Helen Clark: Remarks in Tokyo

25 Nov 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme at the Special Committee of the House of Councillors on Official Development Assistance and Related Matters
Wednesday 25 November 2009, Tokyo, Japan

I am delighted to be here in Japan, and to have this opportunity to address you today.

This is my first visit to Japan since becoming the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme seven months ago. But I have been fortunate to visit Japan on six previous occasions, beginning in 1975 when I participated in the Japanese Youth Goodwill Cruise, and sailed here on the Nippon Maru in the company of many young Japanese citizens.

I came three times as Prime Minister of New Zealand. All visits were memorable, but in particular I will never forget attending the wonderful Expo in Aichi in 2005.

Japan is a very strong supporter of the UN and a longstanding partner of UNDP. Indeed Japan is the sixth largest contributor to UNDP’s core budget.  You help provide us with a strong funding base. This means we can plan ahead strategically, and deliver development results where they matter most.

Japan is a consistently strong presence on UNDP’s Executive Board, and always a keen advocate of UN reform and of value for money in all UN activities.

The partnership UNDP enjoys with Japan is mutually beneficial. UNDP works in areas of the world and on programmes which are of great interest to Japan – in Africa and Asia, and specifically within Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan where Japan has made large contributions. Japan also supports UNDP’s work on the MDGs, climate and the environment, peace and stability, and better governance. 

As you know, our world has been going through multiple crises, all of which impact most adversely on developing countries.

In the past two years alone, there have been food and fuel crises, the global recession, and major climatic events and other natural disasters. Recently an influenza pandemic was declared.

UNDP, supported by generous partners, like Japan, is on the front line of supporting developing countries at this time of crisis.

We believe that in our interconnected world it is in all our interests to support poor and vulnerable countries to respond to and develop resilience to the shocks which are likely to keep coming.

This is very much in the spirit of Prime Minister Hatoyama’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when he said that Japan will endeavour to be a “bridge” for the world, including between developed and developing countries.

Such a bridge is now needed in meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals. I was one of the heads of government who signed that Millennium Declaration in 2000. I know that the MDGs with their target date of 2015 were meant to be achieved.

Indeed prior to the global recession which has added to the many other pressures on developing countries, there had been significant progress on a number of the MDGs.  For example, extreme poverty was reducing and considerable progress was being made on access to universal primary education and on the reduction of infant mortality.

But now the concern is that the cumulative effects of the multiple crises will not just stall, but actually reverse progress on the MDGs. That is already sadly the case for those living in chronic hunger. Their numbers stood at 850 million in 2007. Now FAO predicts that they will exceed one billion this year. This concern was at the heart of the World Food Summit’s deliberations in Rome last week.

The numbers of unemployed people in Asia are rising – from 80 million in 2007, they are projected to reach 105 million this year. Fortunately, the forward projections for economic growth in Asia are now rather encouraging, but it will be important for that growth to translate into jobs as quickly as possible to relieve hardship on individuals, families and communities.

UNDP around the world has been helping developing countries to analyze the impacts of the recession on their societies. We have been active in advising on the design of appropriate policy responses, like temporary employment, social protection schemes and countercyclical spending.  We assist with resource mobilization and have advised on debt restructuring. We work closely with other multilateral agencies on the ground, including the World Bank and the IMF.

Our objective is simple: to support countries to maintain momentum on the MDGs and the other internationally agreed development goals.

I am very encouraged by Prime Minister Hatoyama’s commitment that Japan will redouble its efforts towards the promotion of human security and the achievement of the MDGs at this time.  As a major global contributor to Official Development Assistance, Japan’s support counts a great deal.

In these last six years remaining until the MDG target date of 2015, there is a lot to do. Country by country, all of us working together on development will need to intensify our efforts to support countries to identify their priority MDG sectors, and design and implement action plans to meet the goals.

This effort needs to be coherent and strategic, as the MDGs are inter-related.

Achieving gender equality, for instance, is not only a goal in its own right, but is vital for meeting the other MDGs too.

Where we see progress towards the MDGs lagging the most is often where the needs and status of women and girls are accorded low priority.

Through the Japan-UNDP Partnership Fund, Japan has supported UNDP’s efforts to promote women’s empowerment. That effort must run through all our work so that women benefit equally from development progress.

We also need to pay special attention to achieving the MDGs in Africa. No country in sub-Saharan Africa is on course to achieve all the MDGs.

Japan and UNDP have a strong partnership around the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). Your new government has confirmed its predecessor’s commitment at the fourth session of this conference, held in 2008, to double Japanese ODA to Africa by 2012.

Japan and UNDP have worked together on the Africa-Asia Business Forum; and supported peacekeeping training centers in Africa itself. With the support of a $92.1 million investment from Japan, we are able to strengthen the capacity of 21 African countries to adapt to climate change.

In September the Secretary-General of the United Nations convened a major leader-level climate summit in New York.  A highlight was Prime Minister Hatoyama’s speech stating that Japan’s target is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, on the condition that there was agreement on ambitious targets by all major economies.

The Copenhagen climate summit is now only a few weeks away. It is imperative that progress is made there towards a new climate agreement. 

