The risk of dying before the age of five is about 30 times higher in Sub Saharan Africa than it is in Sweden. Even more unacceptable is the fact that the risk of maternal mortality is over 100 times higher in Sub SaharanAfrica than in high-income countries. As Sweden’s Minister for International DevelopmentCooperation,I feelan obligationtotakerealaction.
Recent figures from UNICEF show that child mortality rates are declining substantially. The fact that progress is obviously beingmade is hopeful, but it remains that 6.9million children die unnecessarily each year, frompreventable causes. The situation is particularly dire in conflict, post-conflict and fragile conditions. Right now, the Swedish government is focusing its attention to respond better to the needs in e.g. the DRC and Somalia. In these situations, we need not only to ensure that women and children survive, but that they can also live in a safe environment and be free from violence. Violence, especially of sexual nature, targets women and girls more severely than any other group in society. It is one of the worst forms of violations to the human rights – rights that we and all other countries of the UN have vowed to protect.
We continue to see progress in reducing maternal mortality in some parts of the world.This is very encouraging. I recently read a report fromCambodia showing an impressive 60 percent reduction in maternal mortality rates during the last 10 years. This means that Cambodia is close to reaching the MDG 5 target. What is especially interesting is that this is due not only to better access to professionally trained midwives and health services, but also due to investments in education, infrastructure and gender equality.
The commitment and hard work done by communities, countries and international partners have made this possible. But much remains to be done.
We need an extraordinary push before 2015, and to accelerate our efforts to reach the MDGs. Giving birth should not imply risking one’s own life. Children not only have the right to survive, but they also have a right to live healthy lives.
I am proud that Sweden is increasing the support to GAVI, to UNICEF and to UNFPA. Also, we are making an additional 52 million USD available this year for the push to accelerate progress toward MDG 4 and 5 in six countries in Africa – countries that have the highest rates of child and/or maternal mortality and the potential to remedy this situation.
An effective and coherent multilateral system is vital for achieving further progress. That is why we will keep working with and through the H4+ (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank). WHO has a crucial role in providing leadership, norms and effective monitoring. UNICEF and UNFPA are critical partners in terms of capacity building, procurement and support of service delivery. UNAIDS and UN Women are also key players in this endeavor.
It is my strong conviction that the sum of what we achieve in partnership could deliver even better results on the ground. We need to work even more efficiently together with different actors and financiers.
Increasing our efforts today must not keep us waiting for planning for the future as well. My belief is that in setting the direction for the future, we should build on the previous MDG experiences.
The High-Level Panel appointed by the UN Secretary-General is providing a very good framework for this. The panel is jointly led by the Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron. I am honored to be one of the panel members.
The panel is basing its work on the lessons learned from the MDGs, and will put forward ”a bold yet practical development vision” on what the global development agenda should look like after 2015. The mandate of the panel has sustainable development and poverty reduction at its core.
During the deliberations of the panel, I will be bringing some issues with me that have been important to me for a long time.
One of them is democracy, human rights and gender equality as prerequisites for empowering women, men and young people to take charge of their lives and make informed decisions about their futures, and to hold leaders accountable. The younger generations of today are larger than ever before. Active participation of young people, and the contribution of children and youth for achieving sustainable development, is absolutely essential.
Another issue is the importance of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. In this context, these rights cannot be stressed enough. Reproduction and sexuality should not be associated with risks, death and violence, as it is today. We need to empower people, especially women and girls, to make sure that they have the knowledge and power to make informed decisions about their bodies, when and with whom to have sex with and when to have children.
Jobs and inclusive economic growth are also critical and linked to the investments in health. Ensuring best possible health of for the employees is not only important for the individuals but one of the most strategic investments companies can do in order to improve productivity.
To provide substantial input to this work, the UN has launched 50 country consultations and 11 thematic consultations on key topics of global importance. The idea is to involve and build on experiences from all actors in the field, including civil society organizations, the private sector, research scholars and youth.
Sweden and Botswana are jointly leading the thematic consultations on health, together with WHO and UNICEF.
The objective of these consultations is to assess the progress made and lessons learnt from the present MDGs relating to health, and to propose health goals and related targets and indicators for the post-2015 development agenda, as well as to propose approaches for measurement and monitoring.
My vision is that we will have an agenda for health and wellbeing building upon the MDGs (the unfinished work), but also that we will look ahead and take the changes in society and demography into account. We need to move the focus from diseases and death, and on to health and wellbeing. Our commitments need to be with the most vulnerable parts of populations all over the world, ensuring that they have the possibility not only to survive, but also to live healthy lives. If we are going to succeed, we need to ensure that the health sector is doing its work, and that we get the required investments in girls’ education, gender equality, access to clean water, sanitation and energy. Equally important is that we get truly democratic and transparent governance systems.