United Nations Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative remarks at launch of the Uganda 2013 MDG Report , Kampala
Honorable Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development
Honorable Members of Parliament
The Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury at the Ministry of Finance
Representatives of Civil Society and the Private Sector
Members of the Diplomatic community and Development Partners in Uganda
In September 2000 Heads of State and Government representing 189 nations got together at the UN Millennium Summit in New York and pledged “to free the world from extreme poverty and other forms of deprivations” by 2015, as part of their “collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level”. This commitment was later reflected in the 8 Millennium Development Goals that bring us together here today.
As we near the 2015 deadline, countries around the world are assessing their performance in achieving these eight goals and, where necessary, stepping up measures to accelerate progress in lagging areas.
As the Uganda 2013 MDG progress report shows, Uganda has made considerable progress in achieving the MDGs, having already achieved 2 of its 17 MDG targets: halving the number of people living in absolute poverty and achieving debt sustainability; and is on track to achieve another 8. As we have heard this morning, despite these successes, there are a number of areas where progress remains slow, stagnant or is in reversal. Trends in maternal mortality and HIV-AIDS are particularly worrying, given their direct impact on the lives of so many Ugandans, particularly the future generation.
Everyday 16 Ugandan mothers die during pregnancy and childbirth from deaths which, in most cases, could have been prevented. At 438 deaths per 100,000 live births, Uganda’s Maternal Mortality Ratio is not only among the highest on the continent, but, frankly, is unacceptable in a country so blessed with natural and human resources. There are countries that register zero deaths of mothers.
In relation to HIV-AIDS, after decades leading global efforts to halt and bring down the spread of this pandemic, Uganda is currently experiencing worrying reversal trends. The HIV prevalence rate for Ugandans between the ages of 15 and 49 increased from 6.4% to 7.3% between 2004 and 2011, with 353 new infections taking place every day. And while improved access to ARV treatment has reduced the number of deaths associated with HIV/AIDS, still today, 60,000 Ugandans die from this disease every year. This compares to 15,000 to 20,000 deaths attributed to malaria in Uganda every year.
In both these cases, maternal mortality and HIV-AIDS, the medical causes and socioeconomic factors behind these trends are well known, as attested by the extensive research conducted for the 2013 Uganda MDG progress report. It is now time to take action to accelerate progress in both these areas and bring down maternal mortality and HIV-AIDS prevalence rates. We ask the Government of Uganda and, in particular, the Ministry of Finance, to put all resources available to this end.
Regarding maternal health, 3 strategic, low-cost and high-dividend interventions could significantly reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in the short term. These are family planning, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetrics care. If well financed, implemented and coordinated within a framework of a strong and accountable leadership, these interventions could go a long way in accelerating progress towards achieving MDG 5 in Uganda.
More specifically, these interventions need to be targeted at making Health Centre-IVs fully functional; providing support to a functional, motivated and community-based health workforce, the ‘Village Health Team’ and addressing the twin problem of teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Uganda; so as to maximize their impact.
In the area of HIV-AIDS there is an urgent need to reengage all Ugandans in a comprehensive sensitization campaign to promote behavioral change. We need to raise awareness, in this regard, of the new challenges that this disease poses to people of all ages and take immediate action to halt and reverse these trends. In the words of the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. Michel Sidibé:
‘Uganda brought hope to millions of people around the world. It showed the world that AIDS can be overcome and Africans can have access to treatment and prevention services. This hope was built on courage, strong leadership and partnership by the President. Uganda needs to bring back the courage and commitment of its early days to finish the job and have a generation born free from HIV’
The year 2015 will also mark a turning point in the global aid and development arena, with the international community set to decide on a new International Development Agenda that replaces the MDG framework in 2015. We believe that Government has rightly decided that in Uganda this new framework should be informed by Vision 2040, which articulates the country’s development agenda for the next generation.
