Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour to participate in this Round Table on “Addressing the Special Needs of the Most Vulnerable”.
My office strives to assist around 100 countries and territories, including those in Africa, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as they work towards the achievement of the MDGs. These countries face considerable challenges in meeting the MDGs. Yet in spite of all difficulties, good progress has been made. Between 2000 and 2007, these countries showed improved economic performance and this has made it possible to scale up progress in some MDG targets, notably primary school enrolment, access to clean drinking water and HIV/AIDS and malaria treatment. Despite this, there is much more to be done to accelerate progress in other targets, especially on maternal and infant mortality.
Morerover, interconnected and diverse threats such as those posed by political instability, rapid urbanization, rapid population growth, climate change as well as the global financial and economic crises affect the most vulnerable disproportionately.
In light of these challenges, the pertinent question today is how to accelerate progress towards the goals in the remaining five years.
Let me now suggest some areas in which further action is urgently needed:
First, considering the pivotal role of agriculture in poverty reduction, it is critical to prioritise agricultural development through increased investment, especially in smallholder agriculture to enable them access locally adapted seeds, fertilizers, animal feed and other inputs in order to increase agricultural production. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Excellent examples of success stories exist, including among some of the most vulnerable countries.
Second, given the poor state of infrastructure development in the most vulnerable countries, more resources will be urgently required to close the huge infrastructure deficit in Africa, in the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
Third, while ODA to the poorest countries has increased in recent years, donors remain significantly off-track in meeting their aid pledges. This calls for increasing ODA and targeting it to priority sectors, including productive sectors, while simultaneously improving aid effectiveness.
Fourth, in view of the devastating effects of climate change on the most vulnerable countries, adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources will be needed for climate change adaptation. The transfer of appropriate technology for climate change adaptation should be strongly supported in favour of the most vulnerable members of the international community.
Fifth, there is a need for deliberate policies and interventions such as enhanced redistributive mechanisms, strengthened social protection and universal access to basic services in order to reduce vulnerabilities of individuals and communities and construct more socially cohesive societies.
Lastly, while considerable progress has been made in raising school enrolment in Africa, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, there is a need for a refocused attention on higher education through proper recapitalisation of institutions of higher learning as well as training institutes to enable them to produce high quality knowledge responsive to the countries’ needs.
As the Secretary-General has noted, “the Millennium Declaration represents the most important collective promise ever made to the world’s most vulnerable people”. We all are encumbered with a heavy responsibility: that of delivering on the commitments made to those who bear the burden of poverty, hunger, violence and disease.
Let us be clear, the most vulnerable countries are of the view that the success of the MDGs will depend in great measure on the degree to which we are able to effectively address their own needs and aspirations.
Let us all recommit ourselves and put our resources to work. We owe it to future generations.
Thank you very much.