Nigeria Can Be Leader in ‘Heroic Effort’ to Reach Millennium Development Goals, Says Secretary-General, Pledging United Nations Partnership ‘Every Step of Way’

Being text of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the meeting of the Presidential Committee on the Status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in Abuja, Nigeria, on 23 May:
I am deeply honoured to have this opportunity, this very rare opportunity for a Secretary-General to sit together with the President of any country and with his Presidential Committee on the MDGs.
What I can tell you at this time is that [when] I have any President of our United Nations membership, like President [Goodluck Ebele] Jonathan exercises such a strong political leadership and political commitment and places his policy priority on the Millennium Development Goals, I think we can meet these targets.
There are questions, very serious questions, raised about whether we can really hit the targets by 2015, when we have not been able to do [so] in 10 years. The progress report has not been even, has not been satisfactory, which is why I convened last year a special summit meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, which was a great success where leaders have reaffirmed their strong commitment.
I am in Nigeria to show my support — support for your democratic development, your political leadership in Africa and your extraordinary efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The United Nations and Nigeria have a long and important partnership, and I would like to thank all the distinguished ministers and special advisers to the President on Millennium Development Goals for your very kind briefings which have been impressive. The United Nations and Nigeria have a strong partnership for development. I am convinced that Nigeria has the potential to become one of the leading developing economies in our world. But this will only happen if you have a solid foundation on which to build — specifically a healthy population. You are the largest population country in Africa.
When we care for women and children, in particular, we lay the foundation for our future. That is one of the special focuses which I am doing these days and that is why I am paying special attention to Nigeria’s leadership and commitment.
This is a country with a strong tradition of reverence for women and mothers. Yet, too many of them die too young from preventable causes. Too many Nigerian infants and children do not survive [beyond] 5 years old. To address this problem, we need clinics and hospitals. But we also need education and awareness. This is part of my awareness programme. We need to counter people who spread false rumours that endanger health. We need to encourage all Nigerians to trust health systems and allow women to access them freely, especially in an emergency. Local leaders can play an important role in promoting trust. We will fully support local governments everywhere. Thank you very much for reminding me of this subject.
We also need good governance and strong systems to prevent corruption and make sure funds go to the people who need them. I know the President has made this a priority and I strongly support this effort. I commend the leadership the President is showing on the MDGs, and particularly the work of the President’s Senior Special Adviser on the MDGs, Hajiya Amina az-Zubair. Nigeria distinguishes itself by having an MDG presence within the Office of the President, and we feel this is an important example for leadership and for Africa.
Globally, we are working on women’s and children’s health in four ways. First, through mobilization, involving all partners, from Government officials to businesses, from foundations to universities. Second, we are taking action where the problems are, in the cities and villages, so we can scale up success. Third, we are building momentum. Our strategy has generated unprecedented global political support — $40 billion in commitments from 50 countries — and from scores of businesses, foundations and civil society organizations.
But to make sure this whole process works, we need the fourth component; this is accountability. Until now, we have received so many pledges and commitments, but not all of them have been delivered. And that is why, this time, we have to make quite sure that this money should be delivered wherever and to whoever needs it.
That is why I have established this accountability commission led by Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper of Canada and President [Jakaya] Kikwete of Tanzania. I launched it in January of this year in Geneva. Their last meeting was in Tanzania, and the two leaders participated.
This is what it takes — mobilization, action, momentum and accountability — this becomes “MAMA”. It’s very easy to remember “MAMA”. We need this approach even more because the world remains in economic crisis. Donors are cutting back on aid. The United Nations is forced to do more and better with what we have.
We have launched a number of important initiatives to reach the MDGs. First, my High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis is tackling hunger. Second, the Education for All and Fast Track Initiatives by UNESCO are helping address illiteracy. Third, we have launched groups of political leaders and top experts on climate change financing, energy and sustainable development. Fourth, the Global Jobs Pact is promoting economic recovery, with a focus on work and dignity. And fifth, the high-level meeting on AIDS next month will set a course for the future of our efforts to fight the spread of HIV and get treatment to people in need. I understand that the President is going to participate in this meeting, and I thank you very much for your initiative and commitment. And our initiative to end deaths from malaria worldwide is on track to deliver by 2015. If this track continues, we will see no death from malaria.
All of these initiatives are part of the overall push to reach the MDGs by 2015. Improving women’s and children’s health is one of the keys to progress. Healthy women give birth to healthy children who can grow up to contribute to their healthy country. They are also the best guarantee of healthy, educated and prosperous families. That is why we must tackle the terrible loss of women’s and children’s lives in Nigeria.
I am very pleased that the Government is working to allocate a portion of its oil wealth to support health initiatives for women and children. This is a ground-breaking initiative where success has far-reaching implications. Mr. President, I congratulate you sincerely for your leadership and the National Assembly for the passage of the health bill two days ago. Nigeria has already shown that progress is possible. I commend the federal, state and local governments for your joint, dedicated efforts to reach the MDGs.
Nine out of ten children are now in school. HIV prevalence rates are decreasing. Yesterday, I visited Maitama General Hospital and saw your health systems in action. But we need to do much more to build on these successes. I urge you to step up investment in all these areas, deliver on your important commitments, and ensure that Nigeria reaches all the MDGs by 2015. You can be a global leader in this heroic effort. The United Nations will be your partner every step of the way. Thank you.