Helen Clark remarks at UN Day Reception in Laos

Oct 19, 2010

Helen Clark,
UNDP Administrator and
Chair of the United Nations Development Group

Remark at the UN Day Reception 2010

Vientiane, Lao PDR
19 October 2010

Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith,

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, Representatives of United Nations Organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be with you this evening to celebrate UN Day 2010.

This is a special year for the United Nations in Laos. It marks both the 55th anniversary of the Lao - United Nations partnership and the 65th birthday of the United Nations itself.

I am pleased to see so many government counterparts and development partners joining us tonight to celebrate our partnerships, which have developed in Laos through a history of mutual trust and friendships. Through such partnerships the United Nations can live up to the vision laid out by its founders 65 years ago.  

I had the pleasure of meeting again today with His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Laos, and other senior Ministers and officials of the Lao PDR Government. Our discussions made it clear to me that the UN is indeed a trusted partner, based on 55 years of support for development.

When the United Nations charter was signed in 1945, there were only 50 members of the UN. Today 192 countries are members.

But the growth in membership is not the only thing which has changed. To stay relevant over 65 years, the UN has continually innovated. The organization I lead – the UN Development Programme - did not come into existence in its present form until 1966. Member states agreed then that development was central to the UN’s mandate, and that development assistance was most effective when coupled with reliable technical assistance.

Geopolitical and economic shifts in power affect development co-operation as they affect international political and economic relations. Our world is increasingly multi-polar – with more important global players emerging in the South. Their contributions to development are growing fast, alongside the highly valued contributions of the traditional donors which have made such a difference to so many and continue to do so, including here in Laos.

As well, international NGOs, mega philanthropic organisations, and multinational companies are all playing significant roles alongside traditional donors and multilateral organisations. South-South Co-operation brings new opportunities for exchange of experiences, new sources of development finance, and additional chances for mutual gain through trade.

In this context, the UN’s development system must continue to adapt by strengthening and expanding its partnerships. For the UN Development Group overall, increased co-ordination between agencies is also vital.

With the strong support of the Government of the Lao PDR, our UN Country Team is working to deliver in a more co-ordinated way, to make us a better development partner.

A strong UN Country Team is important as nations endeavor to address the fallout from the global recession, the impacts of climate change, the lingering effects of the food and fuel crises, and the spread of deadly diseases. The impact of these global challenges threaten development progress, and are felt acutely by the poorest and most vulnerable, people who did the least to cause them.

Given this context, business as usual is no longer enough.  

As called for by an unprecedented number of heads of state and government, at last month’s Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, we need to rise to the occasion both to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and address the challenges which threaten to derail such progress.   

I was especially grateful that his Excellency, the President and the Lao delegation were able to attend the MDG Summit and join me and my UNDP colleagues at an event which highlighted Laos’ efforts to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. 

The President showcased Laos’ experience in aligning its 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan to what it will take to achieve the MDGs. Laos is also one of the first countries to use the MDG Acceleration Framework – to bring partners together to identify the specific interventions which can advance gender equality in primary education and beyond.

With strong and enlightened leadership, the co-ordinated and reliable support of development partners, and the engagement of its citizens, I am confident that Laos can reach the MDGs.

The UN is proud to continue to be your ally and partner in this effort.

I had a chance to meet with young Lao people during my visit to the Vientiane Youth Centre earlier today. They shared with me the work they are doing to provide relevant health services to people of their age.  Their expectations and ambitions were high, as were their energy and eagerness to ensure that young people have the information they need to make safe choices about their lives.

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