Helen Clark: Global Leader's Council for Reproductive Health Reception

20 Sep 2010

Talking points for the Administrator

20  September 2010; 5:30 – 6:15 p.m.
UN Millennium Plaza Hotel


It is an honour to be a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health.

I believe that access to adequate reproductive and sexual health services is a basic human right.  It is also essential for gender equality, the achievement of the MDGs, and  for development progress overall.

When women have control over their health and sexuality, they can plan their pregnancy and childbirth, better protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and fare better in their families, households, communities, and countries.

When women’s needs for family planning and reproductive and sexual health services go unmet, their chances of finishing their education, being in productive work, and breaking out of poverty are sharply reduced.

It is a sad reflection of the low priority so often given to women´s needs that the rate of decline of maternal mortality is well below what is needed to achieve the MDG target of 75 per cent reduction between 1990 and 2015.

While the organization I head – UNDP - is not a specialist health agency, we absolutely affirm the strong linkages between the health MDGs and all other aspects of development.

Through the co-ordinating and convening role UNDP has in the UN development system, we can give full support to the work of all those involved in the promotion of sexual and reproductive health. 

This matters enormously to me as a woman, and as a former health minister and Prime Minister.  

Making substantial progress on sexual and reproductive health issues will require much more than isolated interventions. It requires a broad approach toward empowering women and greater investments in achieving gender equality. 

While specialized UN and other agencies will take the lead on addressing maternal mortality, UNDP’s generic capacity development skills and our commitment to promoting gender equality can reinforce their efforts.

UNDP´s message to the MDG Summit which opened today is clear: the MDGs can be met. There is a wide range of tried and tested policies which can ensure progress.  Key among them is the importance of   investing in women and girls.

The Global Leaders Council has a unique role to play. I have no doubt that if we harness our collective efforts, we can make important strides and a big difference for the women and girls we are all here to support.