National Statement to the 2010 United Nations General Assembly High Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals
Mr Micheál Martin, T.D.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ireland
2010 United Nations General Assembly High Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals
Tuesday, 21st September 2010
We meet as the political representatives of a global community. Our purpose is to account to each other for our actions over the past ten years in the fight against poverty and hunger. In adopting the Millennium Development Goals, we set ourselves clear targets to measure progress up to 2015. They represent a declaration of collective responsibility for the lives and futures of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.
The Goals are at the heart of Ireland’s development programme, and of our foreign policy. They represent a fundamental partnership between developing and developed nations. They require concerted joint action to mobilise resources for development. One essential element is the provision by richer countries of Official Development Assistance.
Since we signed up to the Millennium Declaration in 2000, Ireland has tripled the annual volume of our assistance. We have provided €6 billion in ODA over the decade, and the Irish people have privately donated many millions more. The Government is committed to the international target of spending 0.7% of our Gross National Income on overseas assistance by 2015.
We have lessons to learn from the past ten years of collective and individual action. There have been major successes in combating extreme poverty, in improving the levels of enrolment in primary schools, in child health and in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. However, the actual numbers of people living in poverty and hunger continue to increase. It is also clear that some countries and regions have made progress while others have not. Without additional efforts and a more collaborative approach we will fail to meet some of the most important targets we have agreed.
The challenge is accentuated by global economic uncertainty, and by the growing impact of global challenges, notably climate change. The economic crisis has simultaneously increased poverty in already poor communities and imposed pressure on aid budgets in the developed world. In these circumstances, we have a duty to examine rigorously the effectiveness of our policies and actions, and to focus sharply on key sectors.
Since the launch of Ireland’s Hunger Task Force Report in the United Nations two years ago, we have worked with partners to galvanise global attention on the crisis of world hunger. We believe that failure to address the crisis is impeding progress across the full range of Development Goals.
The number of chronically hungry people has risen in recent years to some one billion. One in four children under five in the developing world is under-nourished. The hungry child becomes in turn the underachieving pupil and the vulnerable and impoverished mother or father.
Undernutrition is one of the world’s most serious problems. And yet, proven, low-cost interventions exist to address it. They will not be mobilised effectively unless we as political leaders mobilise the political will to do so.
Today, with the US Administration, we hosted a meeting of international leaders committed to building a partnership which will focus on nutrition in the vital first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to second birthday. We recognised the vital role of the Scaling up Nutrition Initiative of the UN Secretary General. We are now committed to creating partnerships at all levels to support comprehensive action on nutrition. Our determination is to accelerate progress on the first of the MDGs, to halve the proportion of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
Progress on the MDGs has been unbalanced and uneven. The UN Secretary General has pointed out that “African aid lags far behind commitments and far behind needs”. While progress is made in some regions on maternal mortality, hundreds of thousands of African women continue to die needlessly due to complications in childbirth. And there is similar evidence across a range of development indicators.
We need a stronger collective focus on countries and regions which are making the least progress. We in Ireland are already directing over 80% of our development programme to sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on social protection for vulnerable communities, on infant and child nutrition, on innovative agricultural research, and on building capacity to engage in economic activity.
Our partner countries are at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals. They must set their own priorities for economic growth and poverty reduction. We must reaffirm our commitment to more effective partnerships between developed and developing countries. The priorities must be country ownership, use of fair, democratic and transparent national systems, and accountability to each other and to our people.
The United Nations has rallied the world behind the Millennium Development Goals, and is crucial to their achievement. We have been heartened by the agreement in recent months to establish the new gender entity, UN Women, and we will support its work in promoting the rights, well-being and empowerment of women worldwide.
The UN can play a stronger role in ensuring that resources for global development are deployed effectively. This means an end to duplication of effort, a strengthening of coordination on the ground, a trustworthy system of monitoring and evaluation and an unrelenting focus on the achievement of clear development results. We all have an obligation to demonstrate clearly and publicly that every cent raised to fight poverty and hunger is used to full effect.
In conclusion, I wish to reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to the ideals, aspirations and specific targets set out in the MDGs. They reflect our values as a people. We remain determined to work in partnership for their achievement.
Thank you, Mr. President.Top