Knut Ostby: Opening Remarks at the second Post-2015 Debate

Oct 17, 2012


Good evening. Thank you for taking the time to be here today, at this second debate on the international sustainable development goals post-2015. UNDP and USP is jointly organizing this debate as part of the international efforts to make all voices heard before we decide on what international goals should replace the Millennium Development Goals.

Today also marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  This presents an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and struggles of people living in poverty, to hear their voices and concerns and to recognize that poor people are at the forefront of the fight against poverty.


The origin of the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back to 17 October 1987. On that day, over a hundred thousand people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honour the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. The gathering proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected.

SG’s statement:

I would like to take this opportunity to read the statement on the occasion of the International Day for Eradication of Poverty, by UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon:


Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat.  Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.

We mark this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at a time of economic austerity in many countries.  As governments struggle to balance budgets, funding for anti-poverty measures is under threat.  But this is precisely the time to provide the poor with access to social services, income security, decent work and social protection.  Only then can we build stronger and more prosperous societies – not by balancing budgets at the expense of the poor.

The Millennium Development Goals have galvanized global action that generated great progress.  We have cut extreme poverty by half and corrected the gender imbalance in early education, with as many girls now attending primary school as boys.  Many more communities have access to clean drinking water.  Millions of lives have been saved thanks to investments in health.

These gains represent a major advance toward a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable world.  But more than a billion people still live in poverty, denied their rights to food, education and health care.  We have to empower them to help us find sustainable solutions.  We should spare no effort to ensure that all countries reach the MDGs by 2015.

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in June of this year, leaders from around the world declared that poverty eradication is “the greatest global challenge facing the world today.”

We are now developing the UN development framework for the period after 2015, building on the MDGs while confronting persistent inequalities and new challenges facing people and the planet.  Our aim is to produce a bold and ambitious framework that can foster transformational change benefiting people now and for generations to come.

Rampant poverty, which has festered for far too long, is linked to social unrest and threats to peace and security.  On this International Day, let us make an investment in our common future by helping to lift people out of poverty so that they, in turn, can help to transform our world.


The MDGs:

During the implementation of the first Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), several United Nations summits and conferences resulted in negotiated outcomes focused on national, regional and international efforts for poverty eradication. These include the UN Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development and the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

One of the key outcomes of the Millennium Summit in 2000 was the Millennium Development Goals. When the eight MDGs were launched at the beginning of the new millennium, they were then, and still are, the most comprehensive and universally agreed development goals to tackle poverty across its many dimensions.

They are about eradicating extreme poverty and hunger through the empowerment of women; increasing access to the essential services of education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation; reducing the incidence of specified deadly diseases; protecting the environment; and forging strong global partnerships for development. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, the MDGs are time-bound and specific commitments which would bring hugely beneficial change to their lives. One important aspect is that the MDGs represent the right to development; the right of all peoples to relate to the same standard for development.

Pacific context:

According to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s 2012 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report, as well as other sources, the Pacific region’s collective results on the MDGs are slow and uneven, with progress for individual countries demonstrating the diversity of the region and the mixed progress of the goals. Most Pacific countries are not on track to reach most of the MDGs.

Recent poverty-related data point to a new and growing problem. The widely held perception that subsistence life styles, social networks, and traditional structures provide a safety net against poverty in the region is increasingly being questioned. Pacific Island countries are becoming more and more vulnerable to fluctuations in international energy and food prices, causing serious threats to food security in the region. It is estimated that at least one third of the region‘s population live in poverty and do not have sufficient income to satisfy their basic human needs. High and persistent unemployment, particularly among the youth population, is a common phenomenon.

Post-2015 dialogue:

As we approach the year 2015, which is the deadline for the MDGs, the dialogue for a new set of global goals is already underway.  In the Rio+20 conference earlier this year, countries reviewed the status and progress towards our international development goals, including the MDGs.

But more importantly, the international community got together to discuss the outlook for the future. It was a strong agreement that we need a concrete set of Sustainable Development Goals beyond 2015. These goals will need to be broad and need to deal with social, economic and environmental issues.

The new set of global development targets and indicators would signify an even more historic shift, embracing a more balanced and equal world, where we all have things to learn and in which all countries, crucially, are still developing. …At least, this is what we want to happen. For this to become a reality, we depend on a healthy and inclusive global debate to create goals that serves the interests of all peoples.

For this reason, the UN and other partners are engaging in a range of consultative processes, including such events as the debate this evening. We wish to engage experts as well as beneficiaries, young as well as old, and trying to combine public consultation with technical, analytical work.  This will help to make sure all voices are heard before decisions are made on our future Sustainable Development Goals.

In closing, I wish all the debaters success with their interventions and deliberations tonight. I am positive that whatever the outcome is of the debate tonight, it will provide valuable insight into what we would want to take forward into the post 2015 development agenda dialogue.    

Thank you very much.

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