Speech by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the Millennium Development Goals follow-up Ministerial Meeting – June 3, 2011 (Tokyo, Japan)

Mr Yutaka Banno, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Moderator of this final session,
Ministers here present,
The Administrator of the UNDP, Ms. Helen Clark,
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Anthony Lake,
Representative of the World Bank
Distinguished panellists
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen

Moderator, on this occasion of the Follow-up Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, I bring you warm and heartily greetings from the government and the people of the Republic of South Africa.  I also seek your kind permission to thank your government and the people of Japan for hosting this gathering. I wish to join all the participants/speakers in expressing my country’s heartfelt condolences to the government and the people of your country over the tragic events that befell your nation.

The outpouring of condolences from so many countries around the world is not merely an act of sympathy, but also an embodiment of the profound sense of appreciation harboured by many around the world for your government’s generosity of spirit and the ever readiness of your country’s people to help others from other countries in their times of need, however distant their shores may be from your own.  Indeed, as well documented in its history, the Japanese nation has, once again, demonstrated its resilience in the face of considerable adversity.  We remain confident that this nation will overcome the lingering effects of this recent painful calamity.

We are truly humbled by Prime Minster Kan’s statement, which recommits Japan to “sincerely carrying-out its international commitments” despite the odds, especially on what is now termed the “Kan Commitment” in the areas of health and education. This is in line with the Prime Minister’s pledge last September during the UN MDG Summit on Poverty Reduction in New York. 

Moderator,

You pointed to the importance of cooperation between and among developed and emerging countries as well as private- sector players such as companies and aid groups to pursue the MDGs, which include halving the proportion of people living in abject poverty by 2015 from the levels recorded in 1990, stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS and reducing infant, child and maternal mortality. We also appreciate your statement that re-assures us all that Japan remains “determined to continue playing an active role in contributing to peace and stability in the international community”.

Moderator,

We have been meeting over a day and a half in a concerted effort to assess progress made towards the attainment of the MDGs as the global community continues its countdown towards 2015 – the set target date. We are all aware that there have been several initiatives aimed at reviewing progress, identifying gaps, and intensifying commitments towards the achievement of the MDGs by 2015.  However, as it has been highlighted in the various discussions over the last one and half days, there is a real danger that some of the Millennium Development targets might not be realized.

We are in full agreement that human security and human development should represent the ultimate measure of our Millennium Development Goals. Despite this, we all need to be aware that MDGs are more than time-bound, quantified targets for poverty alleviation. They, amongst others, also represent a commitment by all members of the international community, to an enlarged notion of development based on the recognition that human development is key to sustaining social and economic progress.  

The momentum must be maintained and increased to ensure that all of us share a common political commitment, both at the domestic, regional and international level for the achievement of these all important goals, the essence of which is to promote human dignity and equality, to advance the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to make the right to development a reality for all.

Despite the general optimism about Africa's prospects, especially in view of the Continent’s increased economic growth; renewed regional and national political commitments to good governance; and fewer conflicts – there is a dark cloud hanging over the possibility of the continent attaining the MDGs. Studies are predicting that, given the current trends with less than five years towards 2015, Africa is unlikely to achieve every single one of the MDGs.

As we converge here today, we need to leave this MDG Follow-Up Meeting determined to ensure that Africa receives our collective support, as a true demonstration of the fact that MDGs are underwritten by principles of co-responsibility and partnership. I wish to take this opportunity to commend the World Bank and our UN agencies, especially the UNDP and UNICEF, for their supporting roles towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

I wish to confirm South Africa’s support to UNICEF’s efforts towards addressing the plight of all children, especially those who are disadvantaged, who often find themselves most vulnerable in emergency situations. All emergencies and crisis situations, wherever they occur and whatever their cause, put children at greater risk of neglect, exploitation and abuse. We all need to join UNICEF’s partnership aimed at broadening our global coalition to reach the most vulnerable children and focus on the most disadvantaged children, including their efforts towards reducing infant and child-mortality. 

Without any hesitation, South Africa also supports the view expressed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, that children and women are at the heart of the MDGs. We need to support him in his efforts of prioritizing the commitment to meeting the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable on his action agenda for 2011 – as well as placing at the centre of his Global Strategy the  Improvement of Women’s and Children’s Health.

We take this opportunity to re-assure the United Nations Development Programme, represented here by Ms. Helen Clark, that South Africa commits itself to supporting your “equity approach”. We believe it will help narrow gaps in developing countries and provide more support to marginalized people, such as poor women and vulnerable children all over the world.

As we reflect on the state of the world, we feel comfortable enough to associate ourselves with the Mission of the World Bank - which is about fighting poverty with passion; helping people to help themselves and to protect their environment through providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships.

Our collective call to the World Bank should be to encourage it to find creative ways of managing its partnerships in the world, especially in its work of combating poverty, ensuring sustainable development, enhance growth and creating individual opportunity and hope.

South Africa believes that the eight goals entailed in the MDGs are central to the mission of the United Nations in its advancement of development, peace and human rights in the world.  Our view is that this Meeting is not only concerned about an assessment of progress but also seeks to help countries to identify MDG targets that require concerted efforts for their achievement.  We need to accelerate progress towards the achievement of all the MDGs.

