Grynspan: Policy Dialogue on Zambia's Millennium Development Goals

05 May 2011

Keynote speech by Rebeca Grynspan
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator

on the Policy Dialogue on MDGs in Zambia
Lusaka, Zambia

Honourable Deputy Minister of Finance and National Planning, Mr. David Phiri,
Honourable Ministers from all sectors here present,
Honourable Governor of the Bank of Zambia, Dr. Caleb Fundanga,
Honourable Regional Coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Mr Mwape Sichilongo,
Honourable Ambassadors, Government Officials and Cooperating Partners,
UN colleagues, members of Civil Society, NGOs, Academia and the media,

I am delighted to join you today for this policy dialogue on Zambia’s Millennium Development Goals. I appreciate the opportunity to hear the main findings of the MDG’s latest draft report prepared by the Government with the support of UNDP.

Let me start by saying that Zambia has made impressive progress in enrolling more children in primary education, reducing malnutrition, stepping up the fight against malaria. The economic achievements are also to be highlighted: high rates of economic growth and low rates of inflation are preconditions for human development. However, there is still a way to go to meet all the international and national goals agreed by the country, in particular on reducing maternal mortality, ensuring environmental sustainability, and halving new HIV infections; these targets are reachable but need additional efforts to make it happen. It is commendable also the work and the energy Zambia is investing to meet its own MDGs as set out in your Sixth National Development Plan.

Evidence gathered from around the world, by UNDP and other partners, reveals that there is a range of tried and tested policies which, adapted to national contexts, and with the right leadership, capacity and funding to implement them, will accelerate MDG progress. The question now is how this evidence can be put into practice.

This dialogue, here today, represents a strategic opportunity for the Government and Zambia’s society at large, together with a diverse range of key development actors, to focus on how Zambia can do just this. To explore which are the lagging MDGs and what can be done to overcome the bottlenecks that are preventing progress and may hinder the possibilities to achieve the targets by 2015.

I will focus my remarks on the global and regional trends that can serve as a yardstick for Zambia’s progress and the lessons learnt from MDG experiences around the world which usefully illustrate what is possible – and is best avoided.

Global and regional context


The world has made considerable progress toward many of the MDGs. According to the recently released IMF/World Bank report ‘Improving the Odds of Achieving the MDGs’ of those developing countries that were lagging behind, over half are now on track to achieving many of the goals.

We know from our Human Development Report that people today, overall, are on average healthier, better educated, and wealthier than ever before. Since 1970, average life expectancy has risen from 59 to 70 years. School enrolment has grown from 55 to 70 percent. Per capita world average incomes have doubled to more than $10,000 per annum in real terms.

In Sub-Saharan Africa life expectancy rose by eight years since 1970, and school enrolment has more than doubled from 26 percent to 54 and although extreme poverty rate peaked in sub-Saharan Africa in the late 1990s at more than 58 percent rapid growth contributed to reducing the extreme poverty rate to approximately fifty percent by 2005.

Africa is now well positioned for development breakthroughs.

Breakthroughs will be needed to overcome the remaining challenges that have moved too slow and unevenly across the continent.

But at the same time, in driving forward efforts to reduce extreme poverty and build resilient economies, much inspiration can be found in Africa. Botswana has been one of the fastest growing economies since the early 1970s. Zambia grew at 7.6 percent last year, Ghana has reduced extreme poverty from over 50 percent in 1992 to 30 percent in 2006. Ethiopia has been successful in both sustaining one of the highest growth rates in Africa and in rapidly reducing poverty. We think Zambia can and will do the same under the SNDP.

It is important for Zambia to draw on the evidence of how to achieve more inclusive growth combining dynamic growth with fast poverty reduction, we think that this can be achieved and the Sixth National Development Plan is a big step forward if fully implement not only as a Government as a “STATE” policy with a long term view and a common purpose for all of society.

Let me turn briefly to the Lessons for MDG acceleration

UNDP, in its efforts to support countries around the world to make MDG progress undertook an International Assessment of what takes to achieve the MDGs. By drawing on evidence from more than fifty countries, we identified eight reoccurring drivers of MDG progress.

First development must be country-led —with effective governance and domestic strategies that encourage participation, and strengthen the transparency, accountability and responsiveness of national institutions.

