Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

5 July 2012 - Statement to the UN ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum


2012 Development Cooperation Forum

Sustainable development: our shared future

Keynote Address by Senator the Hon Bob Carr
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs




Mr President
Mr Secretary-General
Distinguished delegates

In December 2004, we saw how a single tremor sent shock waves across an ocean. This tsunami wiped out hard won development gains. It did it in minutes.

Over 225,000 people from Indonesia to Sri Lanka lost their lives.

The world came together in what was an unprecedented global recovery effort.

Australia provided one billion dollars to Indonesia’s long term reconstruction efforts.

Then last year one of Australia’s own cities, Brisbane, was besieged by once-in-a-century floods. Our Indonesian friends were generous in their assistance.

Here in New York, we must take that spirit of cooperation further.

Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been good, but not good enough.

And the time we have to achieve the MDGs is short.

The proportion of people in our world going hungry sits stubbornly at over 15 per cent.

To achieve our MDG target, we need to get that figure down to 10 per cent by 2015 – and then go lower.

Working against us is the reality that our planet is growing weary of sustaining us.

One billion people in developing countries depend on fish for their primary source of protein, but 85 per cent of our ocean fisheries are fully exploited or over-exploited or depleted.

Dead zones – zones where most marine life cannot survive – are spreading across our oceans.

Like so many things we share, oceans can only be maintained through effective global cooperation – no country can do it alone.

Business as usual will not suffice.

This Forum, Mr President, is well placed to find new ways to make good old fashioned cooperation work better.

I would like to suggest a few ideas on how we can make that happen.


First, sustained and predictable finance.

For many least developed countries, aid is a significant part of their national budget.

If aid flows cannot be predicted beyond this year, many may struggle.

Despite a tight fiscal environment, Australia has found a way to expand our aid program: by 300 million dollars this financial year and will expand by over 60 per cent in the next five.

That firm, multi-year funding commitment means our development partners can plan with much greater certainty.

Second, we must learn lessons.

Take my earlier example of natural disasters: we have seen time and again that the only effective response is a joint one – a combination of diplomatic, humanitarian and civil society action, using military assets when requested.

We have learned much from responses to the Haiti earthquake, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel.

We have learned what works and what does not.

Yet, our cooperation on disaster risk reduction still has room to improve.

Today, I am pleased to announce that Australia will provide 100 million dollars over the next five years to strengthen partnerships.

This will help developing countries with early warning systems. It will help protect schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure in the event of natural disasters.

This will reduce the costs, both human and economic, when a disaster strikes again. As it inevitably will.


Third, sustainable development can only work if we innovate with partnerships.

To make sustainable development a reality, it is not just one form of cooperation we need, but many.

The world is changing and development cooperation needs to respond in an innovative way.

This year’s United Nations International Year of Cooperatives reminds us that we need to put people at the centre of this change – to empower them to make development happen to achieve great outcomes.

Through our 2.2 million dollar contribution to the Women’s World Banking initiative, Australia is supporting one of the best known women's financial cooperatives, the Self-Employed Women's Association Bank in India to transform the lives of many women.

Support for cooperatives is important because it creates new markets and new business opportunities where they have been destroyed by famine or conflict.

Australia is also a keen supporter of partnerships that combine different sources of expertise, including south-south cooperation.

Just over ten years ago, Australia provided bilateral development assistance to Malaysia.

Now we work together, Malaysia and Australia, as partners to help others.

Australia has supported Malaysia to train over 150 Afghan master teacher trainers who are now returning home to Afghanistan to train the next generation of teachers in that country.

Australia is also working with city councils in Zimbabwe and South Africa to strengthen sewage systems.

This project has improved sanitation conditions for at least 450,000 local residents in Zimbabwe, repaired 1,200 leaks and cleared 250 kilometres of sewage pipes.

Parents are now more confident in allowing their children to play on the streets without risk of disease.


Mr President

These were some of the themes of the third High-Level Symposium of the Development Cooperation Forum, ‘Shaping a Sustainable Future – Partners in Development Cooperation’.

Australia was proud to host this Symposium in May this year, and to see its messages reflected at the Rio+20 Conference two weeks ago.

In Rio, we all committed to build a sustainable future – the future we want for this world.

Rio gave us a platform, now we need to act.

We need to do so together.

This forum is the place to make that happen.

In this room, all partners in development have a voice.

It has been a long time coming, but finally we have all the right people around the table to build the future we want.

Thank you.