14 September 2005

Technological Innovation Should Be at Centre of Accelerated Effort to Meet Millennium Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Round-Table Forum

NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette's keynote address at the opening of the Global Round-table Forum on "Innovation and Investment:  Scaling science and technology to meet the Millennium Development Goals" in New York today, 13 September:

President Musharraf, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to chair this Forum.  We are all grateful for your strong show of support.

I would also like to thank the other Heads of State and Government and Ministers who are here today, and who are leading their nations' efforts to tap into the potential of science and technology for development.  In a few moments, they will share their nations' stories with us.

We are joined today by three men who are great leaders in their respective fields:  Richard Axel, last year's Nobel Prize winner in physiology; Vinton Cerf, the Internet pioneer; and Muhammad Yunus of the world-renowned Grameen Bank.

Indeed, with the many other development and technology experts who are here today from Governments, civil society, academia, the private sector and the UN system, the depth of knowledge and experience in this room is simply breathtaking.

We have come together to build upon the work of the Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation, under the overall leadership of Professor Jeff Sachs, who will close this round table.  We are here, as well, to draw upon the pioneering efforts of the UN Information and Communications Technologies Task Force, which has successfully promoted a multi-stakeholder approach to ICT-for-development.

As we are all aware, the Secretary-General commissioned the Millennium Project to develop a concrete plan of action to reverse the devastating poverty, hunger and disease that afflict so much of our world.  No one disputes the Project's conclusion that meeting the Millennium Development Goals by the target year of 2015 will require a dramatic acceleration of effort, and in some cases fundamental changes in direction.

Scientific and technological innovations must be at the centre of any such effort.  The Millennium Project's report, "Investing in Development", stated that "any strategy to meet the Goals requires a special global effort to build scientific and technological capacities in the poorest countries".  The Secretary-General, in his own report for this week's World Summit, "In Larger Freedom", also highlighted the need for research and development, particularly in the areas of health, agriculture, natural resource and environmental management, energy and climate.

Efforts to harness technology for development are also at the heart of preparations for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which is to be held in Tunis two months from now.  Coming so soon after this week's World Summit, the Information Summit offers an opportunity to solidify the development orientation of the Tunis process, and to advance concrete follow-up to what is agreed here this week.

Collaboration will be essential as we move ahead.  Not just among Governments, but also among regional and local authorities, the private sector, academia, and non-governmental organizations.  Such multi-stakeholder alliances are increasingly the key to solving global problems.

We must provide incentives to various stakeholders, including the private sector, so that they do indeed focus their efforts on the needs of poor people.  We must also rise to the financial challenge.  Building scientific and technology capacity in the developing world will require substantial investment.  But the size of that investment pales in comparison to the human and economic costs of misery and underdevelopment, or to global military expenditures.  We must do what it takes to spur economic development and empower developing countries.

So let us, at this round table, share our visions for bringing technology and innovation to bear on the urgent challenges of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation.  Everyone around this table was invited because they have a role to play.  I look forward to learning from you all today.

It is now my great honour to welcome Queen Noor of Jordan and ask her to address us.

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