Helen Clark: Remarks to the Chiapas Congress

Sep 13, 2011

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
to the Chiapas Congress
Chiapas, 6pm 13 September 2011

Thank you for inviting me to this ceremony celebrating the Constitution of Chiapas and for the warm hospitality on my visit to Chiapas, one of the territories of the ancient Mayan nation.

There is much to celebrate: the Constitution of Chiapas is exceptional in calling for all social policies to be aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, thereby making the fight against poverty and the improvement of peoples’ lives an explicit goal of the state.

I understand that the modern history of Chiapas as we know it today began with a referendum in 1892, when the people voted on whether to become an independent nation, remain a part of Guatemala, or join the Mexican Federation.

My own country, New Zealand, is, like Chiapas, also founded on an indigenous society. In 1840 Maori chiefs and tribes the length and breadth of the country debated accession to a treaty with the British and most agreed to sign.

Indigenous peoples´ rights and the meaning of self-determination within a larger sovereign state feature prominently in the political dialogue of New Zealand to this day.     

In many ways, history has been hard on the state of Chiapas. Poverty has been persistent, with socio-economic indicators lagging behind the average for Mexico.

The greater development challenges have led the United Nations here to give Chiapas a very high priority in our work.

Thanks to the support given by President Calderon, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, which sets out the operations of UN Agencies over the period 2008 to 2012, established that the South and South-East of Mexico would be the UN’s main area of focus.

Following this, we established a UN Office in San Cristobal de las Casas and another one in Tapachula, at the border, with the support of the Spanish Development Co-operation Agency, to work for the indigenous communities and migrants from Central America. Throughout, we have received strong backing from Governor Sabines, most recently through his generous offer of free of charge premises for the UN’s offices here in your state capital.

What started as small scale operations soon became what is now known as the “Agenda Chiapas-UN" .Under this agenda, twelve UN agencies are providing support to Chiapas in areas as diverse as agriculture, human rights, water and sanitation, peace-building, gender equality, climate change, children´s rights, disaster risk reduction, and elections.

Let me mention here that when I was in Cancun last year, I could not miss seeing the hundreds of Chiapas Eco-buses which provided transportation to all CoP-16 delegates. The inscription on each bus - “UN Rides Green, UN Rides Clean” – was truly a memorable sight.        

The constitutional amendment in Chiapas aligning public policy on social development in this state with the Millenium Development Goals gives enormous momentum to the work of the United Nations here.

The focus of Chiapas on meeting the MDGs is producing impressive results:

  • In the years 2000 – 2009 Chiapas moved from making the slowest progress on the Human Development Index of all the Mexican states to ranking number eleven in the rate of progress;
  • Chiapas has the fifth fastest rate of progress on education, measured by literacy and enrolment rates ; and
  • Chiapas has the fastest rate of improvement on life expectancy at birth. 
  • The indigenous communities of Chiapas are experiencing a faster growth in human development than their counterparts in other states of Mexico.

The Chiapas border has also become a friendlier zone for migrants – although there is still work to be done to protect them during their journeys across other parts of the country.

The United Nations is also working with Chiapas to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) who lost their homes and livelihoods because of conflict. We hope this Congress can pass legislation to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on IDPs, which would be the most progressive legislation on this issue worldwide.

Chiapas has indeed made progress on building social cohesion and political dialogue, and on environmental protection and human development overall.

Sustainable human development requires a long term commitment, and the UN has made that commitement here too. As long as Chiapas wants the UN here, we are here to stay.

Chiapas is looking for “Hechos No Palabras” - “With facts, not with words”.  The UN too looks for results from its endeavours. Together we are achieving those results, and I know that our partnership will results in better lives for the people of Chiapas.


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