That agreement will need to be a good deal for development, supporting developing countries with adaptation and charting  low carbon routes to growth and energy access. That deal will need adequate and predictable finance. Prime Minister Hatoyama’s commitment to provide more financial and technical assistance to developing countries on climate issues is very exciting. UNDP looks forward to working with Japan to take the “Hatoyama Initiative” forward.

At UNDP we see poverty reduction and meeting the MDGs as being closely linked to global efforts to tackle climate change. There is no choice between whether we focus on poverty reduction or the climate issues. We won’t have sustainable development if we wreck the ecosystem on which we all depend.

UNDP is supporting countries to place adaptation and mitigation strategies at the very center of their national development plans. 

And we are increasingly active in supporting countries to access  climate finance. This will be a significant source of funding in the future, but there needs to be a lot of investment in the capacity required to access it.

Climate risk management these days forms a critical part of broader disaster risk reduction.

The Asia Pacific has more than its share of natural disasters -- a UN report has estimated that almost seventy per cent of all lives lost globally because of such disasters are lost within the region.  The disasters which struck so many countries in the last few months were a tragic reminder of the region’s vulnerability.

UNDP contributes to the Hyogo Framework of Action through its work with national governments in more than 40 highly disaster-prone countries. We help establish disaster risk reduction as a national priority. We work to establish and strengthen institutional structures for risk assessment, vulnerability reduction, and disaster preparedness.

Another prerequisite for development progress is achieving peace and stability – an area where we have also been well supported by Japan.

Where there is not rapid recovery from conflict, new found stability can quickly fade. Countries trying to escape from conflict have all too often seen it recur when no peace dividend was apparent.

The UN system, including UNDP, helps to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate former fighters; support communities to rebuild their livelihoods; restore national authority at the local level and promote the rule of law; and combat the scourge of sexual violence against women.

With strong Japanese support, UNDP works tirelessly in conflict and post-conflict zones around the world, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Somalia; from Iraq to Sri Lanka; from Burundi to Liberia; and from the Occupied Palestinian Territories to Timor-Leste.

I know how important peace building and stability in Afghanistan is to Japan, and that Japan recently announced its intention to provide  assistance for Afghanistan up to an amount of US$ 5  billion over the next five years

In Afghanistan UNDP helps to strengthen local government and public administration; and undertakes many livelihood programmes, including working through communities and employing local labour to develop infrastructure such as schools and clinics.

I believe there is more scope for strategic collaboration between Japan and UNDP in Afghanistan.  On this visit I have been discussing how we might scale up our already significant partnership there. 

As part of its development mission, UNDP also works with its partners to strengthen human rights, justice and electoral institutions; help parliaments to develop their role of scrutiny; and support development of effective local, regional and national government.

We believe that development is more likely to be sustained if people are given a genuine say in their own governance and a chance to share the benefits of progress; and if government is transparent, accountable, and responsive to its citizens.

To support development in a world beset by crises, developing countries need resources – and so does UNDP.

Of course ODA is only ever part of the development equation. But it can be a catalytic part, supporting the step changes in governance, the smart strategies, and the capacity building required for nations to transform their prospects.

While Japan’s ODA budget has declined over the last decade, I commend Prime Minister Hatoyama’s commitment to strengthen Japan’s assistance to developing countries in both quality and quantity.

I am also encouraged that Prime Minister Hatoyama stressed that Japan will work in partnership with international organisations. UNDP and Japan have maintained an impressive collaboration on a wide range of goals. If we can build on this relationship we can do together what neither of us can do alone. UNDP has a global reach and the trust of developing countries. This makes us a very important partner for Japan.

It is for this reason I am concerned about the downward trend in Japan’s core contribution to UNDP.  The support of each of you here today is important in reversing that, and helping to ensure that Japan and UNDP work together to achieve the MDGs, promote human security, and tackle the climate change challenge. I have also raised this issue with your Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs and Finance Ministers.

Yesterday I met with Madame Sadako Ogata, President of Japan International Cooperation Agency, which we recognize as the world’s largest bilateral development assistance agency. There is tremendous scope for further co-operation between JICA and UNDP, especially in these areas of critical concern to Japan like crisis prevention and recovery, climate change, and development in Africa.

At the same time, UNDP is committed to nurturing existing and innovative partnerships with other stakeholders too.

Developing countries have so many lessons learned and useful technologies available to assist others in the South to meet their development challenges.  I am grateful for Japan’s strong support to UNDP’s work facilitating South - South cooperation.

We need the best possible collaboration with civil society, philanthropic funds and the private sector. And we need strong partnerships across the UN development system funds, programmes, and agencies too.

A former member of the House of Councillors, Mr. Keizo Takemi, was a member of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence. From that panel the idea emerged of setting up “Delivering as One” pilots in a number of countries around the world.

I recently met for the second time with the group of UN Resident Co-ordinators from these eight countries.  There, and elsewhere, important efforts are underway to improve the UN’s ability to be highly effective and relevant development partners.

It is clear to me that real development gains can be made if our UN organizations are better co-ordinated within developing countries - and indeed with bilateral and other donors.  

I personally look forward to a close working relationship and  ongoing dialogue with Japan about how best to achieve the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals, advance sustainable development, and promote human security.

Now is exactly the time to expand our partnership, building on all the experience we have accumulated together in many parts of the world.

I count on Japan’s continued strong support for our work, and for the work of the multilateral system in general.