Published on 26th August 2013
The debate about what happens to the global development agenda after 2015 is in danger of “going to sleep” unless we make a real effort to keep the momentum going, according to Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.
During a conversation with VSA CEO Gill Greer in Wellington last Thursday, Ms Clark said that there had been a ferment of activity and public consultation about what would happen after the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is reached in 2015.
However, with two years still to run there is a danger the momentum will be lost.
“Phase 1 has now run its course, and the High Level Panel appointed to look at this issue has produced its report,” she said. “There is now a danger it will end up in the dustbin – there has to be way of keeping this very useful debate going.”
More than 150 people attended the conversation, the subject of which was The Future We Want: The Millennium Development Goals and Beyond. They included 25 student leaders from nine Wellington secondary schools, along with former VSA volunteers and representatives from organisations such as MFAT, UNICEF and Family Planning International.
Before the event began they were given a 60-cent lunch to help promote Live Below the Line, an annual fundraising event in which participants live on $2.25 a day – the equivalent of the extreme poverty line – for five days. VSA is one of eight partners supporting Live Below the Line 2013, which runs from September 23 to 27.
During the conversation Ms Clark discussed a wide range of issues, including the difficulty of making progress on MDG5 – to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare.
“One of the reasons is because of the status of women and girls in countries with high maternal mortality rates. Their purpose in life is to be subordinate in the household and in the community, to bear as many children as possible and have no choice about that, and they do not have any education.”
She said that in some countries where there had been an effort to accelerate progress on MDG5, such as Ghana, one of the sticking points was that those who were dying were girls aged 12 to 15.
“They should be going to school, not having babies.”
Ms Clark also said it was also vital to invest in young people, especially in developing countries where a large percentage of the population is young.
“If you invest in young people you get a tremendous democratic dividend. If you don’t you’re asking for trouble - if young people are disengaged, you have trouble.”
Among the questions from the audience was one from Wellington High School lead student Daisy Cadigan, who asked Ms Clark how she had coped with sexism in the media when she was Prime Minister.
“It took a while,” she said, to laughter from the audience. “You have to keep a clear vision, build alliances and keep a deaf ear to silliness."