23 August 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at meeting with diplomatic corps on the Millennium Development Goals and Africa: outreach on accelerating action

(This section as delivered)

Thank you for this opportunity to meet with members of Korea’s diplomatic corps. I see some familiar faces in the crowd. It is good to be back with old friends. I am pleased to welcome everyone here today.

I am here to discuss with you the very important issue of how we can work together to accelerate the MDGs and define a development agenda for post-2015. Before I begin this topic, I am obliged to say a few words on the current situation which is happening in Syria, particularly over this report coming from Syria, very alarming and shocking report, concerning the possible use of chemical weapons.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms this escalation of violence.  There are reports of large-scale loss of life, in particular in the Damascus area, many injuries and the use of excessive force in densely populated civilian areas. 

I am especially troubled by reports that chemical weapons might have been used against civilian populations. Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law. Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator.

Once again, I call for an immediate investigation of this latest incident.

We have an investigation team on the ground in Damascus, led by Dr. [Åke] Sellström, having gone to investigate earlier allegations.  I have called on the Syrian Government to extend its full cooperation so that the Mission can swiftly investigate this most recent incident. I am working hard to ensure a positive response.

This is a grave challenge to the entire international community – and to our common humanity, especially considering it occurred when the United Nations expert mission is in the country. I can think of no good reason why any party – either government or opposition forces – would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter. I have full confidence in the professionalism and integrity of Dr. Sellström and his team.

To underscore the urgency of an immediate investigation, I have instructed my High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Angela Kane, to travel to Damascus immediately.  There is no time to waste.

The United Nations Security Council met yesterday and has backed my call for a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation. I thank the Security Council members’ prompt action and call for them to remain actively engaged on this crisis. Since the reports first emerged, the United Nations has been engaging with the Syrian authorities and I have been in close consultations with world leaders on this matter since the news broke. 

It is clear that the situation in Syria continues to worsen. The humanitarian suffering is alarming. Sectarian tensions have been ignited. Regional instability is spreading. The death toll unfortunately has now surged past 100,000 people. The images of victims from this latest incident, including many children, are heartbreaking and sickening.

The Syrian people have suffered enough far too long. The region has seen enough turmoil and bloodshed.

Our challenge remains: achieving a complete cessation of hostilities, delivering humanitarian assistance and getting the Government and the opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible. I have been working very closely together with the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, and also the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, to convene the Geneva II conference to resolve this crisis through dialogue and political resolution. We are working very hard to convene it as soon as possible. All the technical, logistical preparations are now complete. It is a matter of time when we can and the parties are ready to participate. I am going to convene it myself as soon as possible.

In the absence of a political resolution, while this crisis continues like this way, the United Nations together with many international organizations and humanitarian communities and civil society NGOs, have been mobilizing all possible resources, and our efforts have been focused on delivering humanitarian assistance to needy people. There are more than 6 million people who are internally displaced and who need our immediate support. And there are almost 2 million refugees in neigbouring countries – Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. And these refugees are now being accommodated even by some Northern African countries. The number is almost approaching 2 million. I believe that if we count unregistered refugees, it is well over 2 million. Then: who and how we should help these needy people? I myself have visited two refugee camps last year. It is heartbreaking to see all these young people, children and women and refugees, who do not have any means, any hope for their country; they do not know when they will be able to return to their country. I really appreciate those neighbouring countries that are hosting refugees. I need your support, and I really count on the generous support of the international community. Again I really thank you very much.

The time has clearly come for the parties to stop shooting, and start talking.  I am determined to do everything I can to assist the victims and move towards a political solution. That is the only way this crisis will be resolved.

(The following text is as prepared for delivery.)


Ladies and gentlemen,

Now let me turn to the challenge that has brought us together this morning….

I appreciate you taking the time to address the important subject of the Millennium Development Goals and Africa.

The MDGs constitute the most effective anti-poverty campaign in history.

We have seen remarkable advances since the Goals were adopted in the year 2000.

More children are in school – especially girls. Women are becoming more empowered – in their families, at their jobs and in government.

We are making great progress on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. I applaud all of the partners supporting this effort, including many of your governments. Thank you for helping us to save lives.

Human development in Africa has been accompanied by economic growth across the continent. Africa is now the world’s second fastest growing region.

The global goal of halving poverty was achieved in 2010, but poverty rates remain extremely high, exacerbated by rising inequalities between and within African countries.

Hunger remains an unacceptable obstacle to achieving human dignity. I am deeply disturbed by persistent food shortages and nutrient deficiencies especially in children and pregnant women. Climate change and natural disasters leave people even more insecure and can reverse gains overnight. 

Threats to peace and security continue to shatter communities.

More than 150,000 women in Africa die in childbirth each year. I launched my Every Woman, Every Child initiative to stop this tragedy.

