UN Day 2012: The Future We Want - Speech by Mr. David McLachlan-Karr, UN Resident Coordinator

24 Oct 2012

Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Ministers of the Government of Papua New Guinea, Members of Parliament, Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Representatives of Development Partners, of Civil Society Organizations, of the Churches, of the Media, Ladies and Gentleman.

On behalf of the United Nations, we are pleased to welcome you here tonight to celebrate the 67th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations Organization. We would  like to congratulate Prime Minister O’Neill and his new Government on the recent election, and we are delighted to be celebrating this occasion with so many new MPs.

Let me recognise the members of the UN family that are present with us this evening:

  • Dr. William Adu-Krow, WHO
  • Mr. Baba Danbappa, UNICEF
  • Dr. Gilbert Hiawalyer, UNFPA
  • Ms. Burgi Englebrecht, UNHCR
  • Ms. Carol Flore, UNDP
  • Mr. Joep Roest, UNCDF
  • Ms. Christina Saunders, OHCHR
  • Mr. Ruger Kahwa, OCHA

They join me in making you all very welcome.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the UN was created to promote peace, social development and human rights for all. Soon after independence in 1975, Papua New Guinea joined the UN and for many years has been an active and dynamic member of the UN family - that today numbers 193 nations.

I would like to applaud the statements made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Hon. Rimbink Pato, at the UN General Assembly in New York last month. In particular I would note the Government’s commitment to a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on corruption at all institutional levels in PNG.  The creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption will go a long way to giving teeth to PNG ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption.  In a similar vein, we salute the PNG Government’s commitment to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to promote gender equality and human rights - through the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.  We also note PNG’s rededication to achieving the MDGs, especially those pertaining to literacy and maternal and child health and the government’s strong support for reform of the UN System.

In turn, the UN is committed to working closely alongside the PNG Government, and with all our development partners, to find solutions and bring about sustainable development in PNG.  In March this year, the UN agencies. funds and programmes in PNG signed the UN Development Assistance Framework UNDAF – the cornerstone of our collective work – for the period 2012-2015.  The UNDAF is closely aligned with national development aspirations of the Medium-term Development Plan 2011-2015, the Development Strategic Plan and the Vision 2050.

Under the rubric of the UNDAF, the UN will work in partnership with the Government of PNG in such areas as:

  • promoting access to education for all,
  • developing health care – especially for the rural majority – and combating HiV and other diseases,
  • on improving the capacity of the public service to deliver on basic services in ALL provinces,
  • on making PNG a safer society through work with the police and security forces
  • on promoting gender, human and child rights - including for women and girls to live lives free of violence,
  • making PNG more resilient to climate change and better prepared to face natural disasters and
  • to protect this country’s pristine and rich environment and cultural heritage.

Ladies and Gentlemen: As you can see, we work across a broad range of development spheres, and we have forged strong bonds and built close working relationships throughout the country.  As we work in partnership with the Government towards achieving the MDGs, it is also time to reflect on the achievements that have been made and to look forward towards a new set of norms and benchmarks for development in the post-2015 period.

The Millennium Development Goals have made a huge impact in the lives of billions; extreme poverty around the world has been cut in half since the year 2000, literacy has risen and maternal mortality rates have fallen worldwide. But there is still much more to be done to address poverty, disease and environmental degradation, especially here in PNG.

With the 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaching, we must accelerate our efforts to meet those targets, but we must also prepare a bold and practical post-2015 agenda. We must build on the progress made by the MDGs, but also examine what didn’t work and confront the new challenges facing PNG with an understanding of what we can do better.

The framework must be concrete, inspirational and embrace all people and all opportunities.  It needs to reflect new development challenges, and be based upon the three key pillars identified at the Rio + 20 Summit this year: the need for economic growth to move hand-in-hand with social protection and environmental sustainability.

This is particularly relevant now with PNG on the cusp of a major resources boom.  LNG and other extractive industries will give this nation access to unprecedented revenues – wealth that if invested wisely, will be the future driver for development in this country.  It is now paramount that PNG embrace sustainable practices across all areas of development based on the twin principles of inclusive growth and equity; that is, development outcomes that reach the 85% of people living in remote and rural areas, as well as the cities, and is designed to ensure an equitable re-disbursement of wealth across the country.

I am delighted to inform that PNG has been chosen as one of only 50 countries to conduct national consultation on the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda. This recognizes the powerful role that PNG holds as a leader in the Pacific, and the potential it has to be a leader on the world stage in the years to come.

The global development framework after 2015 must be ambitious and relevant to all people and societies. The process must be open and inclusive and it will be important that the dialogue is bottom-up and not top-down so that the voices of all Papua New Guineans are heard.  Nearly half of PNG citizens are under the age of 25; it is their future we are planning for and so we want to know what is most important to them, alongside other groups who are often not heard in the public policy debate: such as rural women and those living with disabilities.

Papua New Guineans are a resourceful people, who are adept at finding as many solutions as there are problems. We want to hear from as many of them as possible. We want to know what their priorities are; what will make their lives better and what they think are the barriers and challenges that are standing in the way of progress.

In the last two weeks various senior UN staff have been visiting high schools around Port Moresby. We have been sharing our experiences of working for the UN and asking the students to tell us ‘What is the future you want?’ You can see some of their responses on the ‘Future We Want in PNG’ wall we have over here to the side, and we encourage you all to add your own comments to it.

The students supplied some fantastic responses, many citing anti-corruption and education, jobs and infrastructure (roads and bridges) as priorities, but one of my favourites came from Jonah, 14 years old, from Carr Memorial High School. In response to the question ‘What is the future you want’, Jonah simply replied ‘I want to be a better person in the future.’ It is Jonah, and his classmates, who will be carrying the post-2015 agenda forward, and with responses like this I know PNG is in safe hands.

In conclusion, let me invite all of you to become part of our national dialogue in the coming weeks and months.  The PNG contribution will be a valuable feed into an extremely important global policy debate on development model of the future: “The Future We Want” at the UN General Assembly next year.  With that, I am pleased to publicly launch this dialogue tonight.   Thank you.