Helen Clark: Speech at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent “From the MDGs to a new set of Global Development Priorities”

Oct 20, 2014

I thank the University of World Economy and Diplomacy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, and in particular Mr. Nodir Jumaev, Rector, for inviting me to speak to you today on progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and the current global debate on what should succeed them at the end of 2015.

I acknowledge the significant role which the University plays as a leading provider of high-quality education in international relations, political science, and the global economy. The professional expertise and knowledge offered by the University prepares tomorrow’s decision-makers and leaders to contribute to the advancement of Uzbekistan’s inclusive and sustainable development, and to support its role as an important regional and global actor.

In today’s highly interconnected world, the future of all countries is closely linked to global trends, be they economic, environmental, or peace and security.

In my previous position as New Zealand Prime Minister, I often observed that countries were on a race to the future, and that to compete in that race it was important to be very strategic and make the right policy moves and investments.

Globalisation and interconnectedness brings benefits, but they can also increase vulnerabilities. To seize the benefits and build resilience to global risks is in itself a development journey.

Inclusive and sustainable growth and developing institutions with strong policy and delivery capacity, transparent and responsive governance, and civil society able to advocate for citizens – in my experience these characteristics are all part of that development journey.

To achieve all these objectives, societies need to develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities before them. To advance sustainable development, countries need joined up policy-making like never before, to enable human development to advance while maintaining critical natural ecosystems. Achieving this balance is at the heart of the post-2015 global development agenda which the UN General Assembly is working on.

Progress on the Millennium Development Goals

Back in 2000, the Millennium Summit brought together leaders of 189 UN Member States pledging to make the world a better place for all humanity. It was a unique opportunity for Member States to commit to fight poverty, improve access to basic services, reduce the spread of disease, and care for the environment. I had the honour to attend the Summit then as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, together with His Excellency the President of Uzbekistan and many other world leaders. The beginning of a new millennium was a time of optimism and hope – that we might together build a 21st century better than the bloody twentieth century which preceded it.

The Millennium Declaration set a global agenda for this century, and provided the foundation for action-oriented targets around the eight specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs set targets to be met by the end of 2015 – and that end point is now imminent.

Global Achievements on the MDGs

Around the world, the MDGs were widely embraced as global development priorities. They set out to tackle extreme poverty and hunger; protect the environment; expand education; advance health, gender equality, and women’s empowerment; and foster global partnerships for development. Many countries have anchored the MDGs in their development plans, pursued very deliberate strategies to achieve them, and mobilised external support around them. Important progress against the targets has been made; for example:

·       The proportion of the world’s people living in extreme poverty was reduced by half by 2010 - five years ahead of the 2015 target date. The target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water has also been met.

·       On average around the world, gender parity in primary education has been achieved, and most children now enrol in primary schools, although completion rates and the quality of education are not high across all countries.

·       The lives of slums dwellers in urban areas have improved, and levels of infant and child mortality have decreased significantly.

·       There is a downward trend of tuberculosis and global malaria deaths, and the tide is turning on HIV.

MDG Progress in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, in particular, the Government made a strong commitment to the MDGs.

Indeed, Uzbekistan went beyond the MDGs, and set national MDGs which comprehensively targeted human development, and had time-bound indicators which were relevant to this country’s context. The participation of the President, H.E. Islam Karimov, in the MDG Summit held in September 2010 in New York was clear confirmation of this country’s continuing commitment to the MDGs.

Steady progress has been made on the national MDG targets in Uzbekistan. That has been helped by sustained high rates of economic growth here, and effective implementation of national programmes in the social sectors, particularly in education and health. The country is well on its way to achieving its national target on poverty reduction and on achieving important education and health targets.

Challenges do remain, particularly on MDG 5 and MDG 6. Accelerated progress on all the national MDG targets is achievable, with the engagement of concerned stakeholders supported by streamlined national policies and programmes, and by improved data collection and analysis.

Challenges and Lessons

Globally, despite the important progress so far, a number of the MDGs and their targets are still some way from being achieved. As well, global trends tend to disguise the significant unevenness in progress between countries and within them.

For example, the huge movement of many hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty in China has driven the level of global progress on extreme poverty reduction. Some countries have seen very little poverty reduction at all. In others, groups marginalized within society have seen their country’s progress pass them by. Progress on the targets to reduce maternal mortality and provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health lags behind – pointing to the need for much greater effort to be made on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Around one billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Many go to bed hungry and undernourished every night – with lifelong repercussions for the children affected. Lack of sanitation leaves many people vulnerable to the rapid spread of disease – particularly in the aftermath of the increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters our world is experiencing. A number of our world’s ecosystems are under serious stress, which threatens the ongoing supply of basic services on which we depend – like water.

So, there is work to do on the next global development agenda to ensure that no one is left behind and that the route to higher human development is a sustainable one.

From the MDG experience, a number of conclusions can be drawn about what has helped countries to make progress:

·       Committed leadership, national ownership, and effective governance and institutions which drive action;

·       Having sufficient funding for development. The contribution to development from the growth of economies and rising domestic resource mobilization, and from increased trade, investment, and the volume of remittances now far outstrips the volume of official development provided. That makes the quality and catalytic nature of ODA all the more important.

·       Engagement at all levels of government. The local level is by definition the closest to the citizens and can play a vital role.

·       Effective global partnerships: there seems little doubt that where these were mobilised to meet the health MDGs and targets, for example, progress has been faster than pre-MDG trends would have suggested.

