Knut Ostby: Occasion of the launch of Solomon Islands Millennium Development Goals Progress Report, 2010

06 Jun 2011

Prime Minister of Solomon Islands — Hon. Danny Philip,
Caretaker Minister, Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination – Hon. Manaseh Maelanga,
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination – Mr. Barnabas Anga,
Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Community,
Distinguished senior officials from Solomon Islands Government,
Members of the Solomon Islands media, my Dear UN Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

A very good afternoon and it is a pleasure to see you here today!

I have come to Solomon Islands on many occasions before, most recently just around the time of national elections last year.  I would like to start by congratulating the people and Government of Solomon Islands for having successfully conducted that 2010 democratic exercise. On request from Government, the conduct of the elections received assistance by the UN and other development partners.  In that context I was impressed at the level of coordination among all relevant partners, and at what can be achieved by continued determination and cooperation.   

This brings me to today’s occasion, which I have been looking forward to for some time!  I am very pleased to be here for the launching of the Solomon Islands Millennium Development Goals Progress Report, 2010—coming as it does after a pause of six years, following the last MDG Report of 2004.  I acknowledge the Ministry for Development Planning and Aid Coordination for exemplary leadership in the production of this report, all development partners for collaborating towards its production, the writers, the UNDP Sub-Office in Honiara and the UNDP Pacific Centre—for all their hard work.    

In these preceding six years it is heartening to see Solomon Islands making progress to achieve the results shown in this latest report.  For these results, national leadership has been at the center, and this leadership is being further strengthened by this MDG report, issued under the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination. Support from development partners has also been important, and again, I reflect on the possibilities to be realized from continued determination and cooperation by all!

The MDGs 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.  Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs are both global and local, tailored by each country to suit specific development needs.

The MDGs represent a minimum standard for development for all people across the world. As such they represent a basic right to development for all. The goals have been agreed by all countries and they belong to everyone.

Therefore, to achieve them is not only the responsibility of developing country governments or of donors or UN agencies; they will only be achieved when everyone works for them, also NGOs, communities and media.

In September last year 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 to reach these goals by 2015 requires renewed focus and accelerated efforts.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his report, “Keeping the Promise”, has said, “Our world possesses the knowledge and resources to achieve the MDGs.”  Falling short of the Goals “would be an unacceptable failure, moral and practical.”

The UNDP Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, Helen Clark, has proposed eight action points to accelerate and sustain the achievements of the MDGs over the next five 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.

This Solomon Islands MDG Progress Report 2010 presents advances made towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, through a comprehensive review of successes, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities—leading to suggestions on strategies for action. 

The Report shows, for example, ‘Good Progress’ towards MDG 2 (achieve universal primary education), MDG 4 (reduce child mortality) and MDG 5 (reduce maternal mortality), and therefore indicates that Solomon Islands is on track to achieve these goals by 2015. 

On the other hand, the report suggests that full achievement of MDG 3 (promote gender equality and empower women) and MDG 7 (ensure environmental sustainability) still require overcoming significant challenges. Like for a number of other Pacific countries, the report also indicates that more could be done on MDG 1 (eradicate poverty).
Clearly, sustained work should build on the successes, and likewise, more focus is needed in the challenge areas.

Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Progress in one goal supports progress in others.  One of the key outcomes of looking at the goals in unison, is the conclusion that promoting employment-intensive growth positively impacts on many of the MDGs.  This type of growth leads to higher employment and productivity levels, in turn increasing incomes of the poor, leading to higher consumption and investment—a virtuous (not vicious) circle!  One of the key suggestions in the report is that more needs to be done for stimulating employment growth in Solomon Islands.     

In the area of gender equality and empowerment of women (MDG 3), I am happy to report that the UN Joint Programme on prevention of Violence Against Women is in the formulation stage. In this regard, I would also acknowledge the close relationship UN/DP shares with the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs. 

Similarly, on environmental sustainability (MDG 7), Solomon Islands has recently been one of the largest recipients and one of only three countries globally to receive support from the global Adaptation Fund (of USD 5.5 million) for informed decision making on climate-related pressures on food production; and of 0.5 million USD from the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD). This is of strategic importance, as the report recognizes that logging and deforestation would remain key challenges for sustainable development. Here, I acknowledge the close relationship we share with the Ministry of Conservation, Disaster Management, and Meteorology.          

As a quick aside, I must note that for the first time in Solomon Islands, we will be able to more effectively track what funds are coming in, where, how they are being deployed, and so on, with the recent launching of the Development Assistance Database (DAD), under the leadership of the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination.  I encourage all development partners to make full use of DAD.  It will be important for effective and transparent planning, tracking and monitoring of assistance towards national development goals as well as the MDGs.

The Hon. Snyder Rini said in his Foreword to this report, the Solomon Islands Government wishes to establish a plan for an accelerated path to MDG attainment in collaboration with UN/UNDP and other development partners. We warmly welcome this opportunity and will do our best to contribute to this important goal.

In that spirit, today’s event marks not only the formal launching of the Solomon Islands MDG Progress Report, but hopefully a renewed phase in the partnership between the UN and Solomon Islands.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Government, Civil Society and other development partners to generate tangible improvements in the Millennium Development Goals for the people of Solomon Islands, and to meet the national strategic development goals.

The UN of course has had a long and close partnership with Solomon Islands.  The UN Joint Presence Office here is a key pillar among our offices across the Pacific.  The UNDP Solomon Islands Office was founded in 1999 as a programme implementation office.  Due to the need for closer collaboration with the Government and with development partners on the ground, it was established as a Sub-office in 2007, as part of the Joint Presence and Multi-Country Office in Fiji.  Programme growth has been strong in the Office over the past years, reaching an annual delivery of roughly US$ 6 million per latest figures.

Looking forward, it is clear that while together we were able to achieve strong results, more can and must be done in future.  To that end, we are working together with the rest of the UN system towards a new UN Development Assistance Framework that will cover the years 2013-2017. We have just started the process and we expect to consult with each and every one of the 14 Pacific countries we cover over the next few months. We expect that the Solomon Islands Government working with UN agencies here will be of great help in this consultation process, to ensure that national priorities are captured, and that they are duly combined with the comparative advantages of the UN system. In this way we can make sure that we are focusing our support to Solomon Islands in those areas where it will be most useful.

With that, I again offer my congratulations on the launching of the Solomon Islands MDG Progress Report. 

Thank you!  Tagio tumas!