Rebeca Grynspan: Africa Caribbean and Pacific Council of Ministers

Nov 11, 2010

Remarks by Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator
Opening ceremony of the 92nd Session of the
Africa Caribbean and Pacific Council of Ministers
Brussels, November 9 at 11.30am

Distinguished Ministers, Ambassadors, Mr Secretary General, Dr. Chambas, and Ms. President, Hon Caroline Rodrigues Birkett. It is an honor to be here with you today.

Allow me to express my sincere thanks to the Secretary General Dr Chambas for inviting UNDP to join your deliberations at this 92nd Session of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific Council of Ministers. I was also very pleased that Dr Chambas was able to join us yesterday to help us launch the Human Development Report here in Brussels. His intervention and messages were very well received and I want to tell him that we were listening very carefully.

As he pointed out yesterday – the human development report – now 20 years old has been successful in helping to vindicate what was once considered radical: That a country’s success or an individual’s well being cannot be reduced to evaluating their income alone.
The first Report started with the simple but powerful proposition that “people are the real wealth of nations”.

To put this notion into practice the human development approach to development emerged together with a revolutionary measurement: the HDI. The Human development approach seeks to put people at the center of the development efforts.  Going beyond economic growth to the proposition that “people are the real wealth a nation” and that they are at the same time beneficiaries and drivers of human development. Human development is the process of expanding people’s choices and capabilities, in synthesis the expansion of people’s freedoms: freedom to live long, healthy and creative lives.
It is now commonplace to consider development to be about people’s wellbeing and not only about income and economic growth.  In this 20 years the human development approach has gained traction with practitioners around the world; according to the UN Intellectual History Project it is one of the most important UN contributions to development thinking and practice.

It has also helped to inspire new calls for more effective global action against poverty, hunger, inequalities, and disease. 

This new momentum culminated in the historic commitment of the international community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. 

These Goals have become the world’s most accepted benchmarks for development progress.

In the MDG Summit held a little over a month ago we heard an unprecedented number of Heads of State and Government  recommitting themselves to achieve the MDGs before the 2015 deadline. Many of you contributed a great deal to the important discussions leading up to the Summit Outcome Document – which was adopted by consensus by all 192 member states. 

The Summit outcome embodies an ambitious and balanced agenda for action over the next five years.

This is in part due to the fact that so many countries came to the Summit with concrete evidence of what had worked, and clear and far-sighted proposals as to what it would take to overcome obstacles to accelerate progress.

In the run-up to the Summit, UNDP was privileged to work with many of your governments on their preparations.  UNDP offered many contributions to the Summit but let me refer especially to one: The international assessment report that included in-depth country studies that we helped to facilitate in over fifty countries -  examining what had worked and what will it take to achieve the MDG by 2015.

The assessment helped UNDP and Member States make the case, based on evidence, that the MDGs can be reached even in this difficult financial and economic situation, if we build on the progress that has been achieved.  Today when we presented the new HDR we again prove that much has been accomplished by the developing world!

Let me share with you some of the data because there is much progress on which to build.
In the 21st century, Africa has reversed its trend – poverty rates started decreasing. For example the extreme poverty rate peaked in sub-Saharan Africa in the late 1990s at more than 58 per cent. Since then, rapid growth and better policies have contributed to reducing the extreme poverty rate to approximately fifty per cent by 2005.

We see this progress also reflected in terms of the human development index in the Report just launched. Since 2000, five of the top ten faster movers in improving the human development index are African countries - Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda.

Before the negative and tragic impacts of the global economic crisis Pacific island countries were experiencing high growth rates and the Caribbean includes some of its region’s top human development performers. Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis has seen its per capita GDP increase more than four-fold over the last 40 years. Barbados, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago were the top three achievers in terms of gender equality in Latin America and Caribbean.

The findings of this year’s human development report suggest that
Overall, people today are healthier, more educated, and wealthier than ever before. The world’s average human development index –which combines life expectancy, schooling and income – has increased by forty one percent between 1970 and 2010 – including by eighteen percent in the last twenty years. And progress has been widespread, people in almost all countries has benefitted.

Growth continues not to tell us the whole story. Countries which have the fastest growth rates are not necessarily the ones achieving the largest gains in either the overall Human development index, or its non income component. So it is inclusive growth which brings about the best performers in the HDI. 

A third finding is that some countries have not done so well. 
Health reversals related to HIV epidemic especially in Africa, adult mortality in transition countries and conflict are important variables in these results.  

A fourth and final major finding is that not all good things come together and that inequality is an important barrier to human development in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. There are significant losses in the human development achievements due to high inequality.  The disadvantages faced by women and girls merits a special mention in this respect. 

To move forward, driven by these human development principles, countries and the international community can be guided by evidence of what works, as captured to a large degree in the MDG Summit outcome document.

The evidence, gathered by UNDP, suggests that a set of tried and tested policies can ensure progress, if scaled up, adapted to national contexts, and properly resourced.

Although there can be no global blueprint for success, the assessment draws on this evidence identify eight actions that have proven successful in accelerating MDG progress.

They include:

  •  promoting country ownership and leadership in the development process,
  •  investing in women and girls and their empowerment, Efforts must include measures which reduce the burden of domestic chores and free women to generate income and send their girls to school; as well as offering broader political empowerment.
  • scaling up social protection and the delivery of basic services,

Fostering inclusive growth:

To be inclusive, growth must be job-rich and affect the sectors where the poor work and live. A specific focus on agriculture and rural development is therefore needed in countries where large numbers of people live and depend on the land. UNDP, working with its UN partners, can help by supporting countries capacities to improve storage systems, build better extension services and connect farmers to markets.  

