Helen Clark: Remarks at the opening of the UN Summit on the MDGs

20 Sep 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark
Chair of the United Nations Development Group
On the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals
Monday, 20 September 2010
New York

The outcome of this Summit can be a real turning point for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The challenge will be to follow words with action on the ground, to bring about positive change for the billions of people who need the MDG promise of a decade ago to be honoured.

The series of global crises, natural disasters, and ongoing conflicts of recent years do not make the task before us any easier. Even so, the MDGs can be achieved.

They are all inter-linked – progress on one can spur progress on others. If we all work together, each in their area of strength and expertise, and invest our resources where they will have the greatest impact across the Goals, we will see remarkable progress.

It will be vital to support country-led development processes, and the strengthening of national and local institutions; as it will be to foster accountability, the rule of law, and human rights - the lack of which are all barriers to full achievement  of the MDGs.

Progress on the poverty and hunger targets will require boosting agricultural and rural sector development, especially in low-income, food-scarce countries.

It will require more inclusive models of economic growth, which expand opportunities for the poor and provide decent and productive work for men and women, including the world’s young people.

It will require increasing access to affordable energy and putting it on a more sustainable footing; scaling up social protection to build resilience to adversity; and building effective domestic resource mobilization and budget systems, and the capacity to deliver on the ground.

It most definitely will require investing more in opportunities for women and girls, targeting investments in education and health, and in clean water and sanitation; and attending to the needs of the urban poor, including for adequate shelter.

If our efforts are based on equity principles and focus on the most impoverished, we will see quick and cost-effective improvements in maternal and child health in particular, potentially averting millions of deaths.

All agencies, funds, and programmes in the UN Development Group stand ready to step up their efforts following this Summit to support nations to meet the MDGs.

In recent months a number of UN Country Teams have piloted with government partners an MDG acceleration framework, which identifies bottlenecks and constraints on MDG achievement and the solutions which will enable countries to meet the goals.

In my work, I have seen how bringing basic generators to communities in Burkina Faso transforms the lives of women. I have seen how small investments in providing clean water have huge benefits for villagers in rural Vanuatu. I have seen in Ethiopia how we can help farmers to sell their produce at fair prices through supporting the development of a commodities exchange.

These are but three of countless examples. So we need to ask ourselves : if programmes like these work, what could we do to bring them to scale elsewhere ?

Failure to meet the MDGs cannot be blamed on the world lacking the resources and know-how to do so.

For there is a wide range of proven policies and interventions which, where adapted to national contexts, can ensure progress.

Every day, leaders can determine to make the changes needed to put their countries on a fast track toward the MDGs.

Every day, international donors can make decisions, despite tough economic circumstances, about delivering more aid for more catalytic purposes, in line with the commitments they have made in the past.

Every day, efforts can go into reaching a global trade deal which works for poor countries, and a climate deal which supports development and preserving the ecosystems on the one planet we have to dwell on.

No one actor can meet the MDGs.  Achieving them draws us all together – governments, multilateral agencies, civil society, NGOs and foundations, and the private sector. Going forward, let’s prioritise what we do around what on the evidence is most likely to work.

A decade into the 21st century, we can turn the MDG promise into a reality.

Let’s make that happen.

Let’s just do it.

Video of the Opening of the UN Summit