Press Releases

         21 April 2005

    Global Anti-Poverty Fight Can Be Won with Smart Policies, Affordable Technologies, Says Deputy Secretary-General in New York Remarks

    NEW YORK, 20 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s remarks at a working lunch hosted by Sweden on “the Link between Johannesburg and the Millennium Review Summit” in New York, 20 April 2005:

    It is a great pleasure to be with you today. I would like to thank the Government of Sweden for generously hosting this lunch and for its strong support of the United Nations.

    This lunch draws welcome attention to the links between the summit to be held this September, and the summit on sustainable development held almost three years ago in Johannesburg.

    Those connections are manifold. As the Secretary-General argued in “In Larger Freedom”, his agenda of decisions for the summit, our efforts to defeat poverty and pursue sustainable development will be in vain if environmental degradation and natural resource depletion continue unabated. The forthcoming review of the Millennium Declaration will not be credible or complete if it does not address the issues that were at the heart of the Johannesburg process. Climate change, for example, remains one of the greatest environmental and development challenges of this century. The loss of biodiversity remains a serious concern. Desertification and land degradation continue to have a devastating effect on food security, livelihoods and lifestyles. These challenges warrant much more action and attention, and I am glad that they will be the focus of this Commission’s work in the near future.

    Water, sanitation and human settlements, the three issues you are focusing on at this session, also amply illustrate the links between the two summits. Improvements in these areas are important goals in and of themselves. These are basic needs -- and matters of simple human dignity. But they are also essential for reaching the other Millennium Development Goals.

    Without conservation and proper management of water resources, food production could plummet, jeopardizing our ability to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

    Without clean water and adequate sanitation, we will continue to see almost 2 million people, most of them children, die every year from preventable disease.

    Without convenient access to water, girls will find little respite from spending hours per day fetching water, and will have little time and energy for education.

    And if we cannot relieve the squalor of slum life, while building affordable housing in liveable communities for the many millions more people who crowd into cities each year, those cities will become even more entrenched as hubs of poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.

    Some have described the Millennium Development Goals as utopian. Progress towards them has been far from uniform. While East Asia and South Asia have seen major improvements, many nations are lagging behind, especially in Africa. Yet, the fact remains that all countries can meet these goals. Many developing countries, including in Africa, have made big strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS or in educating children, for example.

    With smart policies and affordable technologies, and with the right mix of local action and international support, success is possible.

    The report of the Millennium Project has given us a range of proposals. The Secretary-General’s own report drew on that work, and has set out wide-ranging proposals not only on the main challenges of sustainability, but also for integrating them within the broad development agenda.

    The stage is set for Member States to act. Time is of the essence. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment released last month makes all too clear that we have not yet come to grips with many of the impacts that our activities are having on the life-support and other vital services provided by the Earth’s ecosystems and resources.

    This Commission can help guide us to policies and practices that will help us chart a new, more sustainable course. I look forward to the contributions you will make to this year of change and renewal for the international system and for our United Nations.

    * *** *