Uganda’s aspirations for transformation from a peasant society to a modern and prosperous country within the next 30 years resonates strongly with the aspirations and achievements of countries such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and, in our continent, Mauritius or Botswana. In little more than a generation, these countries have moved up from the ranks of the least developing nations to middle and upper middle-income status, conforming with what is now commonly referred to as the Rising South. These are countries from which Uganda can draw important lessons in realizing Vision 2040.
As the 2013 Global Human Development Report by UNDP demonstrates, these countries have not only succeeded in dramatically increasing their Gross Domestic Product, but also in improving their human development. Their success has typically built on a drive to invest – with between 25% and 40% of their GDP devoted to investment. Indeed, these economies have heavily focused on infrastructure development. They have invested in roads, in railways networks, in ports, in urban development and in power generation. But they have also invested in people and their wellbeing.
China is a paradigmatic case, in this sense. Not only has it led this drive of the emerging south to invest and grow, but it has also been responsible for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty – 520 million between 1990 and 2010 (more than ten times the Ugandan population) and the main contributor to global progress on MDG1, which has already been attained. Today, China’s students top international education rankings, such as the PISA classification compiled by the OECD.
Countries such as Brazil, Mexico or India, on the other hand, have introduced innovative social protection schemes to ensure that no one is left behind in this process of socioeconomic transformation. These schemes, such as PROGRESA-OPORTUNIDADES in Mexico or BOLSA FAMILIA in Brazil, have not only provided a basic safety net to millions of people, but have also ensured that those in most need had access to comprehensive health coverage and education. The result has been a rapid increase in health, life expectancy and education attainment indicators. There is no evidence that these social investments have undermined economic development. On the contrary, it is evidenced that investing in people, enhances economic transformation.
Finally, the case of India, the largest democracy on the planet, and also that of Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia, show it is possible to grow and transform economies at a high pace, while investing in people’s engagement and participation, maintaining highly robust and accountable institutions of democratic governance. In fact, the available cross-country evidence is overwhelming in establishing a strong correlation between economic growth and the robustness of governance institutions, indicating that good governance is a precondition to growth and sustainable development. This necessarily includes waging a serious war against corruption.
In summary, these countries’ experiences demonstrate that transforming entire countries and societies within a generation, such as Uganda's ambition to do so by 2040, is not theoretical, but doable. What is required is a combination of inclusive growth strategies, pragmatic policies that respond to local conditions and opportunities, competent and effective bureaucracies, and robust public investment, including in health, education and social policy innovation.
It is important, however, that these benefits reach all, those living today as well as future generations, and that mechanisms are put in place that take care of those most in need, especially children, the elderly and people with disabilities. In Uganda, particular attention needs to be given to the plight of people living in Northern Uganda, which on all metrics presents the worst development indicators in the country, and where absolute poverty still afflicts almost one in every two persons. Efforts also need to be stepped up to preserve Uganda’s natural environment and rich biodiversity, including its forest and wetlands, on which the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren so much depends.
As positioned in Uganda's Vision 2040, The United Nations also believes that socioeconomic transformation that creates wealth and equitable opportunities for all constitutes the most effective way of attaining the aspirations of Ugandans for greater prosperity.
In this regard, let me reiterate on behalf of the United Nations in Uganda, our commitment to continue assisting the Government of Uganda, other national partners and, more generally, the Ugandan people in efforts to realize their collective vision of becoming a just, peaceful and prosperous country by 2040.
Let me conclude by thanking all those in government, academia and the United Nations, as well as the numerous development practitioners and stakeholders that, in one way or another, have taken part in the preparation of this report, and commend their excellent work.
More generally, let us recognize the role and celebrate the contribution of all development stakeholders here represented in this event for making possible for Uganda to come as far as it has in achieving the MDGs. I’d like to take this opportunity to request them-ourselves to continue supporting this worthy and noble enterprise. We're not done yet!
Doreen Kansiime, Communications Assistant, email@example.com