Opening Speech by Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for UNDP Asia-Pacific Bureau for High Level Forum on Governance for Sustainable Human Development for Marshall Islands

May 12, 2015

It is a pleasure for me to join the President of the Republic of Marshall Islands, His Excellency Christopher J. Loeak and the Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Donald F. Capelle in extending a very warm welcome to all of you in opening this remarkable Forum.

I further wish to acknowledge the presence of the Honourable Cabinet Ministers, Senators of Marshall Islands Parliament, Excellencies, Representatives and Officials from UN Agencies and Development Partners, Representatives of Regional Organisations in the Pacific, Government and Parliament Officials and everyone who is participating in this Forum or listening on the radio.

We congratulate Marshall Islands for successfully completing its National Strategic Plan for 2015-2017 which will guide the national development aspirations of the country.

The Forum is an excellent platform for and provides an opportunity to really look at how RMI has progressed in terms of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs as they are commonly referred to, discuss key national development priorities and how RMI as a nation is positioned toward adopting the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Very importantly it’s a platform for frank and open discussion on how RMI is positioned to support sustainable human development in the most cohesive manner as the country slowly graduates towards the expiration of the Compact of Free Association (COFA) in 2023.

RMI as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) has been actively participating in discussions around common challenges surrounding SIDS of which climate change and sustainable economic development are fundamentally leading the board.

The Third International SIDS Conference that took place in Samoa last year reinforced the world’s attention to the SIDS and the unique and particular vulnerabilities that they face.

The SAMOA Pathway puts forward the Leaders’ recognition of poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development as the overarching objectives of and being essential for sustainable human development.

The Leaders’ also recognized that sea-level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change continue to pose a significant risk to SIDS and their efforts to achieve sustainable development, and for many, it represents the gravest of threats to their survival and viability. This is relatively a significant agenda for PICs who are predominantly SIDS.

Pacific Island Countries as everyone knows have contributed the least when it comes to global climate change but they share the greatest of its impacts.  Most if not all the Pacific Island Countries have suffered the consequences of increasing sea level rise, more frequent and intense natural disasters, ocean acidification and failing crops triggered by shifting weather patterns and more severe climate change. To help avoid catastrophic setbacks from climate change, UNDP has been working with Pacific Island Governments to support the countries to strengthen their resilience though scaled up adaptation and sustainable development.

The post-2015 global development agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals will encourage countries to promote economic and social progress with a light environmental footprint. This is essential for all the world’s regions if we are to preserve the global commons which secure our common future. UNDP supports Pacific countries to pursue low-carbon paths to development, protecting and raising awareness on better management of the limited resources such Tuna that needs to be protected from overfishing. We seek to strengthen the capacities of all Pacific Island Countries to benefit from initiatives under the Global Environmental Facility and other sources of finance for tackling climate change and sustaining biodiversity.

Around the world, people are seeking a greater say in the decisions which impact on them, and greater accountability from those who govern. In the global conversation on post-2015, a desire for honest and effective governance ranks as a top priority. People want their governments to deliver improved services, and to manage public and natural resources fairly and transparently.

Similarly, Governments around the world have been trying immensely to find the right match between development priorities and finances available to fund them. The discussion around financing for development has now become a Global Agenda and does not remain a national or regional issue only. The Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July will enable many actors to come together to discuss further.

Our experience in implementing the MDGs provides compelling evidence that the international community can be mobilized to confront such complex challenges and that all financing streams need to be combined to enable developing countries to emerge into the developed world.

Strong partnerships therefore play a critical role in emergence and achieving sustainable human development. At UNDP, we work to connect countries with others which have achieved emergence through their investments in infrastructure, health, education, governance, institutional strengthening and innovative social policy, and through their openness to engage with the global economy through trade, investment, and provision of aid. We can also review the new and innovative sources of funding. UNDP, for example, is the first UN agency approved by the Board of the Green Climate Fund to access the Fund’s resources for the government.

Furthermore, greater connectivity, and increased level of awareness and engagement between the leaders and the people on national issues is also critical to ensure the pathway is drawn wide-enough to enable checks and balances and correct faults as we move along.

Governments which welcome wider and deeper participation by citizens will build greater trust in governance and more sustainable political systems.
UNDP recognizes the efforts of RMI Government and its people to progressively achieve the MDGs and adopting innovative ways to build a stronger future for the future generations.

I wish to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you here today for your support and efforts and look forward to the concrete discussions and recommendations that will transpire over the two days of the Forum.

Thank you very much!

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