Press Conference by Secretary-General on Millennium Development Goals

8 March 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Secretary-General on Millennium Development Goals


While broad progress had been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, the statistics hid “massive” disparities within countries and regions, which underlined the urgent need to remove the barriers impeding key interventions, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at a Headquarters press conference.

“With 2015 approaching, we must be united and steadfast in our resolve to achieve the [Millennium Development Goals]”, Mr. Ban stressed.

To be sure, the target of halving extreme poverty had been achieved in 2010, Mr. Ban said, citing preliminary World Bank estimates. The world also had halved the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, according to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Tuberculosis incidence had declined since 1990, and the number of malaria deaths had dropped by one third in the last 10 years.  In primary education, there was now near parity between girls and boys.

At the same time, only 61 per cent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to improved water supply, compared with 90 per cent or higher in other regions, Mr. Ban observed.  The sanitation target likely would be unmet.  Hundreds of millions of children were under-nourished, while the absolute number of people living in slums continued to grow.  Those who had escaped poverty were still vulnerable to external factors, such as the impending food crisis in the Sahel region.

In the journey ahead, national ownership and leadership were essential, as was well-directed financing.  Innovations in social policy and service delivery could bring about change, he said.  Above all, partnerships worked, and for its part, the United Nations planned to make an impact through the “Sustainable Energy for All” and “Scaling Up Nutrition” programmes.  Working together, the United Nations, Governments and civil society could tackle the greatest challenges.  “When we pull together, we can achieve great things,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Accompanying Mr. Ban at the press briefing were Rebeca Grynspan, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

Detailing ongoing efforts, Ms. Grynspan said the United Nations Development Group — which united all 32 funds, programmes, agencies and departments involved in development — was implementing an Acceleration Framework to help Governments reach vulnerable populations and take ownership of off-track Goals.  Niger, for example, was using it to improve irrigation infrastructure, support small farmers and enhance its social protection system.  She expected 30 countries to adopt it by year’s end.

Mr. Sachs said the technologies had never been better to accelerate progress.  “We really are at a wonderful inflection point,” he added.  There had been clear, rapid and unprecedented progress in many regions.  “Let’s keep it up.  We can really get the job done.”

Fielding a question on the regions which lagged the most, Mr. Sachs cited sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia, but added that progress was accelerating in both regions.  In sub-Saharan Africa, the risks of climate change must be tackled.  In South Asia, the biggest challenge was child under-nutrition, which India was addressing.  Success hinged, in part, on the strength of China as a market for the developing world.  The risks included drought in the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel.  “We’re in a race against time,” he stressed.

Ms. Grynspan added that the statistics for extreme poverty were “much better” than for poverty.  Many people were close to moving back into extreme poverty, which was why she advocated for social protection systems.  Both Governments and the international community had a responsibility in that regard.

To another question, Mr. Sachs touched on two global phenomena:  economic slowdown in the North Atlantic and Europe, and fast growth in developing countries.  Growth in major developing countries appeared to be slowing a bit.  China had adopted a growth target of 7.5 per cent from 8 per cent.  “This is notable,” he said, but it also was a sign of China’s economic maturation; the income gap being closed was not as large as it had been.

Indeed, China’s growth had created market opportunities for Africa, he continued.  Africa’s growth was between 5 and 6 per cent annually; it could reach between 9 and 10 per cent.  That required attention to agriculture and mobilization of broadband technology to increase rural productivity.  He did not see a slowing of growth rates in big emerging economies as having an undue decisive effect.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.