EU Priorities for the UN General Assembly
62nd General Assembly
Summary: 2 April 2008, New York - Statement by H.E. Dr. ZIGA TURK, Minister of Growth of the Republic of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union; United Nations General Assembly 62nd Session; Thematic debate on the Millennium Development Goals; "Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the MDGs by 2015"
I have the honor to speak on the behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Distinguished Mr. President,
We have crossed the midpoint between the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and the 2015 target date. The data available indicates that results have been uneven.
The European Union has expressed its full commitment and dedication to the MDGs on several occasions. The European Council has adopted important declarations and decisions to this effect and the reduction of poverty in the developing countries is the core overarching objectives of the EU development policy. The European Consensus on Development also emphasizes EU commitment to respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, peace, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law, solidarity and justice, and pays special attention to the needs of Africa and Least Developed Countries. The EU shall address development efforts more systematically also in situations of fragility and pay more attention to the “aid orphan” countries.
The EU Members States and European Commission have made efforts to better align their development cooperation policies and practices to the overall objective of poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs. The EU has also committed, again in 2005, to scaling up EU aid and collectively contribute 0.56% GNI to Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 2010, and to reach the target of 0,7% GNI by 2015. The EU is currently providing 57% of global ODA. We will continue to make efforts to meet and exceed our timetables, and invite other countries to follow suit.
The EU strongly believes that progress towards MDGs is not just about increasing the volume of ODA. It is also about improving aid effectiveness. The EU believes that it is particularly important to ensure extensive progress on four key aspects of the Paris declaration of Aid effectiveness, namely division of labour among donors, predictability of aid, enhanced use of country systems and mutual accountability for development results.
However, foreign aid alone, though important, cannot deliver the MDGs. Foreign aid can only be a complement to national efforts. In this regard, more efforts are needed: national strategies should better reflect the MDGs, and the linkage between sound poverty reduction strategies and budget allocations should be strengthened. In order to achieve the MDGs, each country should take firm ownership of and responsibility for its development agenda, tailor the global MDG targets within its specific context into national targets and policies, and translate these into concrete programs and budgetary allocations.
Also, we should not forget that all eight MDGs are closely interlinked, and that development strategies rarely target just one objective, thus underlining the necessity to promote a comprehensive approach towards sustainable development, including pro-poor economic growth and progress in democratic governance.
(Eradication of Poverty and Hunger)
In the Millennium Declaration of 2000, world leaders committed themselves to spare no efforts to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the people who suffer from poverty and hunger (MDG1). The progress towards meeting this Goal has been uneven: at the global level the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 28% in 1990 to 19% in 2005, but progress has been less pronounced in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to reduce the poverty should be accelerated in these regions, as with population increase, many more millions of people need to be taken out of poverty. Likewise, malnourishment should be more vigorously addressed. Climate change and the recent increase in food prices present additional challenges in the efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
The EU fully shares the broad definition of poverty encompassing various dimensions, besides income, such as access to health, social services and education, gender equality, social inclusion, powerlessness and lack of voice or representation. We are aware that even in developed countries, where living conditions have been improved by economic growth, pockets of poverty and social exclusion persist, calling for renewed efforts targeted at specific population groups. We should also not forget the need to support the pro-poor development of middle-income countries (MIC), especially the lower MIC. The National Action Plans for Inclusion, in place in EU Member States, represents a coordinated policy framework to address child poverty, poverty among women and vulnerable groups. The EU also attaches particular importance to the promotion of public-private partnerships as an important tool to achieve MDGs, including poverty eradication.
The achievement of poverty eradication depends on the existence of integrated and mutually reinforcing social, economic and environmental national strategies and plans to achieve sustainable development with a particular focus on a pro-poor growth perspective, the creation of productive employment and decent work, and the adoption of social inclusion policies. Also, in many poor countries agriculture sector development should be at the centre of the poverty reduction strategies given the evidence on the sector’s ability to effect to reduce poverty and hunger. As stated in 2005 European Consensus on Development: combating poverty will only be successful if equal importance is given to investing in people, protecting natural resources, securing rural livelihoods and investing in wealth creation.
Given the particular vulnerability of women and girls to poverty and the fact that they make up the majority of the world’s poor, efforts towards creating a conducive environment for the effective integration and active participation of women in development are, therefore, imperative. We underline that comprehensive gender-sensitive poverty eradication strategies allowing and providing for the full and equal participation of women in policy and decision-making are needed to address the feminization of poverty and enhance their contribution to economic and social development. In order to be effective, such strategies need to be implemented through i.a. gender-sensitive budgeting.
Learning and education should be at the heart of all development agendas. MDG2 aims to ensure that children everywhere - boys and girls - will be able to complete good quality primary schooling. MDG3 targets to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. While there is encouraging news on achieving universal primary education, the gender parity goal set for 2005 has not been achieved.
