Press Releases

                                                                                                                            26 March 2004

    Overall Progress on Millennium Goals Uneven at Best, Secretary-General Says in Message to High-Level Beijing Conference

    NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the High-Level International Conference on the Millennium Development Goals in Beijing, 25-27 March, delivered by Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):

    This conference marks a milestone in our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- the launch of the first MDG report on China.  Allow me to congratulate the Government and people of China for the enormous progress they have achieved towards reaching the goals.  But considerable challenges lie ahead.

    The China MDG report alerts us to growing challenges of HIV/AIDS and other health issues, rising inequality and environmental degradation.  These challenges are by no means unique to China.  They are regional and global, and countries must work together to resolve them.  By opening this conference to other countries and inviting international speakers, China is demonstrating a readiness to share its success with others and to learn from them in return.  This is in the true spirit of partnership called for in the Millennium Declaration.

    Ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education -- all by the target date of 2015 -- the Millennium Development Goals represent a set of simple but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street, from Beijing to Bamako to Buenos Aires, can easily understand and support.

    Why are the Millennium Development Goals different from other bold pledges that became broken promises over the past 50 years?  For three reasons.

    First, the MDGs are people-centred, time-bound and measurable.  As indicators focused on basic human needs, they can provide clear benchmarks of progress.

    Second, the MDGs have unprecedented political support.  Never before have such concrete goals been formally endorsed by rich and poor countries alike -- or by the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and all the other principal arms of the international system.

    Third -- and most important -- the MDGs are achievable.  Take the goal of halving poverty.  Over the past decade, for example, East Asia has seen the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day plummet from 28 per cent to 14 per cent.

    But so far, overall progress on the MDGs has been uneven at best.  While a number of countries have prospered at an unprecedented pace, others have regressed and need urgent attention.  Reaching the MDGs requires growth with equity to narrow the gaps between different regions -- and between men and women.  We know that the empowerment of women is not only a goal in itself; it is indispensable to our ability to reach all the others.

    The United Nations system is moving forward in four key areas.

    First, we are providing support for comprehensive reporting, both through an annual, global update on overall progress, and through country-by-country MDG reports to measure and benchmark progress.

    Second, we have set up a Millennium Project, drawing on a broad range of intellectual power from the North and the South, to identify new solutions and ideas on how to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

    Third, we have launched a Millennium Campaign to build and sustain a real popular movement to support the MDGs in developed and developing countries alike. 

    And fourth, we are making a major effort to ensure that our assistance is clearly aligned behind the MDGs.

    Ultimately, our activities in all four of these areas are aimed at providing new knowledge and ideas to drive nationally owned development strategies.  After all, national ownership of the Millennium Development Goals is the key to success, and an integrated approach at the national level must be the framework under which the government, the private sector and the civil society work together to reach the MDGs by 2015.

    This conference opens yet another opportunity to mobilize partnerships and draw ideas for balanced development in China and the region.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

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