Opening Remarks by UNDP Country Director Elena Tischenko
ESCAP/RCG Partnership Dialogue on Developing and Implementing MDG-based National Development Strategies in the Asia-Pacific Region
13-15 December 2010
Excellency Chhay Than, Senior Minister and Minister of Planning, Royal Government of Cambodia
Excellencies, distinguished guests, UN colleagues, and participants,
It is my pleasure to welcome you here this morning to take part in this important dialogue. For UNDP, accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is at the core of who we are and what we do. So it is very exciting for us to be part of this discussion on how we can better align national development strategies with MDG achievement. On this, I would like to commend Cambodia, who has aligned its own National Strategic Development Plan with achieving these goals.
2010 represents an important milestone: we now have less than five years to go to meet the MDG targets. It is crucial that all actors – government, development partners, the private sector and civil society - garner their resources and knowledge and work to achieve the MDGs at the regional, sub-regional, country and sub-national level. UNDP enjoys good partnership with ADB and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific on this issue and one of its regional outputs is a flagship Regional Report on MDGs. This year’s report was launched at the MDG Summit in New York.
This Regional report identifies progress made on MDGs, the gaps that remain, the challenges we collectively face and the areas of focus as we move towards achieving the MDGs in East and Southeast Asia. I would like to address these this morning.
As the Secretary General’s Global MDG report for 2010 highlights, Asia has made the most progress compared to all other regions.
East and Southeast Asia, as a sub-region, has made substantial progress on a number of MDG targets including poverty, primary education enrollment, and gender equality; additionally, Asia has been an early achiever in reversing the spread of HIV-AIDS, and reducing the incidence and prevalence of TB. Perhaps more importantly, some countries in East and Southeast Asia region have made tremendous progress at the country level in achieving many of the MDG targets and, as a consequence, have gone beyond and introduced additional development goals. It is worth mentioning East Asia’s unprecedented performance in reducing poverty. In sum, this sub-region is well on its way towards achieving a number of MDGs by 2015.
However, looking beyond the regional and country averages, there are significant gaps in MDG achievement at the sub-national and local level. Also, the sub-region is still lagging on a number of health targets, and can do much more on the environment front; carbon emissions have doubled since 1990 . There are also pockets of poverty and hunger—19 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line ($ 1.25) while 14 percent are undernourished . Moreover, significant disparities exist at the country level, where some regions (within countries) are faring much better than others. Major urban centers, such as Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, and even Phnom Penh, represent much of the wealth for their respective countries, with much more still to be done to improve the living conditions of people in rural and remote areas. Due to migratory pressures, there are a growing number of urban poor, whose basic needs are not being met.
The recent series of crises has hampered progress on several fronts, including MDG achievement. High food prices have severely impacted the poor, especially those living in food importing countries. The price of oil, which still remains relatively high, is an added burden as it pushes up the price of basic staples. And while this sub-region has fared well during the recent global economic downturn, the impact of this crisis is still being felt and the recovery process is likely to drag on. Many workers in key manufacturing and services industries lost their jobs, especially women and those employed in the informal sector. And adding to this long list, natural disasters have been more frequent in recent years—leading to loss of lives, and increased social and economic vulnerability.
Areas of Focus
In the absence of basic social safety nets, these series of shocks and crises have left the poor extremely vulnerable. We need better targeted social protection programmes to feed the hungry, to offer employment, and to provide conditional and unconditional cash transfers where necessary. At the same time, we need to expand coverage of the social safety net to include the most vulnerable—in particular women, children, and those employed in the informal sector, and more generally, the urban and rural poor. Currently, social protection programmes cover only 30 percent of the population in the sub-region . However, the sub-region boasts some good examples such as conditional cash transfers in Indonesia and Cambodia and the universal health scheme in Thailand. A number of countries also incorporated social protection schemes as part of their recent stimulus packages.
Ensuring employment and decent work, especially during the recovery process, will be essential in cementing a more secure future. A number of countries have also used their stimulus packages to boost employment and such measures have paid dividends. It is therefore important to also develop the capacity of local institutions to address these multifaceted and context-specific challenges so that ensuring employment and providing other forms of social protection become a permanent feature. The true challenge will be achieving the MDGs at the sub-national level, where delivery mechanisms for the provision of essential and basic social services will have to be further strengthened.
Greener and more Inclusive Growth:
As the sub-region continues to record impressive rates of growth, we should collectively ensure that this growth is not only equitable and benefits the poorer segments of society, but is also more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We need to reconsider our use of energy resources. We need to build cleaner transport systems, and adopt better urban planning and management to protect the region's dwindling water and other natural resources. In sum, we need to mitigate the effects and adapt to the possibilities of climate change while sustaining broad-based economic growth.
We are just five years from the MDG deadline and much work remains to be done. We have come together here—colleagues from different UN agencies along with our regional and national development partners—to support the region’s governments to achieve the MDGs. Let us work more closely using common platforms to share knowledge and monitor progress and, most importantly, work together at the country level to accelerate progress towards achieving development results.