Clark: "Latin America and the MDGs" Journalism Award Ceremony

05 Nov 2009

Santiago, Chile

I am very pleased to be here today to congratulate the winners of the second edition of the “Latin America and the Millennium Development Goals” Journalism Award.

I would like to thank the Inter Press Service who partnered with us, and would also like to thank the Italian Agency for Cooperation for financing this important initiative.

But, above all, my heartfelt thanks and congratulations go to the six winners:

  • Mario Alejandro Muñoz of Mexico;
  • Silvia Regina Bessa of Brazil;
  • Adriana Rivera of Venezuela;
  • Abel Dante Leguizamon of Argentina;
  • Guadalupe Yapud of Ecuador; and
  • Maria Paz Cuevas of Chile.

Helen Clark meets with Chilean Finance Minister Andreas Velasco in Santiago, Chile.
(Photo: UNDP)

Let me also express my deep appreciation to all journalists who shine a light on the Millennium Development Goals. In a media environment of increasing competition and shortened attention spans, pieces on the MDGs don’t always sell the most papers or attract the biggest audiences. But they do help those who are most in need of a voice – the poor and the vulnerable.

While this award honours the quality of your journalism, it is also intended to promote an increase in the coverage of social issues in Latin American media, and encourage journalists to tackle subjects related to human development.

I personally made a commitment to the MDGs in 2000, as one of the heads of government who travelled to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and signed the Millennium Declaration.

That document enshrined the eight Millennium Development Goals, prioritizing efforts to reduce poverty and hunger, empower women, increase access to essential services like education, healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and forge strong global partnerships for development.

As some of you have reflected in your stories, however, the events of recent years have made the difficult task of achieving these goals even harder.

The world has been hit by multiple and sometimes interconnected crises: we have seen food and fuel price volatility; a global economic recession; and recently an influenza pandemic.

It is the poor who are hit the hardest. Worldwide, the number of people who will live in extreme poverty this year is now estimated to be 55 to 90 million higher than was forecast before the recession.

While Latin America may be better positioned than some other regions to weather the effects of the current global economic crisis, the GDP in the region is projected to decrease in 2009, and the level of poverty and unemployment will increase.

The resulting deterioration of living conditions, especially of already vulnerable groups, may reverse some of the advances made on the Millennium Development Goals.

For instance, child mortality could increase to levels similar to the ones recorded in 2005 and 2006. And the Food and Agriculture Organization projects that hunger in Latin America will now affect 53 million people, or 10 percent of the region’s population.

Meanwhile, the larger challenge of climate change exacerbates the negative impact of these crises.

UNDP’s primary concern is to support those who are already poor and vulnerable, while safeguarding the investments and efforts made towards reducing poverty and advancing the MDGs.

But to advance these objectives, all hands are needed on deck. We need the committed leadership from government, the multilateral system, donors, civil society, the private sector – and the contribution of the media is also a critical element of reducing poverty.

Broad understanding of what the MDGs are and what they represent a vital step in the process of advancing them.

As the world grapples with these multiple crises, we need to ensure that the plight of the poorest does not go unrecorded. And that is why your work as journalists is so important. Your work is crucial in raising public awareness, and influencing national debate and public policy.

In conclusion, the current crises our world faces call for renewed attention to our development challenges; out-of-the-box thinking; and redoubled efforts by all development stakeholders – governments, donors, multilateral actors, the private sector, civil society and the media.

And you, the journalists, can contribute immensely to these efforts by amplifying the voice of the poor, highlighting their concerns, and calling for action to advance the MDGs, with their promise for a better tomorrow for billions of fellow humans.