The MDGs are not prescribed development choices. To be effective, each country has to decide for itself, what works for their specific needs —taking into account their own context. For Zambia, the challenges and opportunities include the quickly evolving effects of climate change, global price fluctuations in the price of copper, the devastating impact of HIV&AIDS and the rapidly changing reality of development finance.

Second inclusive economic growth is critical. MDG progress requires competitive and resilient economies capable of sustaining high levels of growth, but growth alone is not enough, the win win formula is inclusive growth. The evidence is clear. Too many people are left behind —unable to benefit from economic growth, or to access the services they need to improve their lives, particularly, women, youth and the rural poor. Focusing on global or even national average rates of progress can be misleading —leading us to what have been called the ‘tyranny of averages’— where we cannot see the significant disparities between communities, districts and social groups.

Strong institutions and smart policies are needed to ensure that the benefits of growth reach poor communities and people. Growth must translate into new opportunities for decent employment, and increased incomes for small farmers. Improvements in agricultural productivity and rural infrastructure are important for overcoming stark rural-urban divides.

Zambia’s growth rate of over 7 percent in 2010 is a very positive sign. The effort has now to make it sustainable and shared.

Third, MDG progress is accelerated whencountries increase their investments in education, health, water, sanitation and infrastructure. Sufficient public funds are needed to ensure the availability of skilled health workers, eliminate user fees and providing free access to HIV treatment.

We know the MDGs will not be achieved if HIV is not dealt with effectively. According to the Zambia Health and Demographic survey of 2007, the current prevalence rate in the productive age group 15-49 is 14.3 percent —down from just over 16 percent in 2002. But, it is that there are still 85,000 new infections a year. That is 226 new infections a day

Fourth – Empowering women and girls is a powerful driver of progress across ALL the Goals. Gender equality brings multiple benefits. Children born to women with some formal education are more likely to survive to their fifth birthday, receive adequate nutrition, and be immunized and enrolled in school.

Countries that empower women and close gaps in women and girl’s health and education, and eliminate discrimination, have an opportunity to reap huge development dividends.

Zambia has made important efforts in this regards but can still gain a lot by increasing women’s share of wage employment —currently at just 34 percent— and the percentage of seats women hold in parliament, currently just 14 percent.

Fifth, Countries can accelerate MDG progress by scaling up targeted interventions that provide a safety net to the poorest and most vulnerable, including social protection mass immunization and the distribution of bed nets and Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). These efforts save lives and build resilient and strong societies and economies —more capable of withstanding economic shocks and natural disasters.

Sixth, Societies and economies must be increasingly strong and resilient in order to adapt to the realities of climate change.

To do this, countries will need to increasingly integrate climate change into their development policies. They will also need to develop their capacity to put private investment and new sources of environmental finance to use —to protect the vulnerable from the worst impacts of climate change, expand access to energy— while setting out a low-carbon path to development.

UNDP is working with communities and countries around the world to help them do just this.

Seventh, Countries need to mobilize adequate domestic resource to be able to finance MDG achievement. They can do this by broadening the tax base, enhancing the efficiency of tax collection, establishing progressive taxes that ensure heavy burdens do not fall on the poor, and identify innovative approaches.

Eighth – And finally, we need to ensure that Global Partnerships establish an enabling environment for the MDGs. ODA commitments need to be met —in a way that improves predictability, effectiveness and ownership.

The UN is committed to using its global, regional and country presence to support these efforts —with continued technical and capacity development assistance, to serve as strong advocates for development and to support Zambia accelerate progress in these areas identified. UNDP is working with the Secretary-General’s MDG Africa Steering Group, for example, to help mobilize resources and maintain support for achieving the MDGs in Africa.

At the UN and in UNDP, we base our support on the principles of equity, sustainability and inclusiveness. We stand behind and support nationally owned and led MDG strategies that ensure the most vulnerable and the poorest are well served and have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We are committed to this objective not just until 2015 but for as long as it takes. So my main message is that the MDG targets can be met in this country! When we look at the status per goal what is key for us in areas where the target and trend don’t meet is not that Zambia won’t meet the goals, but that acceleration of current efforts is needed. The Sixth National Development Plan if implemented in full will help do this. We need political will, leadership, a committed national society and a responsible international community, that can put the knowledge and experience accumulated during all these years to the benefit all.

Thank you all very much.