For South Africa, there is a coincidence between the Millennium Declaration and our successive governments since 1994 to a social pact of creating a better life for all. Our successive governments’ programmes have focused on the improvement of the living conditions of our people by directing substantial resources towards education, basic health care, housing, and basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and social security benefits. 

Distinguished participants,

The general trend indicates that despite the global environment being marked by food and fuel insecurities, including economic and financial crises, there has been considerable progress towards the achievement of the MDGs, including by countries in Africa.

Notwithstanding the commendable achievements, we note that progress made in some areas, has been negatively affected by the lack of gains or even negative trajectories in other areas, resulting in the offsetting of being registered in other critical areas.  One of the most telling examples, as you will agree, is the increase in the number of people living in conditions of extreme poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces peculiar challenges, with respect toward the achievement of the MDGs and has seen less improvement than other developing regions of the world. The African situation remains highly worrisome, particularly in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) who are faced with severe poverty and underdevelopment.  There is therefore an imperative need for enhanced international cooperation and solidarity, in order to ensure the tangibility of results. It is our view that if Africa fails to achieve the MDGs, then the world would have failed!

Chairperson,

Like many countries, the Republic of South Africa believes that the international community should work together and prioritise the MDG targets, which have reached critical levels.  As part of this effort, all countries, especially those in Africa, need to collate and provide adequate and timely data on MDG indicators in order to ensure a more reliable assessment of progress made in the attainment of the MDGs.  With regard to MDG1, it is observed that:

  1. Extreme poverty and underdevelopment and the need for their eradication remains a thorn in the flesh of the world, especially in developing countries.   Though many African countries have impressive economic growth forecasts for the coming years, chronic poverty persists and recovery remains fragile, due to volatile international commodity prices, in particular the ever-increasing global food and fuel prices.

    There is a greater need than ever before to put emphasis on poverty eradication strategies at local, national and regional levels complemented by the international cooperation. The realisation of this goal is paramount and can play a meaningful role in reducing the development gap between developed and underdeveloped states.  As many African countries embark on economic recovery, they are presented with an opportunity to harness growth and reduce poverty through employment creation and social protection measures.

  2. On MDG 2, we observe that particular focus need to be paid to issues affecting marginalised communities and nations, including the empowerment of women, children and persons with disabilities. The general empowerment of these vulnerable groups by appropriate means can improve the wellbeing of all nations and can add to sustainable development and economic growth within nations.

  3. On MDG 4, 5 and 6, we observe that many countries are making progress, by reducing mortality and increasing coverage of effective health interventions at an accelerating pace. However, many countries are still off-track with regard to achieving MDGs 4 and 5 and are not increasing coverage of key health interventions quickly enough. In particular, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are especially far behind, although a few have shown improvements. We need a dramatic acceleration of political commitment and financial investment in this regard.

  4. On MDG 7, we observe that more concerted efforts among the international community is needed, to bring a successful conclusion to the negotiations to the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), applying the mandate of the Bali Roadmap and in line with the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.

  5. On MDG 8, we observe that the interrelatedness and interdependence of all nations and peoples of the world should inspire our collective responsibility and efforts to deepen our determination to deliver on our commitments on the achievement of the MDGs.

Chairperson,

As we prepare to host the next UNFCCC or COP17/CMP7 conference on Climate Change in South Africa towards the end of November, we wish to make a call for Member-States here present to support us, in our capacity as President of COP17/CMP7. We are humbled by observations made at this Meeting on the linkages between MDGs and Climate Change, especially as they relate to food and energy security. We appeal to all to ensure that Durban delivers on taking forward international dialogue on Climate Change.

With your permission Chairperson, please allow me to make some concluding observations with regard to our collective desire and ambition to making our Millennium Development Goals a reality.

  • First, I think we are making positive progress in accelerating and consolidating our achievements on the MDGs;
  • Second,  there is no argument about the fact that more still needs to be done, especially among most developing and least developed countries in achieving the stated MDGs;
  • Third, we need to collectively identify and unblock the various bottlenecks where we are not doing well, to promote equality;
  • Fourth, we need to work with the various UN agencies and find innovative ways of mobilizing resources;
  • Fifth, we need to strengthen partnerships, in the knowledge that no single actor (be it a state or non-state actor or international organization) can single-handedly bring about the necessary change;
  • Sixth, as governments, we really need to invest and demonstrate our political will in making sure the MDGs are achieved.

Let me remind everyone here present that the road to 2015 and beyond will not be an easy one, but through sheer determination, joint partnerships and collective responsibility, our goals are not insurmountable. Despite the multiple and interrelated crises which have put enormous burdens on countries, particularly the developing South, we can overcome.  We should not allow these crises to dampen our determination to deliver on our commitments. 

Our people across the world are watching to see whether we will be able to galvanize international action to achieve the MDGs by the target date.  I am certain that I express our common sense of commitment when I say that our actions out of this gathering demonstrate our political will and determination to fulfill the promise we made ten years ago.  We come out of this meeting united and re-energized, to re-double our efforts towards the 2015 deadline.

I thank you!

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