To achieve both goals many challenges need to be addressed. A holistic and coherent approach encompassing all levels and types of education as well as the good quality of education are preconditions for achieving education goals. Focus needs to be on primary education, but more pupils must also have possibilities for post-primary education. Improving the quality education is imperative: more qualified teachers are needed as are good teaching methods and learning materials, enabling educational facilities and a healthy environment for girls and boys attending schools (including clean water and adequate sanitation). We should also address the challenge of women and girls who are in most countries consistently lagging behind boys and men with regard to education, especially higher education. We need to encourage societies to utilize the human capital of women to a much greater extent than at present.
The European Union is committed to accelerating progress toward the education MDGs as a policy priority, in particular with regard to access to primary education. At the international level, the EU supports actively the Dakar Framework for Action “Education for All” (EFA) and EFA Fast-Track Initiative in partnership with other bilateral donors for education as well as UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank. EU priorities in education are quality primary education, vocational training and addressing inequalities within holistic national sector plans. Particular attention is devoted to promoting girl’s education, children with special needs, safety at school and education in fragile states.
The Millennium Declaration places health squarely at the centre of the international development agenda and champions it as a key driver of economic progress. Challenges are many: strengthening health systems is critical, alongside expanding the integrated delivery and access to health services, addressing the pressing shortfall in skilled health professionals, linking access to health care with building new hospitals, good roads and reliable water supplies. Much attention should also be given to health in fragile states and making aid more effective and equitable. New donors and aid channels in the field of health sector have contributed to sharp increase in aid for some priority diseases, but this also requires support to health systems overall, harmonization among donors, and stronger alignment around national policies and plans.
In achieving MDG 4 and 5 – reducing child mortality and improving maternal health - improvement in health of pregnant women and new mothers play an important role in generating further reduction in child mortality and improvement of maternal health. Skilled and responsive care during pregnancy, at birth and immediately afterwards, all contribute to lower maternal mortality, and consequently also to reducing child mortality. Immunization of children has also proved to significantly reduce the child mortality.
In 2000, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by 75 % between 1990 and 2015. This goal (MDG5) was followed in 2006 by the addition of a target for universal access to reproductive health. Despite these commitments, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death among women in developing countries. No region thus far has achieved sufficient annual declines to reach the MDG5 target. Much more needs to be done. This issue has to be prioritized in budgets and in endeavours to overcome the lack of political will. Reaching this MDG is crucial for achieving the other MDG’s.
Progress in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG6) has been facilitated by substantive increase in resources provided by international donors. While additional resources are still needed, we should continue to help countries design and implement strategies that are based on knowledge about local epidemic; develop comprehensive and multi sectoral programmes (education is important); and very importantly, ensure coordination and cooperation among different stakeholders.
The EU would like to draw attention to the fact that HIV/AIDS remains a global scourge that requires a response at all levels through the scaling up of prevention, care, support and treatment to reach the target of universal access, in particular to antiretroviral therapy. Here again, the development and implementation of inclusive country-led strategies, based on the “Three Ones Principle”, is key. Special attention must be paid to address stigma and discrimination, protecting human rights, including those of vulnerable groups, and to the feminization of HIV/AIDS.
The EU is promoting comprehensive maternal health programmes and developing the pool of skilled birth attendants. The rates of maternal mortality or the number of skilled attendants at birth are useful indicators to assess the functioning of health systems and our progress going forward. We will also continue to place special emphasis on access of young people in developing countries, the poorest in particular, to improved health.
The EU is also fully committed to supporting international action to address the shortage of health workers and the crisis in human resources for health in developing countries. The Commission and EU Member States are developing a coordinated response, through country, regional and global action.
Both health and education remain an integral part of the Tenths European Development Fund for the period of 2008-2013. Part of EU aid for health in developing countries is channelled through international organizations and global initiatives. Progress in the area of health and education is evidently important both in their own right but also in creating an enabling environment for the empowerment of women and in making progress in the fight against poverty.
Distinguished Mr. President,
For several decades the development assistance community has worked with people and governments of developing countries to help improving their living conditions. Progress – though often unrecognized – has been remarkable. In the past 30 years alone, life expectancy increased by more than 20 years. Infant mortality rates have dropped by half. Primary school enrolment rates have doubled. Developing countries have achieved remarkable, although uneven, improvements in living standards of their people. These results are highly encouraging. They demonstrate that poverty can be overcome. But the battle is far from over. The year 2008 is a crucial year to make progress in achieving Millennium Development Goals. Their achievement is still possible in most countries, but only if concerted and well targeted actions in support of all MDGs are increased immediately and sustained until 2015. It requires a shared global strategy that fosters inclusive sustained growth, solid context-sensitive national poverty strategies, sound governance, gender equality and empowerment of women, increased public and private investment, enhanced productive capacity and the creation of decent work, so that all development partners – Governments, international organizations, non governmental organizations and private sector - can join forces in getting the achievement of the MDGs back on track. To accelerate progress it is also necessary to focus on sharing best practices and scaling up of models that have proven effective. As the European Union, we intend to fully play our part and will discuss how we can best contribute to efforts to put the MDGs back on track at the May GEARC and June EU Council.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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