The Post-2015 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, UN Member States agreed to establish an Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which would be “coherent and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015”.

In January last year, by decision of the UN General Assembly, the Open Working Group was established and tasked with the preparation of a proposal on the SDGs.

This past July, the Open Working Group proposed a set of seventeen goals and 169 targets, covering all issues related to sustainable development, and placing poverty eradication as a core objective. The report builds on the unfinished business of the MDGs with proposed goals on poverty and hunger eradication, health, education, gender equality, and the environment, but it also broadens the scope with proposed goals on reducing inequalities, and a focus on infrastructure, energy, peaceful and inclusive societies, and other new areas.  The agenda would be applicable to all countries, and aim to shift the world towards sustainable consumption and production. 

The OWG proposal has been officially presented to the 69th General Assembly, and it will inform the UN Secretary General’s Synthesis Report on the post-2015 debate so far. Both reports will be important reference points for the Member States’ negotiations on the SDGs. A Heads of State and Government Summit to agree on the new development agenda is due to be held at the UN in New York in September next year.

Beginning in 2012, the UN development system has been facilitating global consultations, unprecedented in size, to enable people from all walks of life to share their priorities for the post-2015 agenda.

People have come together in 88 national consultations from civil society, academia, and the public and private sectors to discuss important themes, including inequalities, governance, education, health, and the environment, among others. Here in Uzbekistan a consultation on water related issues was held in March 2013. Through the global MY World on-line survey, more than five million people have shared their priorities. The proposal of the Open Working Group reflects much of the public feedback on priorities for the new agenda, including the call to “leave no one behind”, which came from all corners of the world.

As UNDP we believe it will be important for the post-2015 agenda to address the factors which perpetuate underdevelopment and cause development setbacks. High levels of extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated where there is conflict and/or poor governance, a weak state, low social cohesion, and/or high exposure to natural disasters. These factors can also drive setbacks in states which have made progress – but where there are underlying development weaknesses.

There are development solutions which help build better governance; establish the rule of law and human rights, including women’s rights; strengthen social cohesion and resilience to shocks; and build capacities for the peaceful mediation and resolution of differences. UNDP works around the world in these areas, and we see this work reinforcing our efforts on inclusive and sustainable growth.

The MDG experience suggests that the new agenda will be most powerful if it is measurable, clear and concise. That suggests that there is still work to be done in prioritising the new agenda.

Just as the Government of Uzbekistan developed national MDG targets, it may wish to take a similar approach with the SDGs. UNDP stands ready to support the government in its efforts.

Next July, a conference on financing for sustainable development will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This conference will be critical in ensuring that the issue of the ‘means of implementation’ is fully addressed.   Compared to the MDGs, the post-2015 agenda will be much more about making policy choices which are positive for development at the local, national, and global levels. The availability of official development assistance, however, will still be important for low income countries in particular. Overall, the commitment of developed countries to provide ODA at adequate levels is an important trust-building signal to developing countries.

UNDP and Uzbekistan

Looking ahead to the post-2015 era, UNDP stands committed to its work with the Government in the promotion of human and sustainable development in Uzbekistan.

The UN system in Uzbekistan is currently working with the Government to elaborate the next five years of our co-operation. Our agreement, when reached, will be stated in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for 2016-2020. The priorities of the Framework will be aligned with national policies and “Uzbekistan: Vision 2030”. It looks likely to focus on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic development and job creation, enhancing environmental management and resilience to disasters, and strengthening institutional capacity, human capital development, and support for the fulfillment of international legal commitments.

UNDP has wide ranging experience in the promotion of rule of law and in supporting countries to build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. Indeed, we support some 127 countries through the implementation of over 500 projects and initiatives covering various aspects of public administration and local governance.

We have good co-operation with the Academy of Public Administration here in Tashkent based on the Memorandum of Understanding between us. This MoU has provided a strong framework for working on institutional capacity development, effective governance, and contributing to sustainable development in Uzbekistan overall.

UNDP for many countries is a trusted partner in paving the way for systemic reforms aimed at improving management and executive decision-making, strengthening of good governance, and effective implementation of national reforms at all levels. We stand ready to support Uzbekistan in further areas of public administration reform.

In our work around the world, we have witnessed the importance of governments being perceived to be responsive to citizens’ needs and expectations, and being able to operate effectively to drive national development strategies. The quality of the civil service matters a great deal.

The way in which the public administration interacts with people, provides information, delivers services, and enables citizens to participate in the public policy debate has a direct impact on the way citizens perceive government.

UNDP stands ready to share its worldwide expertise and best practices in support of Uzbekistan’s public administration reform. In particular, we are committed to working with the Government in the following areas:

-         Strengthening anti-corruption policies and mechanisms;

-         Support for developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels;

-         Ensuring responsive and participatory decision-making at all levels;

-         Ensuring greater public access to information;

-         Supporting a professional civil service to play a key role in implementing the sustainable development agenda.

Ultimately, improving public management capacity is not an objective in itself, but a means for achieving the goal of advancing human development and building more stable, resilient, and inclusive societies. From our new Global Policy Centre for Public Service Excellence, based in Singapore, we aim to support countries to move to best practice in public administration.


In conclusion I would like to take this opportunity to thank all government counterparts, the people of Uzbekistan, and national and international development partners for the fruitful collaboration to date.

UNDP looks forward to working with you to accelerate Uzbekistan’s sustainable development ahead of the 2015 target date for the MDGs, and beyond.

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