Check against delivery
Secretary-General, Your Highness, Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like begin by expressing my gratitude to all those who have contributed to the global leaders report on MDG efforts, which is being launched at this breakfast meeting today. You have generously shared of your national or institutional experience from 14 years of MDG work. Thanks to you, the lessons gained are now available for everyone.
One of the contributors is Malala Yousafzai, an incredibly brave champion of girls’ education. Her story reminds us of the need to stand firm against all those who wish to keep girls from getting their rightful education. Malala could not be here today, but let me quote what she writes at the end of her contribution to the report: “Education first! Education first! Education first!”
I have been informed that Malala is at school, enjoying her right to education together with her schoolmates, as we meet here today. Let us give her a big round of applause!
Having read the report, my overall conclusion is that economic growth in combination with targeted priorities in national budgets has given impressive results as we work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
When celebrating progress, however, we should remind ourselves that there are not conducive conditions for development in nations torn by war and conflict. In fact, not a single vulnerable state has achieved any of the MDGs. The grim reality is that in some conflict-ridden states the situation is even deteriorating.
As we meet here in New York, millions of people are suffering tremendously from grave humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, as well as in many other countries. That is why my message today focuses on how this affects the MDG process and what we must do to achieve and safeguard results.
The MDG process, with its clear and measurable goals, has taught us that crisis and conflict are the enemy of poverty eradication, development and human rights. After 14 years of MDG efforts, this is a well-documented lesson. MDG results stagnate or decline wherever armed conflict takes place. While conflicts may ignite quickly, creating peace and rebuilding societies is very time consuming. Killing, maiming and destruction often perpetuate themselves in a vicious circle, while the aspirations and hopes of girls, boys, women and men are put on hold – often for decades.
We must do everything we can to prevent and end conflicts. At the same time, we should ensure that the generations of people living through the hardships of conflict can access their right to education and health. This should be an automatic and integrated element in all humanitarian responses to crises and conflict.
I do not think we have explored all the avenues to make progress towards the MDGs for people living in conflict situations where states lack the capacity to deliver services. The issue is of course access. Part of the solution to the access problem may be found within the local communities that are affected. Through broad partnerships involving local religious partners and other community leaders, we can support and strengthen community approaches to education and health and help prevent so-called lost generations. National governments that would have delivered basic health and education services in peaceful circumstances must be on board to supervise community approaches.
While trying out new and innovative methods, we must be mindful of another fact. Wherever people suffer, girls and marginalised groups suffer the most. As we approach the MDG target date, and with a growing number of people suffering the hardships of humanitarian emergencies, we should pay extra attention to the rights and needs of girls, as well as to those of indigenous peoples and individuals with disabilities.
Those who take part in humanitarian responses to crisis and conflict have told me that education is the weakest link in the chain whenever people live on the brink of existence. It is not acceptable that we neglect children’s right to education while supporting life-saving interventions. We must be able to pursue at least two objectives at the same time.
In closing, I would like to assure you that I intend to act in accordance with this message. My Government, in its recent white paper on education for development, has pledged that Norway will help to bring quality education to a million more children in conflict areas.