ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL - HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT
3 July 2012
National Statement by Senator the Hon Bob Carr
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Vice President, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates
Twelve years ago, we committed to the Millennium Development Goals to dramatically reduce global poverty and hunger by 2015.
We have made significant progress.
Take for example Momena, a mother of four in Bangladesh. Momena didn’t receive an education. But through a major poverty-focused program led by BRAC, Momena - and hundreds of thousands of women like her - has started a business and now has the confidence and ability to build for her family a future.
Four years ago, our efforts were threatened by the global financial crisis.
Financial market turmoil.
The sovereign debt crisis.
The most personal impact of the crisis has been the threat to decent work.
Around 50 million jobs have disappeared globally since 2008.
The threat goes deeper than these headline figures —awesome though they are.
Underemployment is chronic – it affects more than half of the world’s labour force and particularly affects women.
And more than 75 million young people are searching for work, and a future.
I applaud the Council’s foresight to place the urgent jobs challenge at the centre of our discussions.
The main path to address this challenge is growth – sustained growth, inclusive growth and equitable growth.
Australia believes open trade is critical – resisting protectionism, reducing tariffs and embracing industries that respond to country’s competitive strengths.
It is lamentable that one-fifth of exports from least developed countries still face high tariff barriers.
We need to fight for trade reform, particularly in agriculture, a vital industry for so many people living at or near the poverty line.
I urge all governments to join Australia in providing duty-free, quota-free market access for all exports from least developed countries.
A week ago leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro to set the forward agenda for sustainable development – The Future We Want.
Again we recognised that sustainable economic growth is being undermined by environmental degradation.
There is no greater example than the state of our oceans. The chemical composition of our oceans is changing – becoming more acidic from absorbing human-driven carbon dioxide emissions.
This threatens the health of our oceans – and for many, particularly those living in small island states, undermines their prospects for food security and livelihoods.
So, we welcome Rio+20 commitments to protect biodiversity, manage our oceans better, enhance agricultural productivity and achieve food security.
For our part, Australia is doubling its support to the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program to over $100 million, and expects to spend over $455 million on similar initiatives over the next twelve months.
The work Australia is doing with the Government of Nepal and the United Nations Development Programme is encouraging. Thousands of micro-entrepreneur groups are being supported, providing employment to over 45,000 of the poorest and most marginalised people. This year, we expect to help over 2,500 people, mostly women, get access to financial services.
And our youth need to know they have a future - the most urgent situation being in countries recovering from conflict.
The Government of Timor-Leste, in partnership with the ILO and Australia through the Youth Employment Promotion Program has provided jobs for 78,000 young people - with positive flow-on effects for local industries and livelihoods.
The challenges we face are immense, but we can be optimistic.
The growth rates in a number of Asian, African and Latin American economies are testament to this. Over the last 12 years, Indonesia’s GDP growth rate has averaged 5.35 % per annum, and that has lifted millions out of poverty.
And the strong social protection programs of countries such as Brazil, India and Indonesia have helped their economies and their most vulnerable communities withstand crises.
Countries must be supported by the global community in their reform efforts.
ECOSOC has a key role to play, with its mandate from Rio+20 to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development.
We also believe the new high-level political forum on sustainable development agreed to at Rio+20 has tremendous promise, including by bringing to the table a wider range of actors.
The G20 has played a discrete but important role, including by setting a target to reduce the global average cost of sending remittances to five per cent by 2014.
This will mean a lot more money in the hands of those who need it most – estimated to be in excess of $15 billion more per year, reaching those people sometimes who need it desperately.
We can only fight poverty through inclusive development approaches and partnerships that expand employment opportunities, ensure decent jobs and improve livelihoods for families and communities.
I look forward to the adoption of the Annual Ministerial Declaration, and to its implementation: putting jobs at the heart of our actions to create stronger, more equitable and sustainable growth on the path to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.