Helen Clark: Poverty, Hunger and Gender Equality

20 Sep 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark on MDG Summit Roundtable 1: Poverty, Hunger and Gender Equality

Working together, we have the potential to offer a better life to billions of people. By signing the Millennium Declaration, ten years ago, as I myself did on behalf of New Zealand, world leaders committed to do just this.

The Millennium Development Goals capture this commitment in specific and time-bound targets – making them the world’s most comprehensive and universally agreed development goals.

At UNDP we do believe that the MDGs can be achieved. We have seen tremendous progress made on them including in least developed countries. 

For example, the death rate of children under five has decreased in every region; more children are enrolling in primary school almost everywhere; and the spread of HIV appears to have stabilized in most regions. At the global level, the poverty reduction target is likely to be met.

The evidence compiled from around fifty up-to-date national MDG reports shows that there is a range of tried and tested policies which have led to MDG progress.

The empowerment of women, for example, is a powerful driver of progress across the Goals.  Children born to women with some formal education are more likely to survive to their fifth birthday, receive adequate nutrition, and be immunized and enrolled in school. According to provisional new UNESCO figures, a child born to a mother who can read is fifty per cent more likely to survive past age five. We also know that a focus on agricultural and rural sector development can significantly increases the incomes of the rural poor and improve food security.
 
Yet, still in many places, women’s health and education continue to be given low priority; poverty reduction is slow and uneven; and there are increasing numbers of chronically hungry and malnourished people. In pockets all over the world, people are left untouched by economic growth and aggregate trends in their countries.

The MDGs can be achieved if we prioritize the interventions which have proven they work in many settings; remove the most important constraints to scaling them up; and bring on board all stakeholders.

Accelerating progress on the MDGs will mean focusing the efforts of all stakeholders on the solutions which will overcome constraints to progress. It is about agreeing on robust and nationally owned “acceleration compacts” to implement proven interventions on the scale required to meet the MDGs.

UNDP, working with UN Country Teams, is helping a number of countries to do just that – employing what we are calling the MDG Acceleration Framework. Seeing the value of this practical tool,  additional countries are requesting to use it. We stand ready to scale up this assistance – building on the momentum gained at this week’s Summit.

As suggested in the Summit outcome document, together we must focus our collective energy on doing what will accelerate MDG progress – redoubling our efforts to make good on our commitment on the MDG promise of a better life for billions of people.