Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, European Parliament, Brussels, 10th June

Helen ClarkThe Extraordinary Joint Committee Meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees of the European Parliament
Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Brussels, 10th June, 11.15 to 12.30 pm

Thank you for this opportunity to address you on the critical and interlinked issues of the MDGs, climate change and how to make policies across the board work for the poor.

The partnership between UNDP, the broader UN Development Group, and the European Union is a very significant one, as the Union is a significant funder of our work, as well as of development overall. So are many of the member nations which make up the Union.

I come to Brussels at a time when Europe itself faces considerable economic uncertainties. The ongoing impact of the economic crisis has impeded Europe restoring growth to its large economy.

At the same time, many developing countries have experienced setbacks to their hard fought development gains from the combined effects of the global recession, the lingering effects of high food and energy prices, the growing climate change challenge, and, for some, catastrophic natural disasters.

In 2009, for the first time in history, more than a billion people were estimated to have suffered from chronic hunger, around 130 million more than before the food and the economic crises hit. The economic crisis left an estimated 50 million more people in extreme poverty in 2009 and is projected to leave an additional 64 million people in extreme poverty by the end of 2010.

Millions have lost their jobs– and in many countries remittances and export revenues have slowed, tourist numbers have dwindled, and foreign direct investment has become much harder to attract.

Challenging as these times may be, however, they cannot become an excuse to lower ambition when it comes to advancing the global development agenda.

On the contrary, the global crises we face call for stronger support than ever for solving global challenges and advancing that agenda.

As you are aware, in September this year there will be a Summit at the UN in New York to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, ten years after they were launched.

The Summit presents a critical opportunity for the international community to agree on an action agenda of what needs to be done to meet the MDGs by 2015.

Given the huge contribution of the European Union and its member states to development co-operation, the combined EU stance at the Summit will have a significant bearing on its outcome.

The summit is a major opportunity for EU nations to be presented at their best: as globally minded partners with a leading role within the UN in building coalitions for development.

The importance of the MDGs for development cannot be overstated.

They are the most broadly supported, comprehensive, and specific poverty reduction targets which the world has ever established.

For all those who live in poverty, achieving the MDGs offers a route to a better life – with access to adequate food and income, basic education and health services, and clean water and sanitation, and the empowerment of women. Put simply, achieving the MDGs will be an important milestone in our quest for a more secure and peaceful world.

I understand that the Development Committee of this Parliament is well informed about progress to date on the MDGs and on the challenges remaining.

I also understand that this Parliament has analyzed the impact of the economic crisis on developing countries.

At UNDP, we are very encouraged by the EU’s proposed responses to these challenges, as presented both by the Parliament and in the Commission’s Spring Development Package to the Council.

We agree on the essential message that the MDGs can be achieved: There is a range of tried and tested policies which can ensure progress, if adapted to national context.

Success stories abound – across all countries, including the poorest, and across all the MDG targets, including those which are lagging behind globally.

I have recently visited Africa. In all four countries to which I travelled significant gains had been made. Just some of them:

Tanzania increased its net enrolment rate in primary schools by ninety per cent between 1991 and 2006, and is well on track to achieve the MDG 2 target on net enrollment in primary school.

Burkina Faso and South Africa have more than halved the proportion of their people without access to improved drinking water sources.

Mali is expanding energy access in rural communities across the country.

These are but a few examples of many success stories. The challenge now is to generate international commitment for the scale-up and replication of such successes around the world

The MDG Summit in September offers the opportunity to do that.

UNDP is working to help member states make the most of this opportunity by providing a strong evidence base of what is working to achieve the MDGs.

UNDP and other members of UN Country Teams have been working with thirty countries to prepare in depth, national MDG reports to substantiate what is working.

Then drawing on this country level evidence, UNDP is preparing an “International Assessment” of what it will take to achieve the MDGs by 2015. It will identify common and underlying MDG success factors, and highlight recurring national and international constraints on progress.  From this analysis, conclusions will be drawn on the concrete measures which help to accelerate MDG progress.

The assessment is due to be launched shortly, in time to inform negotiations on the Summit outcome document and to complement the Secretary General’s MDG Progress Report, which will offer a target by target account of global progress to date. 

UNDP has also developed a diagnostic framework to help governments and development partners identify the interventions which will have the most impact on achieving the MDGs, and the policies which can sustain hard-won gains. A number of UN Country Teams and programme countries are piloting this tool right now, to validate its effectiveness in accelerating MDG progress globally.

The aim is to make the most of scarce resources, by building strong and broad partnerships around the specific actions which can speed up MDG achievement.

While any action agenda must be adapted to each country’s unique context, UNDP’s analysis and experience is highlighting where interventions are likely to have the greatest impact. They include fostering inclusive and balanced growth; targeting investments in health and education and on women and girls; building social protection, and expanding access to energy.

Most of the resources needed to achieve the MDGs have to be raised within and allocated effectively by a country itself. Yet, well targeted and predictable Official Development Assistance (ODA) can be catalytic for meeting the Goals.

For that reason it is very helpful to MDG achievement for the ODA levels pledged previously, including by the G8, to be reached.  By the end of 2010 ODA delivery is projected to be 38 per cent short of what was promised at Gleneagles.

Recent OECD estimates suggest that at the end of 2010 the EU-15’s ODA levels will be 41 per cent short of their (2005) commitments.

It is therefore very positive that one of the core elements of the EU’s twelve point Spring Development Package is to establish a stronger accountability mechanism to ensure that EU donors remain on track to meet the overall European ODA targets. This is an important reaffirmation of the EU’s long-standing commitment to the developing world.

