President Kagame’s address at the opening of the special event “Towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

Pres. Kagame at the MDG

UN Photo

President of the United Nations General Assembly;

Secretary General of the United Nations;

Excellencies Heads of State and Government;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

At the beginning of this century the United Nations adopted goals to fight poverty and spur development in the less developed parts of our world. Today as we near the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, it is pertinent to ask how far we have gone in attaining those goals.

There is no doubt that progress has been made. But it has been uneven, and in a number of cases less than satisfactory.

And so more than a decade after the adoption of the MDGs, one billion people still live in poverty.  One in eight people go hungry each day.

And one in four children who enter primary school will probably leave before reaching the last grade. The reality is: a lot has been achieved, but we are still going to come up short of our targets by 2015.

What these statistics don’t convey is the human costs of failure; the suffering of those without food or clean water, the trauma faced by having to survive day-by-day and lives needlessly lost to preventable diseases.

And as we think about a new era of development, we should display the courage to go further than the MDGs. We need to say the MDGs are a floor, not a ceiling.

It is not enough to simply seek to reduce poverty. We need to think more about how we create wealth and opportunity.

To do so, a greater emphasis should be placed on the private sector. This is not as a substitute to public sector delivery, but is entirely complementary. The private sector can do some things better than the public. The opposite is also true. But there are also things that we can do better in partnership.

In order to reach the remaining MDGs and even beyond them, we need an environment that promotes this – and the responsibility rests on those of us in government to enable it. A good start would be to remove barriers to trade and promote greater investment, but we also need to commit to good governance at all levels, so that businesses can trust our institutions – and so that we do not watch progress stymied by squander and waste.

In our next stage of development, we have to focus particularly on infrastructure and on energy.  We need to invest in roads, railways and electricity to power our growth. But governments alone cannot finance this – it will require us to seek new sources of capital and new partnerships.

For many developing nations, our young are our greatest resource – particularly when equipped with modern tools. We must therefore continue to invest in education and new technology, so that our youth have the skills and the means to fulfill their potential.

There is no doubt that high-speed, high-capacity broadband connection to the Internet is transformative and empowering, even for the least sophisticated. Yet the emerging global divide in broadband infrastructure and services poses the biggest risk of reversing the gains through the MDGs as developing countries become excluded from the modern global digital economy.

We must recognize that development comes with responsibility and we in the developing world must bear our share.  We must take greater ownership of our destiny, to make our voices heard and shape the global debate. But we must also understand the need to develop solutions to our own domestic problems.

Quite simply, we cannot rely on aid alone. The path to prosperity will require more effective partnerships, where each party understands their individual responsibility.

But it will also require more collective responsibility. We all want to see a future defined by more dignity and hope, where people have opportunity to build a better life. This is a real possibility. And our responsibility is to make it a reality.

Thank you.