Helen Clark: Speech at the Interactive Dialogue on Ending Poverty and Hunger

25 Sep 2015
There has been significant progress over the past fifteen years on getting children into school; reducing infant, child, and maternal deaths; turning the tide on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB and other key Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets. The focus, funding, and action generated by the MDGs has undoubtedly made a big difference to the lives of many.

But there is a lot of unfinished business from the MDGs. While the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, measured against 1990 figures, was met by 2010, for many of the billion people living in the other half life has scarcely changed in many respects.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, recently estimated that at the current pace of progress, 68 million more children under five will die from mostly preventable causes by 2030. Many of those deaths will be from nutrition-related illnesses. UNICEF also says it will take almost 100 years before most girls being born into sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest families can expect to complete their lower secondary education.

For these and many other reasons, we need the new, bolder, sustainable development agenda, which aims to go to zero on the eradication of extreme poverty, and to confront the many other global challenges, including:

• growing inequality and ongoing discrimination. One of the defining features of the SDG agenda will be to leave no one behind. The rising tide should lift every boat. That means tackling entrenched inequalities relating to gender, ethnicity, and other factors.

• the jobs deficit and its implications, particularly for young people,

• mounting environmental challenges, including climate change, and the accelerated degradation of ecosystems,

• the impact of conflicts and disasters. If Goal 16 in the SDGs were universally achieved, the conflicts we see destroying lives and hopes and driving so many desperate and dangerous journeys to other lands could become a thing of the past.

Leadership is needed more than ever from the multilateral system – including from UNDP. Our job is to support countries to eradicate poverty, and to do that in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, and avoids wrecking the ecosystems on which life depends.

Since the MDGs were launched, we have supported countries to integrate them into their national agendas and take action on them. We have worked to strengthen capacity, share knowledge, and support access to finance.

Over the past five years, the UN development agencies at country level have promoted acceleration of progress on MDG targets, based on government leadership and on convening the wide range of stakeholders to tackle the real obstacles to MDG achievement – which often are not the most obvious.

Now the UN development system as a whole is totally focused on working with countries on the new sustainable development agenda.

UNDP will draw on its fifty years of development experience; the role we played on the MDGs – globally and locally; our focused Strategic Plan which reflects our unique mandates on poverty eradication, governance, environment, and crisis prevention and recovery; our global presence; and our co-ordination role in the UN development system.

Already, this year, as countries have been developing their new national development plans, there is close discussion on how to incorporate the SDGs, just as the MDGs were incorporated over the past decade and a half. There is strong national ownership of the SDGs around the world.

2015 presents a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to set a transformational development agenda in motion. UNDP is fully committed to playing its part in making that happen.