Rebeca Grynspan: Remarks at the launch of the 2011 report on assessing progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals

06 Oct 2011

Opening Remarks by the UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator, Ms. Rebeca Grynspan
at the launch of the 2011 Report on Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals
6 October 2011, Africa Union House, New York,

I am pleased to help launch this year’s report Assessing Progress on the MDGs in Africa. The participation of all of those here this evening is testament to the broad and steadfast commitment of governments, citizens, civil society, and development partners to achieve the MDGs in Africa.

UNDP appreciates the good collaboration with the African Union, African Development Bank, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa that leads to the production of this annual joint report.

The report has been designed to aid those taking the steps needed to accelerate MDG progress in Africa and help make good on the commitment made by all member states at last year’s MDG Summit.  It offers not only a scorecard of where we stand, but also an analysis of the challenges faced by the region, and some of the policies and initiatives that can help overcome these challenges.

Africa has enjoyed over ten years of, sometimes impressive, economic growth. Unfortunately, however, this growth has not reduced poverty at the same rate as other regions. According to the 2011 African Economic Outlook produced by OECD, ECA and UNDP, for example, a 1% increase in incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa leads to a 1.5% reduction in poverty, but a 1% growth in incomes in East Asia and the Pacific leads to 2.5% reduction in poverty and a 4% reduction in poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

This is why the report focuses not just on jump starting economic growth, but achieving inclusive and sustained growth. Through inclusive growth, countries expand the number of people who participate productively in the economy as well as the number who benefit from its growth. To be sustainable, growth must also be made resilient to economic shocks and natural disasters. Many countries experience periods of growth, but to successfully achieve the MDGs, steady growth is needed. The most costly setbacks caused by external shocks also must be avoided.

This year’s report explores how social protection can help make growth more inclusive and sustainable and thus be an instrument for accelerating MDG progress. 

Social protection systems are not handouts. They are an investment in the human capital needed to break the inter-generational transmission of poverty, protect assets during shocks and strengthen the capabilities of the poor. With properly designed social protection systems, vulnerable groups can keep their children in schools during economic downturns, maintain their health and better plan and invest in the future. We know from experience that short term shocks can cause irreversible losses in welfare.

Lessons drawn from several African countries have shown how effective social protection systems can be when designed and managed well. Namibia and South Africa have shown how old age pensions can remarkably reduce poverty, deprivation and destitution while empowering women.

Ethiopia has succeeded in using public works programmes to renovate and construct thousands of classrooms in rural communities, prevent soil erosion and improve food security for approximately 7.8 million people. Evidence from Malawi also suggests that social protection systems have been successful in increasing both food security and school enrollment.

The African Group of Ambassadors has a critical role in carrying the key messages from this report to help countries achieve the MDGs, by using evidence to inform policy and decision making process. The value of this report depends on how much it is translated into concrete local and national action.

Let me also use this opportunity to encourage my fellow partnering institutions to continue the fruitful collaboration behind these reports. The synergy between our efforts has, no doubt, helped countries take the meaningful and transformative steps needed to accelerate progress to achieve the MDG in Africa.

I now invite you all to a more detailed presentation of the main findings and messages from the 2011 African MDGs Report.