In my visits to clinics in Nigeria and Ethiopia, I have met with pregnant women receiving health care and proudly breastfeeding their newborn babies. You can see the relief in their eyes as they survive childbirth where many of their friends have become another maternal mortality statistic. We have to make sure that all pregnant women have access to education, healthcare and essential services. That way they can avoid the life-threatening risks of giving birth.

Environmental sustainability is also critical. Africa faces particular challenges from climate change increasing risks to fisheries, livestock, agriculture and tourism. Its forest cover is shrinking and the desert increases at an alarming rate while it struggles to meet targets on water and sanitation.

Now is the time to speed up our campaign.

In April, I launched the campaign “MDG Momentum – 1,000 Days of Action” to spur the momentum and achieve greater gains by the 2015 target date.

Coincidentally, on the 999th day, my newest grandchild was born. I took this as a reminder to work even harder for all children.

To meet the MDGs, we need action by African countries, development partners and the international community 

Official development assistance continues to be critical to the achievement of the MDGs

We forged an excellent platform for partnerships at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan in 2011. This was a turning point for global development.

But we live in a time of financial crisis.  While we acknowledge the welcome debt relief and the fulfillment of ODA commitments by some countries, I am troubled by the decline in ODA to Africa. It dropped from more than $50 billion to $43 billion in recent years. 

We have to reverse this trend.

There have been many promises. In 2005, annual commitments of some $66 billion were announced at the G8 Gleneagles Summit. But Africa has only received about 70 per cent of that amount.

At the same time, we need to do more to boost trade and foreign direct investment flows to Africa. The continent’s sustained growth over the past few years must be leveraged on to provide the structural transformation Africa needs for broad-based, inclusive growth.

To accelerate and sustain the gains of the MDGs, Africa's growth needs to generate decent jobs and opportunities for young people while empowering women and girls.

I am pleased that the Republic of Korea has set a strong example. I welcome Seoul’s recent decision to increase ODA from 0.14 per cent of gross national income to 0.25 per cent by 2015. Korea had already doubled its ODA to Africa. This is a strong show of solidarity that I hope can inspire other countries.

Public funds and policies must leverage and maximize private investment flows to support these goals.

Here again Korea has already shown promise. Korean-African trade more than tripled from $6 billion in 2001 to nearly $22 billion just nine years later. 

Over that same period, Korea’s foreign direct investment in Africa rose dramatically, from $17 million to more than $370 million. This country is now one of Africa’s top 20 investors.

These are the numbers. But there is a more significant link. Korea has walked the same road that many African countries travel now. Korea used to depend on aid. Now, it is a donor. And Korea is helping Africa use the same formula for peace and prosperity.

Korea’s “New Village Movement” is partnering with the United Nations to share this country’s successful experiences with the world. I remember how this initiative called “Saemaul Undong” drove progress in the 1970s and 1980s by developing rural communities.

I also pay tribute to Amb. Dho Young-sim's "Thank You, Small Library" initiative for bringing books to communities in Africa. She is a tireless champion of the Millennium Development Goals.

Korea succeeded thanks to heavy investments in education. Based on this experience, I have launched my Education First initiative for Africa and the world.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Our push to reach the MDGs is critical in its own right. But the MDG campaign has added importance as we shape a shared vision for sustainable development after the year 2015.

Governments must be ambitious in the twin post-2015 processes: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process to deliver a global and legally binding agreement by 2015, and the post-2015 development agenda process.

When we succeed in saving lives and supporting countries through the MDGs, we give credibility and momentum to the post-2015 process – and we help societies address the challenges of climate change. We show the value of international consensus on achieving peace, development and human rights. And that will help us reach agreement on the way forward.

On the post-2015 development agenda, we are making every effort to gather the best possible ideas. I convened a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons which provided valuable proposals which will inform my Report outlining my post-2015 vision. I will present that report to the UN General Assembly Special Event on the MDGs next month. To ensure a truly inclusive process, we have asked citizens around the world to provide their ideas through national consultations and an online survey called MyWorld.  Over a million people participated. More than half of them were from Africa.

At the same time, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is discussing the best way forward.

We can already see a great deal of common ground on a set of sustainable development goals. There is broad agreement that they should be universal – while responding to the specific needs of countries and regions. And these goals must simultaneously address the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

To advance efforts on 2015 climate change agreement, I am engaging leaders across society at the highest level to advance climate finance, catalyze promising initiatives on the ground, and lay the groundwork for successful negotiations.

I will host a Climate Summit in September 2014 in New York, to provide a platform where leaders – from government, business, finance and civil society – can show concrete progress on this critical issue.

Collectively and individually we need to raise the level ambition needed to close the emissions gap and hold the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.

The problems we face are interdependent. Poverty, hunger, insecurity, climate change, environmental degradation, energy scarcity – these challenges demand holistic and integrated solutions.

The United Nations is the world’s best forum to forge international consensus on the future we want. I count on your engagement in this great global effort to protect our planet and ensure its people live a life of dignity.

Thank you.