As the head of 27 UN agencies that have the privilege to serve in India, we wish to welcome all of you to the launch of the UN’s annual report on the Millennium Development Goals. Each year, the UN publishes a report that tracks the progress we are making around the world in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
Allow me to warmly welcome the Honourable Minister of Minority Affairs, Dr. Najma Heptulla. We are particularly privileged to have the Honourable Minister here with us today. The Honourable Minister has been associated with the MDGs since their very inception, serving as the first ever woman President of the Council of the Inter Parliamentary Union, the world organization of parliamentarians, when the MDGs were proposed and adopted by the UN General Assembly.
We are also grateful to Dr. Jayati Ghosh, a globally recognized expert and leading intellectual who will help us to better understand the important trends identified in this year’s report.
This year’s report is one of the last before the MDGs expire in 2015. The report has good news, and bad news.
The good news is good indeed. Several MDG targets have already been met ahead of time and substantial progress across the globe has been made in almost all areas.
- Extreme poverty has been reduced by 50 percent. A staggering 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, the majority in Asia.
- Fewer people are dying from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs than would have been the case. The UN estimates that more than three million deaths from malaria, 6.6 million from HIV/AIDS and 22 million from tuberculosis have been averted because of better prevention and prompt treatment.
- More than 2 billion more people now have access to improved drinking water.
- In many countries, women are now more politically active and in schools, disparities between boys and girls are being overcome.
The bad news is worrying.
- The planet remains at serious risk. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are almost 50 percent above their 1990 level, millions of hectares of forest are being lost every year, many species are closer to extinction than ever before and renewable water resources are becoming scarcer.
- Although the percentage of undernourished people has declined by more than 10 percent, a lot more needs to be done right away if the target of reducing the number of hungry people by 50 percent is to be reached.
- Child malnutrition continues to haunt the globe. The report estimates that one out of every four children suffers from some form of chronic malnutrition.
- A billion people are still defecating in the open. This is particularly worrying in light of recent research which shows a decisive causal link between poor sanitation and hygiene and malnutrition.
As the head of UN operations in India, and having had the privilege of serving with the UN in more than 10 countries, I get asked a lot whether the MDGs really matter. The answer is that—they do. They matter, and they have had an important, maybe even profound impact globally.
More than two-thirds of all countries in the world have used the MDGs to set their national development goals.
Almost all countries now use the MDG framework to measure economic, social and environmental disparities within their own countries.
The MDGs have emerged as the most powerful and most used framework to analyse differences in human development across the globe.
Perhaps most importantly, the MDGs have been a mirror that allows the world to look at itself in human development terms and to pass judgement on the steps that have been taken and need to be taken to ensure that no one is left behind and that everyone’s basic needs are met.
Right now, the countries of the world are debating what will replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. This is an inter-governmental process that will culminate in a global summit in September 2015 where world leaders will hopefully adopt a new expanded framework. More than a billion people around the world have been consulted during the preparation of this new framework; civil society and the private sector have been active participants, providing recommendations and guidance to the member states of the UN.
The national consultation that took place in India is considered one of the best, if not the best in the world. Trade unions, industry, small farmers, women’s groups, youth groups, government ministries, think tanks and civil society groups all participated in more than 400 meetings across the country. The recommendations which came out of the India consultation have had an important impact on global negotiations.
And this leads me to my final point. India’s role in global development is the most important in the world. The MDGs can’t be reached globally if they’re not reached here. The new post 2015 framework cannot succeed if it doesn’t reflect the aspirations, and doesn’t have the commitment and support of India. India’s commitment to reach the MDGs has been an inspiration to countries around the world; its leadership now in defining the new framework has never been more important.