  • expanding access to energy and promoting low carbon growth, and
  • increasing countries’ ability to effectively mobilize domestic resources and allocate them effectively – acknowledging that catalytic, quality and predictable ODA must continue to be instrumental.

To best support your governments and development partners to build on the momentum and consensus from the Summit, take on board these lessons to date, and undertake efforts  that will provide the greatest leverage across the MDGs, UNDP is working on two fronts to follow up:

First we are helping countries put evidence into practice in accordance with their specific, local contexts through a practical diagnostic tool – the MDG Acceleration Framework.

The Framework enables governments and development partners to systematically identify the bottlenecks preventing MDG progress, in an inter-sectoral, multi partner and multi stakeholders fashion.   It has been tested in ten countries that were looking to improve the effectiveness of their efforts to address off-track MDGs, including maternal mortality in Uganda, access to rural energy in Tajikistan, gender inequality in education in Laos, and agricultural productivity in Togo.

The results suggest that it helps countries to:

1)    Build on existing national strategies and local lessons and evidence of what works;
Belize is employing the Acceleration Framework, for example, to help it meet its national development priority of improving access to safe and clear water and sanitation services in rural area.

2)    Increase ownership, consensus, and engagement from those who can support the agreed solutions;
Togo’s efforts to prioritize increasing the ability of small farmers to grow more and better food resulted in an Action Plan, for example, with prioritized and tested solutions  supported by new and diverse partners and stakeholders who are engaged and motivated to make it work.

3)     Breaks down traditional silos between sectors, MDGs, and discipline to force a pragmatic problem-solving perspective;

Uganda, for example, used the Framework to identify what was frustrating efforts to reduce maternal mortality. Practitioners, experts, and officials from all relevant ministries considered evidence and agreed on solutions that cut across normal divisions – for example improving ICT and infrastructure to close the gap between villages and health units, addressing cultural barriers to participation in health initiatives, and establishing sufficient the human resource incentives to retain health workers.  

The Acceleration Framework will be a part of our effort, in cooperation with the UN development Systemt, to ensure that all countries get the support they need to accelerate progress on the MDGs.

1.    Second, we are working to help countries build resilience and address climate change
As we are all aware, climate change for a number of Pacific Island countries is not just an environmental or economic issue – it is about their very survival.

UNDP knows this well as we experience the aftermaths with you. After hurricane Ivan, we were on site; our country offices in Haiti and Barbados were working to support those affected by hurricane Tomas.  The same in Benin floods.

The impact of natural disasters is inevitably felt most acutely by the poor – putting at risk their health, livelihoods, and the education of their children. The development setbacks that result are in some cases irreversible. Curbing the impact of disasters, in particular on the poor and vulnerable, therefore, not only saves lives, but can also helps to keep development on track.   

Globally, UNDP is actively involved in climate change projects in all SIDS countries, leveraging funding from donors and co-financing projects on climate change adaptation, mitigation and capacity development. 

Our goal is to build the capacity of government and the private sector to access and direct climate finance—and to do this in ways that promote pro-poor, pro-growth low emission development and climate resilience.  Critically, we do this in-country.  This is where our strength lies.

Climate change, in particular, is likely to affect negatively many African countries , even though the continent has contributed the least to the existing concentrations of greenhouse gases. The needs for climate change adaptation are large, and need to be integrated into the overall infrastructural priorities of the continent. At the same time, access to affordable and reliable energy is a key requirement for development.

The energy needs of the continent are already very large, and will increase as productive sectors expand and the country develops. Access to the adequate financing and technology will be needed to ensure that the energy needs are met with options that are as consistent as possible with climate change mitigation.
We are and will continue scaling up our support to increased resilience to natural disasters and other shocks. 
  I am very encouraged by the momentum of SIDS Dock—an innovative platform to generate finance for energy services and adaptation, developed by the Alliance of Small Island States for their own purposes.  We are proud to have supported every stage of this project, and are committed to continuing to do so—ultimately supporting SIDS to generate necessary finance to get the job done in your countries.

 UNDP does not want and cannot act alone.  We see working together with the multilateral system to deliver in a coherent and efficient way as essential.   Supporting SIDS in addressing climate change requires a variety of skills and expertise. 

Where our colleagues for example at World Bank provide you with investment expertise, we support you to design your policies and incentives—to build capacity—to make that money work for you in a way that reduces poverty and drives human development.  We are encouraged to see the strong focus the Alliance of Small Island States puts on this capacity building work in the negotiations.  We are working with the Bank to see what joint activities we can quickly deliver and immediately scale up.

Development breakthrough in Africa Pacific and Caribbean countries is within reach. The MDGs can be met.

Progress will require innovation, critical thinking, openness to learning from others, and the flexibility to adapt broad principles and proven policies to ever changing and unique local contexts.

An enabling international environment is also key, including a completed Doha round that opens markets and increases countries’ capacity to trade, quality and predicable aid, migration policies conducive to human development, a stable and secure economic  environment and coherent and consistently development policies from donors.  In my meetings here with EU officials I have emphasized the importance of coherent development policies – that reinforce and do not get in the way of development results. 

I also commend the ACP Secretariat for supporting and furthering efforts at regional integration – strengthening trade between your countries is an important path to competitiveness. 

With expertise and experience in helping countries develop their institutional and human capacity to improve delivery and implementation, UNDP is well place to help countries take forward their action plans.

Now I would like to hear from you how we can take our joint agenda forward. We are allies in the effort to improve the lives of millions, and particularly in these challenging times, we need to increasingly work in strong and targeted partnerships, as we know that the job is too big for any one of us to succeed alone.    

UNDP Around the world