1 July 2014

Secretary-General's message on the launch of the Millennium Development Goals Advocates Field Trip to Africa [delivered by Mr. Thomas Gass, Assistant-Secretary-General, Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs. Department of Economic and Social Affai

I am pleased to send greetings to all those attending the launch of this Africa Tour by my Millennium Development Goal Advocates.  I thank Rwandan President Paul Kagame for hosting, and applaud his dedication and that of his distinguished co-Chair, Prime Minster Erna Solberg of Norway.

During my recent visit to Rwanda, I was impressed by the country’s progress since the tragedy of the genocide.  Women are driving major advances.  They make up half of the country’s 14 Supreme Court justices.  Boys and girls attend school in equal numbers.  New laws enable women to own and inherit property, and pass citizenship to their children.  In the political sphere, Rwanda has set an example, achieving the world’s highest representation of women in an elected lower house of parliament.

The recent data on the MDGs show that Africa is rising.  The continent is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies.  From a traditional reliance on simple commodities, countries are now achieving broad-based growth in telecommunications, banking, construction, retail and real estate.  Smart investors from the developed world are increasingly looking to Africa for high returns.

The success of the MDGs bodes well for the future.  There have been tremendous gains in the enrolment of African schoolchildren.  Even the poorest African countries are nearing or have reached the goal of universal primary education.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest growth in enrolment, jumping from 60 per cent in 2000 to 78 per cent in 2012.

Sub-Saharan Africa has also doubled its average rate of reduction in under-five mortality over the last two decades.  But the region’s maternal mortality ratio continues to be the world’s highest, accounting for nearly two thirds of maternal deaths worldwide.  The region also faces a stark overall gender gap, with only 93 girls enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys.

We must urgently work to close all gaps in education, health and public life.  This is essential over the next 550 days as we accelerate progress across the unfinished business of the MDGs. It will also set the stage for an ambitious and transformative, new sustainable development agenda that addresses emerging challenges of people and planet and ensures a life of dignity for all.

The field visits you are about to embark upon offer valuable opportunities to reach the lives of people, hear their views and mobilize them in our campaign for progress.

I thank you for your dedicated efforts and I count on your continued engagement as we push ahead for even greater results in Africa and around the world.