The Analyst (Monrovia)

16 November 2012

Liberia: Let's Increase MDGs Pace - Pres. Sirleaf Stimulates International Community

President Sirleaf has called on developing and developed countries to accelerate progress in their various countries and organizations in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

She said world leaders must work to increase the pace at which gender-related MDGs form the integral core of our development agenda.

"This will provide the basis for the formulations of a successor regime that is people-centered, with a focus on poverty to finish the job started by the MDGs – a successor regime that calls for inclusive growth and development as drivers of sustainable poverty reduction and one in which global partnerships are based on mutual responsibility in a supportive global enabling environment," the President said in her opening remarks at the 16th Mid-term Review meeting of the International Development Association and World Bank in Abidjan on Tuesday.

She said a successor regime must also involve a new deal for fragile States trying to cope in an effort to maintain stability for transformation.

The President said: "We know that the changing climate will have varying effects on different regions. As we plan and implement our development agendas, we must now intentionally account for climate change. Growth must be equitable. Women's participation in our economic, social and political life must become an integral part of our development agenda. Unless we act intentionally to reduce inequity within and between our societies, we will not be able to eradicate poverty."

The meeting, representing the IDA's 16th Mid-Term Review, comes on the heels of the global financial crisis, continuing weakness in the Euro zone, and slowing growth in China and India, the President observed.

She said the financial crisis resulted in a credit crunch that delayed investment programs, reduced remittances and affected the cost of exports.

"IDA 16 is also very significant since it brings us to the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," he said, adding, "Less than three years remain until the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDGs. We can count successes, including the reduction of poverty, but there are important failures – in maternal mortality, improved livelihoods, women's equality and environmental sustainability."

Moreover, President Sirleaf noted, "although significant progress has been made in many countries, and several are likely to achieve most of the Goals, our countries in sub-Saharan Africa rank far behind the other regions."

This is why this Review is of utmost importance, and I am glad that Abidjan has been chosen as the venue. It is here, in our sub-region, that we face the greatest challenges that have been covered by your Progress Report, according to her.

She asserted that although West and Central Africa possess a high percentage of the world's biodiversity, we are seriously challenged to find effective responses to rising sea levels and changing agriculture production cycles.

The Liberian leader said although she represents the highest potential of women's empowerment, the majority of our women in the informal sector, while feeding the nation through farming and marketing, there remain largely illiterate, caught in the poverty trap.

She said youth across the continent and young graduates face the stark realization of being unable to find jobs, exposing their vulnerabilities to crime and violence. Perhaps the more relevant aspects of your Review to our unfulfilled expectations are the response to crisis and promotion of regional integration.

"Peace and stability, a sine qua non for sustained growth and development, still elude too many of our countries. Our hopes to achieve the potential for regional integration have been long delayed due to long-standing trading relationships and lack of effective international support," she further noted.

Madam Sirleaf said unless nations act intentionally to reduce inequity within and between our societies, they will not be able to eradicate poverty.

"We must therefore work to increase the pace at which gender-related MDGs form the integral core of our development agenda," she said. "This will provide the basis for the formulations of a successor regime that is people-centered, with a focus on poverty to finish the job started by the MDGs – a successor regime that calls for inclusive growth and development as drivers of sustainable poverty reduction and one in which global partnerships are based on mutual responsibility in a supportive global enabling environment. The successor regime must also involve a new deal for fragile States trying to cope in an effort to maintain stability for transformation."

Since its formation in 1960, IDA has provided concessional funding and grants on the order of US$238 billion to 108 eligible less developed countries throughout the world. Nearly half of IDA borrowing countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also noteworthy that annual commitments have steadily increased, enabling our countries to support the development process and to undertake reforms that make our region, today, one of the fastest growing in terms of GDP.

IDA has also provided technical assistance and advice to enhance our national capacities. As a result, we are better positioned to take control of our destiny and to own our development agenda as we formulate the policies and strategies that will require that growth results in development through better use and value added to our national resources.

Speaking further, President Sirleaf said: "We applaud the recent progress supported by multilateral programs that have led to the West Africa Gas Pipeline and the West Africa Power Pool. But in Liberia, for example, although we have significant commitments that will help reconstruct roads and build new bridges and bring electricity to some of our communities, it has taken almost four years from commitment to commencement, and I still can't travel on a decent road from Monrovia to Abidjan or to Freetown or Conakry."

She also indicated that individual countries must do their part, saying, "by formulating regional promotion interventions and pooling our resources, we can share the high cost of infrastructure that overcomes some of the hurdles to regional integration. We can promote public/private partnership to lower the burden on public resources."

The President recalled that over the past few years, IDA Replenishment Reviews have set a clear trend, a trend in increasing commitments. IDA16 replenishment set a record commitment, on the order of US$40 billion – a clear indication of the world's commitment to, and appreciation of, the programs supported by IDA credits. In the last decade, IDA funding financed the training of 3 million teachers; provided over $700 million in loans to small and medium enterprises; built and restored almost 120,000 km of roads; immunized 300 million children; and improved access to water for over 100 million people.

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