be empowered; poverty should be reduced and if possible eradicated; dignity should be restored to every Ugandan, especially the vulnerable groups. The Government has taken serious measures to ensure that people's rights are respected: rights to food, work, education, free expression and primary health care.
The Government of Uganda believes in the necessity for economic and social empowerment, through education, training, sensitisation and the fight against poverty. Following a deliberate Parliament decision, compulsory Universal Primary Education (UPE) was established four years ago. This programme has dramatically increased enrolment in Primary Education from 2.9million in 1996 to 6.6 million in 1999. Over the same period girls enrolment has gone up by 40% while that of boys has increased by 9%. The challenge is now to ensure quality education by coping with the increased numbers and to provide sufficient classrooms, teachers and teaching materials. There is also a need to ensure that there are reduced dropout rates especially for the girl child.
Specific programmes have been established to address the problems of poverty. One such initiative is the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAR) which establishes the policy framework for the eradication of poverty and prioritises public actions across sectors for the objective of poverty eradication through participatory approaches. A complimentary but comprehensive plan on modemisation of agriculture has also been developed to contribute to the eradication of poverty. Other initiatives include programmes of micro finance to the deserving groups at concessional terms and skill-development programmes which are organised to benefit specific groups. Non governmental organisations and civil society have also played a complimentary role in the fight against poverty.
There is in Uganda a commission on Human Rights to which abuse of people's rights are submitted and handled. There is also the office of the Inspector General of Government (Ombudsman) which investigates corruption and abuse of office by public officials and subsequently takes corrective actions.
In the Health Sector Uganda has prioritised healthcare services in the following areas; HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, immunisation of children, child nutrition, reproductive and maternal healthcare. Emphasis is also placed on access to safe and clean water by the population. As a result of Government initiatives in the health sector more especially the promotion of awareness, and immunisation of children, the indicators show that infant mortality is now 88 per 1000 live births as compared to 188 in 1986, also the national prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS has decreased from 18.5% in 1995 to 9.5% in 1998. This translates into a 50% decline of HIV/Aids prevalence rate. However access to treatment for those already living with Aids is a national challenge and requires concerted efforts from the international community.
In order to have a sustainable economic growth while tackling the problem of poverty, social integration, unemployment and provision of basic social services we will require not only the pursuit of comprehensive and coherent economic policies but also continued good will and support from our development partners. Although a lot has been achieved in the area of social development there room for improvement with additional requisite human and financial resources. I should add that even the above achievements were with the assistance of Uganda's development partners: These partners include the Donor Community, NGOs, Private sector, United Nations system, and the Uganda people themselves. While expressing appreciation to our partners, I invite them to remain with us for further greater development challenges of the years that lie ahead.
It would be remiss of me to talk about achieving social development for all without mentioning the challenges facing us in implementing the Copenhagen Declaration in a globalising world. It is a fact that with globalisation today there is more rampant poverty, the gap between the rich and poor is widening both within and between nations. Our concern has been the lack of sufficient safety nets to ensure that the social costs of this process are not borne unfairly by the poor and marginalised groups.
This special Session has provided an excellent opportunity for us all to take stock of the lessons and experiences of the past and to look forward to improve upon the new ideas and future directions. On this historic occasion, Uganda would like to reiterate her commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and programme of Action adopted at the World Summit in 1995 and we are looking forward to the emerging further initiatives currently being discussed.