Peace and Poverty
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,
Fellows, Scholars, and Interns,
Thank you for that welcome. And thank you for inviting me join the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the American- Scandinavian Foundation.
You have a great deal to celebrate and plenty of reasons to look to the future with confidence.
For 100 years, the ASF has been promoting understanding between Scandinavia and North America.
These links are, of course, very strong. And I am told that there are now almost as many people of Norwegian ancestry living in the United States as in Norway itself.
This does not include the hundreds of thousands more Scandinavians who have made their home here or are working or studying on this side of the Atlantic.
America is immeasurably stronger because of your contributions to every aspect of its national life.
Among the exports you have brought are the tolerance, compassion and solidarity which define much of Scandinavia’s engagement with the world.
And I have good reason personally to understand the great value of your intern and scholarship program.
My own life may have been very different had the Ford Foundation not enabled me to leave Ghana to study at Macalaster College in Minnesota.
The exposure to new places, peoples and ideas is invaluable.
And your support for young people to study and work not only broadens the experiences of young Americans and Scandinavians, but helps shape a new generation of leaders with a truly global outlook.
Scandinavian countries have consistently supported the institutions and common values needed to make the world a fairer, more secure place.
You have set a lead in alleviating the suffering of the poorest people in the planet, protecting them from conflict, and helping them build for the future.
You have been among the most vocal champions of the Millennium Development Goals and have consistently met commitments to increase development assistance.
You also have a long and distinguished history of involvement with UN peacekeeping and humanitarian response.
Currently, Scandinavian police, military personnel and civilian specialists serve in UN missions from Lebanon to Haiti, Afghanistan to East Timor, from Darfur to the DRC.
This long list is, in itself, a reminder that our world -– remains scarred by conflict, poverty and despair.
Ladies and gentlemen, we live at a time of extraordinary change.
But sadly some aspects of our world stay the same. We see this contrast everywhere we look.
We have never been more prosperous nor had more opportunities. Yet a billion people still lack enough food. The gap between rich and poor, both within and between communities, continues to grow.
We have made extraordinary scientific and medical advances. Yet thousands of people will die today from diseases we know how to eradicate or treat cheaply.
So how do we step up our efforts to meet these challenges and build a world in which all have a fair chance to thrive?
First we have to understand that these challenges cannot be approached separately but are inextricably linked.
As I told the World Summit in 2005 in this city, we will not enjoy development without security; we will not enjoy security without development; and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.
These are the three interlinked pillars fundamental to achieving our ambitions for a peaceful, prosperous and just world.
Poverty has to be seen in both economic and social dimensions.
It includes not just low income but lack of education, limited access to healthcare and other services, and the growing problem of food insecurity.
Poverty fosters desperation and instability, and impedes social development.
This was understood by the international community when we framed and agreed a global compact to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Let me remind you of these 8 goals,
To halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger:
Achieve universal primary education;
Promote gender equality and empower women;
Reduce child mortality;
Improve maternal health;
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases;
Ensure environmental sustainability, and;
Develop a global partnership for development.
They were deliberately ambitious targets. But despite their scope and scale, we do have the means to meet them.
Indeed, strong economic growth means we are likely globally to reach by 2015 the goal of halving the number of people who live on less than one dollar a day.
And at current rates, by 2015, 86% of the global population will have access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water.
The worldwide primary education enrollment rate currently stands at 90%, and the proportion of enrolled girls has risen to 96 for every 100 boys.
But progress on other goals is not so encouraging: only one in three rural women in developing countries receives adequate maternal healthcare.
And despite some progress, the global mortality rate for children under five is still too high – 72 deaths in every 1000.
And even for those MDG’s where we are on track globally, there are significant regional disparities.
Despite global progress, a significant effort is still required to reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Even after a decade of strong economic performance, Africa is home to a third of the world’s poor.
Reducing this will require support from the international community as well as enlightened leadership on the part of African’s political class.
It also requires a comprehensive approach to building strong, stable societies that recognizes the complex link between poverty and conflict.
