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Somewhere in the world a woman dies every minute from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
2010, however, is an important year for reasons related to the subject of my remarks today : meeting the development challenges of the 21st century, which are both numerous and daunting, but which it is important to tackle with determination in the interests of billions of people who stand to benefit.
Nearly ten years ago, I was one of the many heads of government who went to New York in response to Kofi Annan’s invitation to attend the Millennium Summit of the United Nations.
MDG 5, which seeks to improve maternal health, calls for a reduction by three quarters in the maternal mortality ratio from that of 1990, and for the achievement of universal access to reproductive health.
Alas, this is the MDG on which there has been the least progress so far.
There I put my name on behalf of New Zealand to the Millennium Declaration.
Enshrined in it were the eight Millennium Development Goals, and the international community’s commitment to reduce poverty and hunger; empower women; increase access to education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation; and forge strong global partnerships for development.
The deaths of children under the age of five have been declining steadily worldwide — down from 12.5 million in 1990 to under 9 million in 2008 – although progress is not fast enough yet to meet the relevant MDG.
A number of countries, including some of the poorest, have recorded impressive results in combating extreme poverty and hunger; and expanding access to clean water and HIV treatment.
The UN Intellectual History Project, led by Sir Richard Jolly and colleagues, credits the MDGs with being one of a number of great ideas which have emanated from United Nations circles and have helped change our world for the better.
This September in New York, there will be a ten year review summit on the MDGs at the UN.