Statement by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council to the United Nations, at Informal Plenary on MDG Summit

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 29, 2010


Mr. Chairman, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a fundamental symbol of our common humanity. They represent a collective commitment to promote global development, eradicate poverty, and extend opportunity to the world’s poorest people.  The MDGs and their respective targets also provide a common framework to coordinate and track the progress of international development.  As President Obama underscored in his address last September to the General Assembly, the United States fully embraces the MDGs. 

Important progress has been made toward meeting the MDGs in much of the world. These achievements are real, and they are testimony to the efforts of countries that have not only achieved sustained growth, but have embraced inclusive human development as a priority and ensured that the benefits of progress are widely shared.  The 2010 milestone is an opportunity to celebrate the extension of opportunity and hope and to deepen global cooperation, based on mutual respect and accountability.

We must also acknowledge that progress on the Millennium Development Goals has varied dramatically across countries and regions.  Moreover, the road ahead is likely to be even more difficult than the road already traveled.  The remaining poor will be harder to reach because many face deep-seated social exclusion or reside in conflict-affected or fragile states.  In addition, we need to redouble efforts to build momentum towards some of the goals, such as those related to maternal and child health.   Substantial progress must be sought in all countries. 

Our preparations for the September High-Level Plenary on the MDGs provide a critical opportunity to build support for a more determined, more strategically-minded and more analytically-grounded approach to the MDGs.   The United States sees four principles as critical to making more rapid progress in the next five years:

First, we need to focus on development outcomes, not just development dollars;
Second, we must enhance national ownership and mutual accountability among development partners, not only in principle but also in practice;
Third, we need to invest in making development gains sustainable; and
Fourth, we need to make more effective use of innovation and other force multipliers, to maximize the impact of our efforts. 

While development resources and ODA are an important element of development, in the end, it is the results that matter.  We should make better use of the growing body of empirical evidence on what works and what does not to improve the likelihood of achieving our objectives.  Moreover, short-term development gains achieved in the name of the MDGs will be of little value if they prove unsustainable.   The United States seeks to sustain development goals by helping foster indigenous capacity for innovation, continuing to promote economic growth by investing in good governance and by assisting countries in generating long-term development resources.  In addition, by supporting the creation of robust service-delivery systems and helping countries seek ways to mitigate the impact of external shocks we can help them protect hard-won development progress. Only when MDG gains are firmly rooted in strong political will, well-governed institutions and sound policies and practices, will they be sustainable into 2015 and beyond.

The U.S. is committed to working with global partners, but this requires a commitment to mutual accountability.  Donors must meet their aid commitments and seek to do so in a way that minimizes transaction costs and volatility in development financing.  Equally important, recipients must develop and implement strong national plans for making progress on the MDGs, and must be accountable for the transparent management and effective use of both donor resources and their own resources.  We have made improvements in these areas in recent years but more needs to be done to strengthen our commitment to and trust in one another.

Meeting the MDGs will require historic leaps in human development and the U.S. will focus on innovation as a key means of accelerating progress toward achieving the MDGs.  We will embrace the development of new technologies, approaches, and methods to address human development needs, and look to apply existing technologies, approaches, and methods in novel ways.  We will draw on America’s strong tradition of development through innovation to support research in science and technology; build innovative partnerships; strengthen monitoring, measurement, and evaluation of development interventions; and empower people through information.

We will apply the principles as we continue to roll out two major initiatives aimed at alleviating health and food security challenges that for those most vulnerable globally remain fundamental to  pursuing opportunities and contributing to inclusive growth.  Without healthy and well fed populations, it is hard to imagine progress in other goals.  President Obama’s $63 billion comprehensive Global Health Initiative is promoting a new model that advances an effective, efficient and country-led platform for essential health care and public health programs to achieve significant and sustainable health improvements.  Additionally, the President’s $3.5 billion commitment to food security supports a global $22 billion initiative, bringing additional resources and better multi-lateral coordination around five key principles to the fight against global hunger and towards increased food security.

As we enter negotiations on the outcome document for the September High-Level MDG Plenary, the United States hopes that the productive atmosphere that has marked our deliberations so far will continue, and that we can use the next two months to work together in pursuit of our common goal of achieving the MDGs.  We believe that this process should aim at producing a concise and meaningful political document that provides a compelling vision of how the global community intends to move forward in the next five years.

This will not be an easy task.  We need to resist, in particular, the temptation to negotiate an outcome document that provides overly prescriptive and detailed plans for making progress on each individual MDG.   While achieving the MDGs is a global imperative, experience has shown that practical progress depends on efforts at the national and local level.  The challenges, approaches and results can vary so widely at the local, national and regional level that we cannot hope to capture them comprehensively in an outcome document.  If we value the principle of national ownership, we should leave more specific MDG strategies for the next five years to be developed at the by each country in cooperation with global development partners.

The outcome document should instead take a holistic approach that emphasizes the importance of making progress on all of the MDGs, while acknowledging that progress on certain Goals, such as those related to health and education, can have a positive impact on the MDGs as a whole.  It should emphasize the importance of cross-cutting issues such as gender and good governance.  We also must broaden our discussion of funding beyond a government-to-government paradigm to the new reality that includes a much wider array of private, public and non-governmental actors and multiple sources of development financing.  

We would like to thank the Secretary-General as well as UNDP and the other funds, programs, and specialized agencies that have provided us with valuable evidence-based reporting and analysis in support of this process.  We will undoubtedly continue to benefit from your insights and counsel in coming months.

Success or failure on the MDGs will be defined not by the promises we make, but by the results we collectively generate on the ground. Over the last ten years, the world has made significant progress on the ambitious goals we set for ourselves in 2000.  Over the next five years, we will face the more challenging and more urgent task of accelerating this progress while ensuring that no one is left behind.  The U.S. is committed to continuing our work with other UN Member States and other partners around the world to make the Millennium Development Goals a reality for all.  Thank you.


PRN: 2010/076