Knut Ostby: Remarks at the Opening of the MDGs Acceleration Framework Workshop

Oct 23, 2012

Hon. Dr. Minister ‘Ana Taufeulungaki,
Government Delegates,
Development partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction – Millennium Development Goals:

A very warm welcome to all of you to this workshop on the MDG Acceleration Framework. As you are aware, UNDP is of the view that one of the most important tasks ahead of us the next three years is to focus on removing bottlenecks that prevent us from reaching the MDGs. But more important than UNDP’s commitment, is the priority attention and action by countries themselves. Therefore, I would like to begin by commending the high level commitment and support by the participating countries  to accelerate MDGs. In particular, we appreciate the representation at the Ministerial level by the Government of Tonga, through the presence by the Hon. Minister Dr. ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, and I am delighted for her to provide opening remarks at this important event.    

Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals are the most broadly supported and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon. Through the commitment to the Millennium Declaration, countries are bound by eight goals on income poverty, hunger, universal primary education, maternal mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation and the global partnership for development.

MDGs achievement in the global context:

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 much progress has been made. At a global level, the most recent MDG progress report indicates that the global target of cutting in half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, defined as living on under $1.25 per day, was met in 2010.  Hundreds of millions of people are now out of extreme poverty and have the opportunity to live better lives.  

The targets of expanding access to improved sources of water and significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers have also been met.  Additionally, in the last decade, global malaria deaths declined by nearly a third, and many countries have achieved near parity in primary education enrolment between girls and boys.

We have many achievements to celebrate!

But despite the progress, more effort is needed to sustain these gains and reach those still untouched by this progress. Disparities within and between countries remain striking. Overburdened and ill-equipped institutions, neglected agricultural sectors, missing sanitation and energy services, chronic malnutrition, and discrimination against women and girls, ethnic minorities, and other groups remain barriers to progress in many countries.

MDG achievement in the Pacific:

Although important progress has been made on many of the MDGs, worldwide as well as in the Pacific it is equally clear that progress has been uneven and significant gaps exist. This is documented in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s “2012 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report”, as well as national MDG reports and other sources. There has also been a series of setbacks due to the global economic crises and natural disasters that have hit several countries in the region, reminding us again of the uniqueness and vulnerability Pacific Island Countries. As of today, unless focused action is taken, many of the MDG targets are expected to be missed in the Pacific.

Different parts of the Pacific have had different levels of progress. For example, Melanesia, excluding PNG, is on track towards reducing child mortality (MDG 4), with mixed progress recorded for all the other goals.  Polynesia’s progress is on track to achieve four of the goals – achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and ensuring environmental sustainability.  Micronesia is off track on the poverty goal, with mixed progress on the other MDGs.  Cook Islands and Niue are the only countries on track to achieve the MDGs.

Unfortunately, poverty is increasing in the Pacific, 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. 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. High and persistent unemployment, particularly among the youth population, is a common phenomenon.

Effects of climate change is an emerging issue, which has the potential to deter progress on all the goals.  Most countries are already feeling the adverse impacts of climate change. To address these impacts is a key priority for Pacific Countries going forward.

Background of the MAF:

In September 2010 countries gathered at the UN Millennium Summit to review progress made in the past 10 years. On that occasion, Governments reaffirmed their commitment to reaching the MDGs, and recognized that renewed focus and accelerated efforts was needed to reach these goals by 2015.

In response  to the world leaders’ calls emerging out of the MDG Summit in September 2010 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), with the technical input and collaboration of other UN Agencies, to help accelerate progress at the country level on those MDG targets and indicators seen as unlikely to be reached by 2015.

As explained by the UNDP Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, Helen Clark, we believe that eight action points should be considered over the next few years: (i) Support country level  development;  (ii) Foster inclusive economic growth; (iii) Improve opportunities for women and girls; (iv) Continue to target investments in health and education, in clean water and sanitation;  (v) Scale up social protection and employment programmes; (vi)  Expand access to energy and promote low carbon development;  (vii) Improve domestic resource mobilization;  (viii) Commitment by the international community to provide development assistance and improve the predictability of aid effectiveness.

More recently in 2011, during the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland, New Zealand, Pacific Forum Leaders met with the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Ban Ki-moon. In a joint statement the Pacific Forum Leaders and the United Nations Secretary General:

“Agreed on the importance of sustainable economic growth in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Pacific; and discussed ways of enhancing the work of the United Nations system in the region to support these efforts, including the possibility of utilising the MDG Acceleration Framework to help identify national priorities for action in each Pacific island country.”

The MDG Acceleration Framework is an innovative approach designed to help countries identify and resolve barriers to eradicating extreme poverty, and achieving sustainable development.  It can be adapted to different country circumstances and complements existing government planning processes, while also improving the mobilization and coordination of efforts and resources contributed by various partners. It also addresses disparities and inequalities, one of the major causes of uneven MDG progress across and within countries, by responding to the needs of the most vulnerable —the poorest of the poor, women and ethnic minorities.

The thrust of the MDG Acceleration Framework is built around focusing efforts and resources on the highest priorities at the national level, identifying challenges and bottlenecks and devising innovative solutions to address the identified challenges and bottlenecks.

Concluding remarks:

In closing, with three years remaining to 2015 deadline, there is an urgent need for a more concerted effort to  accelerate progress at the national level. This is a challenging task, but we strongly believe it could be achieved through:

  • strong national and local political determination to the tackle off-track MDGs,
  • drawing upon country experiences and ongoing processes to identify and prioritize bottlenecks interfering with the implementation of key MDG interventions
  • Using lessons learned to determine objective and feasible solutions for accelerating MDG progress, and
  • Creating a partnership with identified roles for all relevant stakeholders to jointly achieve MDG progress.

I wish you all the very best in the very important deliberations over the next three days towards developing MDG Acceleration Frameworks for your respective countries. We hope that these frameworks will yield tangible results that address your national development priorities up to and beyond 2015.

Tank yu tumas, Malo, Fafetailasi, Vinaka vakalevu.

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