Historical archive

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Speech to the UN on the Millennium Development Goals

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of International Development Hilde F. Johnsons address on the status of Norway's contribution to the realization of the eight Millennium Development Goals on the 29 October. (01.11)

Minister of International Development Hilde F. Johnson

Speech to the UN on the Millennium Development Goals

New York, 29 October 2004

Mr. Chairman

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this audience.

Globalization is a fact of life. We see it around us every day – in what we eat, in what we wear, in the work we do. We can communicate around the world in an instant – by cell phone, by e–mail. The Internet gives us access to more information than we will ever need. The effects are enormous. The benefits are everywhere. Almost everywhere.

For half the world’s population these benefits are completely out of reach. We all know that 1.2 billion people are living on less than a dollar a day. The same number lack safe water, twice this number lack adequate sanitation. At the current rate it will take 130 years to eradicate hunger. This is the greatest challenge facing our generation.

Four years ago, at the turn of the millennium, the world community made an important promise to the world’s poor. World leaders joined together and made a solemn pledge to end extreme poverty and hunger. They agreed that the status quo is not acceptable. They – we – agreed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We promised sweeping changes – not just more development aid or minor adjustments of policy. We promised to deliver on the MDGs – not just to support them as long as they did not encroach on our own benefits. We were not merely submitting to a momentary feeling of charity. We, the leaders of the world’s nations, gave our word that this time it would be different. This time, we would not give up until the fight was won.

Both rich and poor nations have entered into this global partnership – to fight poverty. In Monterrey, the poor countries committed themselves to improving their governance. We – the rich countries – committed ourselves to improving our policies and providing more resources. And the deadline is 2015 – the deadline for all of us. We all have to deliver. This is the global bargain. We made a deal – now we have to live up to it. MDG 8 speaks directly to us in the rich part of the world – and to our commitment to improve on our own policies in all areas.

Poverty is an overwhelming enemy. The fight can only be won when the world community unites, when all of us pull in the same direction. Poverty cannot be ended – the MDGs cannot be reached – unless we are able to count on the maximum efforts of all countries. Therefore, we need a global reform agenda.

Firstly, we need to see reforms in international framework conditions. If we in the developed world do not allow easier access to markets and reduce the debt burden of the poorest countries, we will fail. There are many statistics illustrating this and proving the injustice of the current system.

Even if we do the right things in these areas, this will not be sufficient to reach the Millennium Development Goals. We need more and better aid. This is the second area of reform.

Another USD 50 billion in aid per year is necessary. According to UN statistics, the world’s total military spending amounted to USD 850 billion in 2002. The same year ODA amounted to USD 60 billion. We have to use our resources right. But we do not only need more aid, we need better aid. We need to improve the way we work. We need donor reform.

If we do all these things right, in trade and debt, in aid and aid reform, if we keep our part of the bargain, we will still not succeed in reducing poverty if the developing countries themselves fail to keep their part of the bargain. If we are dealing with a completely corrupt government, if national policies only benefit the few, if government institutions do not work, there is not much we can do.

Therefore, we need a fourth area of reform: governance. Poor countries need to put their own house in order, to improve their policies and their governance. No amount of development dollars or kroner can do much without it. At the same time, we know that public funds and policies will never be enough to lift the world’s poor out of poverty. We need to work with the private sector and civil society, to unleash their potential for poverty reduction. We have to reform the way we work with these actors to make that happen.

In a recent white paper, Fighting poverty together, the Norwegian government has spelled out this agenda. Here, we try to deliver on our part of the bargain. But we are not there yet. There are still gaps in resource provision, and deficiencies in certain policy areas. That is why we believe it is so important for us to report on our performance. MDG 8 reporting helps us deliver better.

Because it is not fair, Mr. Chairman, to hold developing countries to a higher standard than the rich world in delivery on the Millennium Goals. All countries should report, all countries need to be monitored. The World Monitoring Report of the World Bank and the UN-supported national reports are supposed to ensure this. The spotlight must therefore be on us – the rich countries – in national reporting as well. We need national MDG reports on what we do – and what we do not do.

Today, Mr. Chairman, I have the pleasure of presenting the Norwegian MDG 8 report. I am pleased to say that Norway joins Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden in issuing such a report. The EU has a similar report under way. I hope to see many more such reports before the high-level meeting on the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs next year.

So how are we doing? What does Norway’s report show?

It shows commitment:

  • We are committing ourselves to regular reporting on policy coherence and following the OECD’s checklist on policy coherence.

It shows delivery on framework conditions:

  • In trade Norway has abolished all duties and quotas for all products from the least developed countries. This was done in 2003, without exceptions or transitional arrangements.
  • We are improving access for imports from other developing countries.
  • We will overhaul our already very favorable General System of Preferences.
  • We are ready to abolish export subsidies as part of a negotiated solution in the WTO.
  • But we still have a long way to go as regards market access for other developing countries. We will engage constructively in the WTO round to ensure a result that benefits these countries.

In debt relief Norway is again at the forefront. In 2004 we presented our second, revised, Plan of Action for Debt Relief. The policy of forgiving debt without making inroads on the development budget will be continued. This aspect of our policy is unique. We are writing off 100 per cent of HIPC countries’ debt to Norway. This is purely additional to our development aid.

We are delivering on development aid:

Norway aims to increase development aid to 1 per cent of GNI and to maintain this assistance at least at this level. The budget proposal for 2005 therefore represents an increase in the volume of development assistance of more than 10 per cent compared with 2004 and our assistance will, subject to parliamentary approval, reach 0.95 per cent in 2005.

More aid is not enough – better aid is needed. Norway is fully committed to the harmonization agenda:

  • More of our aid is provided as program and budget support.
  • We are increasing the use of delegated cooperation and silent partnerships.

We are also examining how we can deliver better in other policy areas important to developing countries:

Let me give you three examples from our MDG 8 report on policy coherence:

  • Firstly, external investment: From this year, investments by the Norwegian Petroleum Fund are screened according to a set of ethical guidelines. We are ensuring that the fund does not invest in companies that violate human rights or basic humanitarian principles or in companies that engage in gross corruption or activities that contribute to serious environmental degradation.
  • Secondly, addressing the supply end of international corruption and money laundering: Norway is actively supporting international initiatives against corruption and money laundering, and has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. Norwegian anti-corruption legislation also applies to the activities of Norwegian companies abroad. In addition, we assist partner countries in fighting corruption, building capacity and improving governance.
  • Thirdly, addressing environmental problems that adversely affect developing countries: Norway is a major producer of oil and natural gas and therefore generates significant emissions of greenhouse gases. We are working hard to reduce these emissions, for example through a carbon tax, and are assisting developing countries in their efforts in this area, for example by supporting emissions trading and other measures that can reduce emissions worldwide.

Other areas of policy coherence will also be addressed, and reflected in future reports.

Mr. Chairman,

If the poor had a penny for every time a member of the UN has promised help, they would have been quite well off by now. This time it must be different. Now is the time for deeds, not words.

And two things are different this time: firstly, we have witnessed an unprecedented level of commitment. Changes are under way in policies and resource flows. And secondly, we have agreed on a system where we will all be held accountable if we fall behind.

Here, all countries must be willing to provide information and be monitored. This is the best way to prevent the MDGs from joining the numerous other poverty promises made by UN member countries over the years and that have amounted to very little.

To quote a Sudanese friend: “The words will fly away like beautiful birds in the sky.” Beautiful words are a good beginning – but hardly enough to fight poverty and reach the MDGs. We need results on the ground. We need to monitor our progress. In short: we need to deliver on our promises. Only then will globalization benefit all, not only the few.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.