Notwithstanding Europe’s own economic difficulties, I understand that opinion surveys continue to show that most EU’s citizens believe in the importance of helping other countries.

There is also tremendous potential for EU policies beyond ODA to contribute to the MDGs – not least when it comes to trade and agriculture – as is so well recognized in your Policy Coherence for Development Agenda.

For example, if the EU proposes further reform to the Common Agricultural Policy which may be more supportive of the world’s poor, or can show how the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth can generate opportunities for developing countries, that would present a powerful image of a post-Lisbon EU which is more open and committed to the world than ever before.

Meeting the 21st century’s challenges to development requires a coherent and comprehensive approach in other respects too.

For example, we need to integrate our work on poverty reduction and the MDGs with that on the environment and climate change. Advancing and protecting both is critical – it cannot be a matter of either/or.

That is the message which UNDP is constantly conveying. We see climate change as a huge development challenge – as well as a huge environmental challenge. While it certainly has global impact, it is hitting the poorest and most vulnerable countries first and hardest. For them, climate change is not an abstract term, but a growing problem of the here and now.

In many parts of the world, families have crops wiped out by prolonged drought, or homes destroyed by floods and storms. Infrastructure is being devastated by typhoons and landslides. The risks of social and political instability will increase if, in the coming decades, climate change provokes large population transfers and growing tensions over the allocation of essential natural resources like water.

The effects of climate change also weigh disproportionately on the poorest, and on women and children.

Successful climate change adaptation, coupled with forceful mitigation, holds the key to human development prospects for the 21st century and beyond. How the world handles these issues is critical not only for global economic recovery, but also for the very essence of the social fabric and harmony within and across countries and continents.

The international community needs to agree urgently on a comprehensive and ambitious climate deal which will address, in particular, the concerns of the poorer developing countries.

The EU provides strong leadership on climate change which is greatly appreciated. I take this opportunity to commend the Commissioner for Climate Action on her recent Communication which analyses the costs and benefits of and options for moving beyond the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020, from twenty per cent below 1990 levels to thirty per cent below, once conditions are met.  

This is precisely the kind of initiative which is needed to move the negotiations forward, and I encourage the EU to continue on this path.

Of fundamental importance for many developing countries is the level of new funding to be made available for climate change adaptation and mitigation

In the final hours of the Copenhagen Summit, developed countries undertook to provide additional financial resources approaching US$30 billion for the period 2010-2012. It is of great importance that these commitments materialize, and that they are used to address climate change and long-term sustainable development together. I was present in Oslo two weeks ago when major fast track money was committed to the REDD+ initiative.

While work continues in negotiating a comprehensive climate deal, we at UNDP are taking a practical approach to support programme countries designing development-conducive responses to climate change.

From our perspective, mitigating and adapting to climate change is fully compatible with pursuing development. Adaptation is development. We know we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time generate new economic opportunities and jobs. But to be successful climate change response must be fully integrated in national development planning and processes.

UNDP’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme is now supporting 75 countries in the development of national, sub-national, and community level capacities to adapt to climate change.

UNDP is also a leading partner in the UN-REDD programme. It is currently assisting nine countries, across Africa, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America, to prepare and implement national REDD strategies in a way which safeguards and enhances the livelihoods of those who depend on forest resources.

Our efforts in addressing climate change and advancing the MDGs are more likely to be sustained where governments are responsive, transparent, and accountable, and where there is peace and stability.

Around the world UNDP works with its partners to strengthen human rights; support the functioning of parliaments; and expand access to the opportunities and protection provided by the law. We also work to help countries prevent and recover from conflict and disasters, from Haiti, to DRC, Afghanistan and Iraq.

What our common efforts to advance development and address global challenges bring to light, however, is just how much national policy makers’ room for manoeuvre has become constrained by factors over which they have little control.

This puts an enormous onus on those countries and groupings which do have power and resources to keep a global perspective and keep our common interests as a world community to the fore.

No single actor can achieve the MDGs, fight climate change, or tackle alone the global challenges we face. 

But, as has been shown by the successful EU-UNDP, and broader UN-EU, partnerships to date, we can do together what we cannot do alone.

For the past five years, the UN team in Brussels – a grouping of 24 UN entities – has produced annual reports on EU-UN co-operation for the development and humanitarian assistance.

This year’s report is entitled “Improving Lives: results of the UN/EU partnership in 2009”.

It reports on the joint efforts of the UN and the EU in more than 100 countries across all regions of the world and in all major areas of the UN’s work.

Let me highlight a few examples:

Last year alone, by working together, we provided education to 2.2 million children.

We supported 88 million people to cast their votes, by helping to build capacities in 22 countries for the conduct of free and fair elections.

The Food Facility of the EU helped boost the UN’s ability to tackle hunger; forty million people received food, and many also received farming assistance.

Refugees and internally displaced people were helped in more than 40 countries.

Beyond the impressive array of achievements captured in the report lies a vibrant EU-UNDP policy dialogue on issues from the MDGs and poverty reduction, to the rule of law, electoral assistance, women’s rights, and crisis prevention and recovery. We co-operate on programmes in over ninety countries.

Together we have also spearheaded the development of joint tools and methodologies which are of international benefit and contribute to the Accra Aid Effectiveness Agenda.

At UNDP we are tremendously grateful for the EU’s support, and we are committed to living up to the trust you have placed in us and the expectations you have of us.

I am convinced that our partnership will deepen in the years ahead, and that our shared values and commitment to international norms and standards will continue to be put to work in improving the lives of so many around the world.