I welcome the opportunity to review progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and to identify steps we might take that will improve progress.
I come from the South Pacific – a region that according to recent reports sits second only to sub-Saharan Africa in terms of lack of progress towards achievement of some of the Millennium Development Goals.
New Zealand is a small nation of four and half million people. We have limited resources. We cannot be major players in development assistance on a global scale. And so we have decided increasingly to deploy our resources within our region, where they are most needed and where we can make a difference. Those resources are greatly needed within our region.
The effects of the global economic crisis have been severe even for the most robust of Pacific states. Budget support has been required by many. Other forms of supplementary support have also been required. But that is at the easy end of the spectrum.
At the tougher end of the range we have places like South Tarawa in Kiribati, with 50,000 people crowded onto a narrow atoll with a population density similar to downtown Hong Kong, in poor housing, frequently with highly polluted water, minimal sanitation, minimal solid waste disposal and with all of the attendant health and humanitarian challenges you would expect as a consequence.
Given its position only a couple of metres above sea level, Kiribati is better known in this forum for its climate change challenges. But climate change is merely one of the challenges confronted by the Government and people of Kiribati. This and other parts of the South Pacific remain at the very lowest end of the register in relation to some MDG outcomes.
You might observe that given the population levels in our region, we are dealing with small numbers. These are problems that should lend themselves to relatively easy solutions. But they have not and they do not.
Some will suggest that it is merely a matter of more money being provided, of donors being asked to dig deeper. Despite the effects of the global economic crisis, most nations are digging deeper. New Zealand is digging deeper. But more money alone will not solve these problems. We need a much greater focus on aid effectiveness. And we need to place a much higher premium on donor co-ordination.
On this latter point, New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Cairns Compact which we hope will lead to a significant lift in donor coordination in our region. Already we have achieved a high level of coordination with our friends and neighbours in Australia in relation to our shared work within the region. But we have a long way to go to achieve better harmonization of efforts amongst donors generally.
With regard to aid effectiveness, without in any way diminishing the health and humanitarian programmes we continue to support, we have decided to focus on sustainable economic development – in particular on the building blocks for sustainable economic development in the region.
Already we are significant funders of education within the South Pacific. We want to do more of it and do it better, especially basic literacy and numeracy. We are substantially upgrading our efforts in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and in tourism. In each of these sectors, Pacific nations have considerable potential for economic growth. We are trying to remove the barriers to trade, so that we can start to correct the major trade imbalances within the region. And we are giving serious attention to transport infrastructure, air and sea – these are the essential arteries for tourism and trade.
A major feature of all small Pacific states is that their economies suffer severely because of a dependence upon electricity generated from imported diesel – usually at a far greater cost than would be encountered elsewhere. We are trying to drive a major programme of investment in renewable energy infrastructure, especially solar and wind. This is essential to achieve both climate change and economic objectives.
My final point, Mr President, is to echo the sentiment expressed by other speakers who have called for follow up actions to match the fine words we have heard in this session.
I share the optimism of those who believe we can make better, faster progress. But it will not be because we have established new committees, or new procedures, developed new slogans or new acronyms. We need to get more practical – to focus on outcomes, not process. And we need more cooperation and less duplication. That is the essential challenge we now confront.