When World Community Delivers for Every Woman, Every Child It Advances Better Life for All, Says Secretary-General, Praising Progress in Initiative’s First Year

20 September 2011

When World Community Delivers for Every Woman, Every Child It Advances Better Life for All, Says Secretary-General, Praising Progress in Initiative’s First Year

20 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

When World Community Delivers for Every Woman, Every Child It Advances Better Life

for All, Says Secretary-General, Praising Progress in Initiative’s First Year

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Every Woman, Every Child event in New York, 20 September:

It is a great pleasure to participate in this very important initiative, Every Woman, Every Child.

You have seen just a small, brief video and I felt very much touched.  I was very happy that while I have been always speaking, talking to people [saying] “Please do this and please do that,” I thought:  I did something myself.  It was quite moving.

While I saw that all these medical facilities were still not up to standards, as you may see in New York and elsewhere in the developed world, but still, I could see how people — these health workers — they were committed.  They were committed.  It was a very moving experience for me.

That’s why this November I am going to continue my search, a journey to some exemplary countries who are doing well, so that I [can] introduce such efforts of many countries to other countries.  I am going to visit Bangladesh, this November, India and Indonesia.  Last May I was in Africa; now, I am going to tour Asian countries.

One year ago, we launched the Every Woman, Every Child effort out of the conviction that in our time it is wrong to allow women and children to die when we have the tools to save them.

On that day, we said we could carry out commitments to improve women’s and children’s health.  We said we would develop a framework to ensure accountability.  This is again the first attempt by the United Nations [to] establish an accountability system.  With President Kikwete of Tanzania, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, with the direct involvement of Margaret Chan, WHO (World Health Organization) Director-General and also ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Secretary-General, Mr. Touré, we have established this Commission.  So when you say we will pledge such an amount, then this should be accounted for; this money should also be used for proper purposes, for the needy people.  So this is a very important first attempt ever done by the United Nations. 

I am happy to say that, one year later, we are delivering on all these fronts.

We agreed then, we believe now that the health of women and children is essential to global development and our future prosperity.

I will continue to shine the spotlight on this issue. 

All of this year, and as I said, in my visit to Nigeria and Ethiopia to see what is working, I saw programmes and progress in motion.

I met many “unsung heroes”.  They are the heroes, unrecognized.  I may be praised, and I thank you very much for all your compliments, but there are many, many unknown, unsung heroes to whom we have to be very grateful. 

They responded with a wealth of funding, ideas and initiatives.

If I were to ask all of you:  “What is the one item you depend on most every day?”  I think you will take out your Blackberry or cellular phone.  Farmers and health workers they were using these cellular phones to phone these mothers, pregnant women to tell them “so why don’t you come in, your date is fixed on such and such day.”  That is quite an impressive gain and I was so, so moved.

Mobile phones are just one example of how technology, innovation and good old-fashioned determination are combined.  We need determination, leadership and hope.  We have to give them hope.  That is what Every Woman, Every Child is all about.  And we are getting results.

More children are living past their fifth birthday.

Fewer women are dying in childbirth.

More HIV-positive mothers are giving birth to HIV-negative babies. 

When I was visiting Nigeria, I explained my own personal history.  Everybody remembers my birthday is 13 June, but this is not exact.  I have to check, I have to check, I still don’t know when exactly [I was born].  At the time when I was born, in Korea, because of the high rate of mortality, parents would not register births.  Just let us see whether this boy or this girl may live.  Sometimes you had to wait one year or six months.  When it came to baby girl, the parents just waited until they were quite sure that the girl would live.

So my birthday was registered later, much later.  My father just waited.  My wife’s birthday is always more confusing: she was born the same year [as me], but she is registered one year later, so don’t believe my passport’s birthday.  This is quite a real story.  As a Secretary-General, it is a little bit strange that my birthday is not correct to the real birthday.

Anyway, this money has been pledged — 40 billion dollars.  This is quite significant in this time of austerity and I am deeply grateful.

As of today, over 60 countries have committed to step up efforts to improve women and children’s health.  They are training more health workers, investing in essential but often neglected medical supplies, providing access to family planning and putting more money into the health and development projects. 

But millions of women and children are still dying needless deaths.

Political roadblocks litter the path ahead.  Decisions to invest where resources are most needed can be slow.  A woman’s right to access the services she needs is sometimes denied still.

Those “unsung heroes”, trained health workers, are in desperately short supply.

Women and children across the developing world still struggle with poor sanitation, dirty water and food shortages.

But let us not lose our optimism.

We have a solid mandate, scores of partners are helping. 

Our newest pledge to advance the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, comes from South Sudan, the newest United Nations State.  I am extremely heartened by this important commitment.

Under the leadership of President Kikwete and Prime Minister Harper, again as I said, the Commission on Information and Accountability will help ensure that promises are kept.  President Kidwete, now sitting here, as the Head of Accountability.

The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s health is central to my vision of building a United Nations that responds quickly and effectively to the needs of the world’s people. 

The launch of the Strategy was one of the highlights on my first term as a Secretary-General.  Tomorrow, I am going to report to the General Assembly as second term Secretary–General on my five years vision.  This Global Health Strategy will be my continuing priority and I will build upon on our successes and success stories to build upon this. 

In a single year, this effort has turned into a truly global movement, a key part of our global campaign for a better future.

When we deliver for every woman and every child, I am sure that we will advance a better life for all the people around the world.

And I thank you for your commitment and leadership.

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