South Asia MDG Forum Opens with Urgent Call to Cut Down Maternal Mortality and Reduce Poverty

Development experts gather to build ‘road map’ - MDG Media Awards launched.

KATHMANDU, NEPAL - Over 100 experts gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal, yesterday to try to build a clear and workable road map toward realizing the Millennium Development Goals which are in need of revitalization.

The South Asia Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Forum is part of a tripartite MDG initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and ADB, organised in conjunction with the Nepalese government.

The Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat addressed the delegates and outlined the relationship between the decade long conflict in Nepal and poverty. On a regional scale he said, “The majority of the world’s poor live in South Asia. Although progress has been made recently, this progress has not been accompanied by growth in jobs and opportunities”.

“The challenges are formidable in South Asia. But the MDG declaration has brought a new ray of hope”, he continued.

The Forum brings together a unique mix of high level government officials, business leaders, civil society, academia and the media to discuss progress on MDGs, identify key challenges and to produce an MDG action plan for South Asia.

“South Asia has already managed to lift millions out of extreme poverty, but progress on other important development indicators is too slow” said Mr. Kim Hak-Su, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary, UNESCAP.

“The majority of countries in South Asia are off track for more than one third of their indicators” he added.

Promoting gender equality, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality are some of the areas where South Asia needs to take action to create rapid improvements.

“South Asia has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world. Action must be taken now”, said Mr. Matthew Kahane UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Nepal, representing UNDP in a message delivered to the Forum.

Delegates at the Forum aim to produce a 30-point action plan for South Asia to meet the MDGs by 2015.

“Given much still remains to be done to attain the MDGs and banish poverty from South Asia, the task before us is both urgent and immense,” said ADB Vice-President Liqun Jin, in a statement to the Forum. “Success is possible only if the governments and all development partners in this subregion, including the private sector and civil society work very closely together. We hope that this Forum will help in significantly stepping up efforts by Governments and all stakeholders to ensure that the MDGs are achieved by all countries in South Asia.”

The first ever Asia – Pacific MDG Media Awards were launched at the South Asia MDG Forum. Open to broadcast producers and journalists in print, radio and television media covering the Asia-Pacific region, the Awards carry a prize of US$7,000 for first prize winners, and a US$2,000 prize for runners up.

The Awards aim to recognize the important role the media play in creating public awareness of the MDGs and encourage increased reporting on the ‘human’ story behind the MDGs.

The MDG South Asia Forum is being held at the Soaltee Crown Plaza Kathmandu Hotel from 11 – 12 October 2006.

Note to Editors:

  • The MDGs were endorsed in 2001, following the adaptation of the Millennium Declaration in New York, when the world’s governments committed themselves to a series of development targets to be reached by 2015. There are eight MDGs - eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
  • The tripartite initiative by a UN regional commission (ESCAP), a United Nations Agency (UNDP) and a regional development bank (ADB) is the first of its kind in the world. It ensures a common voice on the MDGs in the Asia – Pacific region; helps build a consolidated regional platform and present a clear plan of action for their achievement.