Press Releases

    12 October 2005

    Innovative UN Partnerships Critical for Achieving Millennium Development Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Philanthropy Conference in Melbourne

    NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Second International Philanthropy Conference in Melbourne on 10 October:

    It is a great pleasure to join you at this conference, and to be making my first trip to Australia as Deputy Secretary-General, and my first ever to Melbourne.

    Allow me to start by paying tribute to the many contributions that Australia, a founding member of the United Nations, continues to make to our work.  When violence engulfed East Timor several years ago, an Australian-led military operation -- with the authority of the Security Council behind it -- saved lives and helped to pave the way for Timorese independence.  When a devastating tsunami struck the Indian Ocean last year, Australians -- including some of you in this audience -- opened their doors and their wallets, again showing ready solidarity with people in need.  And just last month, Prime Minister Howard announced his Government's intention to double the country's aid budget by 2010.

    The United Nations is also grateful to all of you in the philanthropic community for your outstanding commitment to our mission.  We have been making a real effort in recent years to open our doors to more partners, and more innovative partnerships.  So I very much welcome this opportunity to speak to you so soon after the World Summit in New York, on a topic of central importance to us all:  the Millennium Development Goals.

    As you know, the eight Goals make up an agreed blueprint for accelerating improvements in the lives of the world's poor.  They have been embraced by donors, civil society and major development institutions alike, as well as by the developing countries themselves.  And they have mobilized people throughout the world, from Manila to Maputo, from Montevideo to, well, Melbourne itself, as attendance at this conference shows.

    The Goals can sound technical at times.  But ultimately, they are about people -- the farmer tending her crops; the refugee on the run; the factory worker in unsafe conditions toiling for a pittance; the homeless child left to the dubious enticements and certain perils of the street.  It is for them that our efforts must succeed.

    There have been many development promises over the past 50 years.  The United Nations General Assembly has declared four so-called development decades, and we are now in the midst of the first UN decade for the eradication of poverty.  UN conferences have produced many plans of action.  What makes the Goals different from other bold pledges that went unfulfilled?

    First, the Goals are time-bound and measurable.  A long-running criticism of development aid is that resources tend to be wasted by corruption and mismanagement, and that we have no way to track progress.  Now, we have a set of measurable indicators, and clear benchmarks of progress, both globally and on a country-by-country basis.

    Second, the Goals have unprecedented political support, having been personally endorsed by world leaders at two Summits, and by their Governments at major conferences in Monterrey and Johannesburg.

    Third, and most important, the Goals are achievable.  They might sound utopian, but they are not just wishful thinking.  They are certainly challenging, but, up and down the list, there are inspiring examples of genuine strides being made.

    Take Goal number 1, cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half by the year 2015.  In Asia, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut by more than 250 million since 1990 -- a massive, unprecedented achievement.

    Or Goal number 2, achieving universal primary education.  In 2001, the Tanzanian Government boosted education funding and abolished small school fees, and in just four years, enrolment rates rose from about 60 per cent to 90 per cent, for girls as well as boys.

    Or take Goal number 6, halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  The Vietnamese Government distributed bed-nets free of charge, provided preventive treatment for pregnant women, developed and distributed anti-malaria drugs, and took other steps that led, in just over a decade to a 97 per cent decline in deaths from malaria.  In Senegal, a national AIDS programme strongly backed by the country's religious leaders has kept infection rates to below 2 per cent.  In Uganda, the Government's "big noise" campaign means that virtually every man, woman and child knows what it takes to avoid infection.  More generally, the percentage of people receiving treatment in the developing world has grown dramatically.

    But of course, such encouraging stories have their mirror image.  Every day, 30,000 children die of preventable diseases, and every minute, a woman dies because of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.  In the 1990s, some 60 countries in various parts of the world actually grew poorer.  Environmental degradation continues to keep clean drinking water out of reach for more than 1 billion people, and to render once-fertile soils incapable of supporting the most basic needs of families.

    Developing countries will need to make even more concerted efforts to pursue sound economic policies, practice good governance, fight corruption and devise national strategies to achieve the MDGs.  They are not just sitting back and waiting.  As we can see in initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, many are pressing ahead with social, political and economic reforms, sometimes at considerable short-term economic and political cost.

    Rich countries have committed themselves to supporting those efforts.  In recent months, donors have made dramatic efforts to increase official development assistance, and to provide greater debt relief.  The next test of their seriousness will come at the December ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong, where the  main challenge will be to end unfair subsidies and tariffs so that the trading system truly supports development

    The key to moving ahead will be Goal 8 -- developing a global partnership for development.  We must make such a partnership a reality.  Both developed and developing countries must uphold their responsibilities.

    But the Goals are not meant to be pursued only by Governments.  Without the involvement of the broader community -- private businesses, civil society groups, concerned citizens -- the Goals will remain out of reach.

    I said earlier that the MDGs are about people.  But I was not referring only to people in need.  The MDGs are also about the people who can do something to meet that need.   Rock stars like Bono or Youssou N'Dour, who have harnessed their talent and fame to the cause of global development.  Enlightened CEOs committed to green technologies or who show, in other ways, that the profit motive, far from being incompatible with social progress, is indispensable to it.  Political leaders like Nelson Mandela, still a force to be reckoned with long after he might have taken a much deserved rest.  People with AIDS who face stigma in addition to the already formidable burden of their disease, and who brave harassment to speak out for treatment and care.  These are the people who bring the MDGs to life.

    You in the philanthropic community should count yourselves among them.  Here, too, there are many examples to draw on.  Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in partnerships linking the local and the global, which have a deeper impact than any single actor ever could.  We in the United Nations have embraced this trend.  In recent years, we have worked with non-State actors on a scale that, even a few decades ago, could not have been imagined.

    The UN Office for International Partnerships, which was established in 1997 to channel the billion dollars pledged by Ted Turner, works with various UN agencies to foster synergies with a widening range of philanthropic partners, as other foundations and philanthropists join us in confronting challenges that range from education to maternal health to biodiversity.

    Today, partnering with us is easier than ever.  We stand ready to welcome you, and work with you.  The world needs your ideas and expertise.  You can also, as respected voices in your communities, take up roles of leadership and advocacy.  And with solid experience in getting things done at the local level, we need to work with you on specific projects.

    This is a critical moment for the United Nations and for the great project of international cooperation for development.  It is less than a month since world leaders took important decisions at the World Summit.  While there were areas where they were not as bold as one would have hoped -- the lack of attention on the threat of nuclear proliferation stands out -- when it came to the Millennium Development Goals, the steps were encouraging.

    The Summit cemented the Goals as operational targets, not just rhetorical aspirations.  It stimulated commitments that had been sought for many years, including an increase by as much as $50 billion in annual aid by 2010, debt relief for 18 heavily indebted countries, and the adoption by many donors of specific plans to earmark 0.7 per cent of their gross national income for aid by 2015.  Moreover, Summit decisions to establish a Peacebuilding Commission, a Human Rights Council to replace the current Commission, and a Democracy Fund -- the latter benefiting from an early pledge of $10 million from Australia -- should each help, directly and indirectly, to advance efforts to achieve the Goals.  So will the reforms of UN management proposed by the Secretary-General and endorsed by the Member States.

    We have much work to do.  But there is much -- so much -- that we can achieve if we work together.  I urge you to bring all your creativity and experience to bear in this joint effort.  Thank you for listening to me today.  I look forward to seeing many of you again.

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