Helen Clark: Remarks at the 2012 MDG Awards Ceremony & Brazilian Launch of “Triple Wins for Sustainable Development”

May 30, 2012

Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark (Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR)

Palácio do Planalto, Salão Nobre, Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday 30 May 11:30 am

I am honored to join President Dilma Rousseff, and all others present at this distinguished gathering which celebrates MDG achievement in Brazil. Brazil is undergoing a transformation which has already brought better lives and opportunity to many millions of people and will continue to do so.

In the past two decades, GDP per capita here almost doubled, while the numbers of people living in poverty almost halved. Inclusive growth and innovative social policy targeting poverty reduction and inequality have been critical in achieving higher human development.

Through its policy choices, Brazil has been able to avert the worst impacts of the global crisis, add ten million jobs to the formal sector between 2004 and 2010, and achieve near universal access to basic energy services.

Brazil is now the source of inspiration and of South-South Co-operation for many other countries also striving to achieve the MDGs, empower their citizens, and advance sustainable human development.

I am honored to join you – the leaders, innovators, and activists who have jointly made Brazil’s success possible. I congratulate and thank President Dilma Rousseff for her global leadership and commitment to advancing the MDGs and achieving sustainable human development in communities and municipalities throughout Brazil.

The recent decisions to renew Brazil’s National Agenda for the MDGs, and to continue to support mayors to identify and adopt commitments which will advance the MDGs, are further evidence of the President’s leadership, as is President Rousseff’s personal engagement in this ceremony and the process behind these awards.

By recognising and rewarding the initiative and creativity of those making a difference at the local level, awards like these can spur innovation, shift attitudes, engage citizens, and establish new partnerships.

At UNDP, we have long learned from working with a great many countries to advance the MDGs that highlighting best practice and success inspires others and provides benchmarks for what is possible.

At the forthcoming Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development here in Brazil, all who convene here can be inspired by the achievement of so many communities and nations which are not only lifting human development, but also are determined to do so within planetary boundaries.

It is in this spirit that UNDP has published a report titled, “Triple Wins for Sustainable Development”, which we are launching today in its Portuguese language edition. Using case studies, the report highlights policies and programmes which work to advance the three pillars of sustainable development -economic, social, and environmental - simultaneously.

These case studies show that sustainable development need not be about trading economic, social, and environmental objectives off against each other, but rather can be about pursuing these interconnected objectives.

The case study for Brazil in our report is appropriately titled “making sustainable development happen”. It attributes Brazil’s success to its understanding of poverty as a multi-dimensional problem which goes beyond a lack of income and demands comprehensive approaches to break cycles of exclusion, lack of opportunity, poor health, and low incomes.

Two decades of taking innovative and bold MDG and human development initiatives have shown that Brazil is a pioneer not only in understanding the interconnections between economic, social, and environmental objectives, but also in acting on them through integrated policies and locally-owned solutions.

The flagship social protection initiative, Bolsa Familia, boosted both household incomes and access to basic services, thereby also improving health and education outcomes. Reaching more than thirteen million households, it demonstrated the potential for impact at scale.

Building on this success, Bolsa Verde is highlighted in the Triple Wins report as an innovative way of adapting social protection systems so that they also advance environmental objectives. It creates income transfers for families in extreme poverty which promote environmental conservation in areas where they live and work.

Now Brasil Sem Miseria extends Brazil’s innovative approaches to poverty reduction even further, with the aim of eradicating extreme poverty entirely. This programme too is attracting a great deal of international interest and will undoubtedly inform and help shape policy in other countries.

Brazil is also known for its Zero Hunger campaign which is helping to boost incomes, fight exclusion, improve food delivery, and support small-scale farmers to grow more food. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed that the negotiators of Rio+20’s outcome document follow Brazil’s lead and agree to aim for a “zero hunger” future.

President Dilma Rousseff said in a landmark speech recently that it is possible, “to grow, to include, to conserve, and to protect at the same time”. Brazil demonstrates through its achievements that rapid progress to sustainable human development is possible with committed leadership backed by good and well integrated policies.

At UNDP, we hope that leaders gathering in Rio from governments, the private sector, and civil society will be inspired by the achievements of Brazil and other nations which are acting on sustainable development, and will address the means of implementation which will support others to succeed on that journey too.

UNDP values its close partnership with Brazil, including on meeting the Millennium Development Goals here, on supporting your role as hosts of Rio +20, and on sharing Brazil’s development experiences through South-South Co-operation.

All those receiving awards at this ceremony have demonstrated how the commitment, initiative, and sheer hard work of people working together in the diverse communities and sectors of Brazil can make a difference for human development.
I congratulate all the award winners for the inspiration they give us, the hope they bring to many, and the role they play in ensuring that the Millennium Development Goals deliver better lives for all.

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