Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    4 September 2010

    The Secretary-General
    Speech to the European Forum on "The International Financial Crisis and the Millennium Development Goals"
    [as prepared for delivery]

    Alpbach, 4 September 2010

    VIENNA, 4 September (UN Information Service) - Your Excellency President Fischer, Your Excellency Foreign Minister Spindelegger, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is a pleasure to be back in Alpbach. My visit last year was so rewarding that I simply had to return.

    Not only that, I have brought the senior leadership of the United Nations with me. We are also joined by the whole Security Council. For this weekend at least, Alpbach is a major United Nations Headquarters, like Vienna is throughout the year.

    Thank you for welcoming us all into your midst.

    We are here because of the Alpbach spirit.

    Informed discussion. Free-wheeling exchanges of views. A wonderful mix of diplomats and decision-makers… students, scholars and others.

    If that sounds like the United Nations, well, that's because I feel very much at home here.

    I thank the Government and people of Austria for creating such a welcoming environment. I have had good meetings with the federal authorities in Vienna, and look forward to continuing our work here in the mountains.

    Mr. President, I hope I won't betray any confidences by saying that I very much enjoyed yesterday's stopover in Murzsteg. It is very easy to become enchanted with Austria - as I did during my time here more than a decade ago as my country's ambassador.

    Of course, pleasant as all this is, we are here for serious business. And right now there is little more serious than the topic we are addressing at this session: the financial crisis and what it means for our work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    The Goals are a promise - a declaration of collective responsibility for the world's poor and vulnerable… a pledge to build decent, healthier lives for billions of people.

    Just over two weeks from now, world leaders will meet in New York for the MDG summit.

    They will look back over the past decade since the promise was made. They will see what has worked and what has not.

    And they will work on a plan of action for the half-decade to come - the five years between now and the year - 2015 - by which the promise was meant to be kept.

    The United Nations has rallied the world behind the goals. And there has been tremendous progress… thanks to a combination of partnership and technology… of aid and investment… of national effort and international support.

    Quite a number of countries are on track to achieve all or at least several of the goals by 2015.

    Nonetheless, many countries are behind. Even within countries that have registered important gains, there remain large pockets of deprivation.

    Too often, national development policies lack coherence.

    For years now, trade talks have stagnated, locking in place an unfair regime and denying developing countries new opportunities.

    And the delivery of international aid and debt commitments has fallen short.

    Africa was meant to receive an additional $25 billion per year by 2010, but has not seen even half this amount.

    The global aid target could fall short by $150 billion or more by 2015.

    And then, of course, crises and natural disasters struck -- a spike in food prices… volatile energy prices… the greatest economic and financial upheaval since the Great Depression.

    For the MDGs, it has been a period of grave setbacks.

    This year alone, an additional 64 million people will fall into extreme poverty.

    The number of hungry people has risen above 1 billion for the first time ever.

    Rising prices are hampering access to medicines.

    In short, the crisis has led to significant losses in education, employment, health and nutrition.

    Moreover, the recovery remains very fragile and uneven, and at a pace that is not enough to make up for lost ground. And we seem to be losing momentum.

    Governments have taken courageous steps to prevent a global depression. But even this has taken a toll in the form of growing deficits and debts.

    This, in turn, has led many countries to contemplate austerity plans.

    But let us be clear: fiscal prudence and measures to protect the vulnerable can coexist. I commend those countries whose most recent budgets have retained a strong commitment to global development despite the fiscal pressures.

    So what should we do as we move forward? I see three areas where action is especially urgent.

    First, we must deliver on international development commitments. Economic uncertainty should not be an excuse to back away from those pledges. A successful global partnership is the cornerstone for achieving the MDGs.

    Second, we must create jobs, including by investing more in clean and renewable energy. Not only would this lift employment, it would also spark technological development and combat climate change.

    Third, we must put resources where they will have the greatest impact -- in areas like the empowerment of women, renewable energy and infrastructure.

    Nowhere is this powerful multiplier effect more on display than in the area of maternal and children's health. This is where we are lagging most behind - but it is also where we could get the biggest return for our investment and the biggest boost towards achieving all the MDGs. That is why I have launched a Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Let me add a fourth crucial ingredient: hope. We have the tools and the resources. Time is certainly short - but there is still enough to do what is necessary. Despite setbacks, despite obstacles, we can achieve the MDGs.

    In the past few months I visited several countries in Africa. Everywhere, I saw how innovation, belief and perseverance breed success. I saw what can be achieved when partners take comprehensive and coherent action, and stand together against poverty, hunger and disease.

    We will showcase success stories later this month at the MDG Summit.

    We will show that focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable is the path to a more secure, sustainable and prosperous future for all.

    Surely, if the world can mobilize $20 trillion in a short period in response to the economic crisis, there can be little excuse for not finding the far more modest resources needed to go the extra mile on the MDGs.

    The Millennium Declaration represents the most important promise ever made to the world's most vulnerable people. We must keep the promise - for them, for all humankind. This is a collective, urgent responsibility.

    Thank you.

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