For extreme poverty is both a product of conflict and a cause.
It fuels frustration and hopelessness which are key ingredients in generating violence.
More than one in five of Africa’s population remain directly affected by conflict, and as always, it is civilians who pay the highest price
It is a terrible feature of the way modern wars are fought and the indiscriminate destructiveness of its weapons, that three out of four of those maimed or killed are non-combatants.
While the human cost is appalling, the economic cost is equally high.
Oxfam estimates that armed conflicts can shrink a nation’s economy by an average of 15%, further deepening the cycle of poverty and suffering.
So poverty and conflict are inextricably linked. But while poverty is often cited as the ‘breeding ground’ of armed conflict, it is rarely the only root cause.
The economic stagnation and lack of opportunity that both cultivate poverty and result from it are often the product of wider social or political problems.
Alleviating poverty and achieving peace, therefore requires us to address a complex range of issues that affect all sectors of society.
Not only do we need courage from political leaders, and real commitment from the international community, but also the energy and involvement of civil society, and the resources and knowledge of the private sector.
And while foreign aid and investment continue to be vital, and traditional development strategies will continue to play a key role, the scale of the challenge means we need to harness a wider range of resources through effective, multi-sector partnerships.
Initiatives which involve a wider range of actors, and exploit the resources, power and creativity of every sector, can be instrumental in making progress towards the MDG’s.
By mobilizing resources, improving efficiencies or extending services, partnerships between governments, the private sector, and international and local development actors can achieve tremendous results.
In Kenya, for example, a partnership between the UN, Coca Cola, Ashoka, and the social enterprise Ecotat, has managed to provide affordable sanitation services in informal settlements and urban slums.
And eleven African countries have seen reductions of over 50% in confirmed malaria cases, due largely to the collaboration between governments, civil society organizations, and international funding mechanisms such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Developing African agriculture can also have a knock-on effect on all sectors of society and could significantly improve chances of reaching many of the MDG’s.
There is unmatched potential in Africa for agricultural growth: it contains 60% percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
And on average, cereal yields in Africa are a quarter of those of other major developing regions.
Only six per cent of Africa’s crop land is irrigated, and farmers use less than one tenth of the amount of fertilizer that is used in Southeast Asia.
Africa’s farmers - mostly women - are paying the price for the lack of investment by their own governments and the international community in agriculture and the rural economy.
They suffer from lack of access to credit, limited investment in Research and Development, and are often restricted to using low-yield seed varieties.
They also lose much of their harvest due to poor storage and processing facilities; and the lack of infrastructure and transport which reduces their access to markets.
Commercially-viable small-holder farms, the mainstay of African agriculture, are being overlooked in favor of large-scale private investment that is export-oriented.
No single government, corporation or development agency can by themselves provide the range of expertise and investment that is needed to significantly increase agricultural production.
Bringing governments, development partners, farmer organizations and the private sector together in an integrated way will lead to faster and higher economic and social returns
So African governments and organizations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, have come together to tackle this challenge.
They are working to increase investment in small-holder farms, and raise the income of African farmers. They are working to protect local environments, create local enterprise and improve food security.
And the impact of these efforts goes beyond Africa: the global demand for food is set to grow by 50% in the next two decades alone, and without harnessing the massive agricultural potential in Africa, it is not clear how this growth in demand will be met.
So transforming African agricultural sector will go a long way in improving global food security, and could also help tackle climate change and water scarcity.
Achieving these ambitions will also require support for good governance and developing the highest caliber of democratic leadership.
Quietly and often out of the headlines, there are plenty of reasons for hope, even in Africa.
Economically, Africa has proved remarkably resilient, and is now viewed by many as the new investment frontier.
According to the OECD, it will be the second fastest growing region this year.
Longer-term, the IMF predicts that seven of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world over the next decade will be African.
It is vital to ensure that this growth becomes the motor for wider economic development, stability, and prosperity.
It should also allow us to tackle the economic causes of conflict, to address inequality, and build societies that are well-governed, inclusive, and fair.
The challenge is to ensure the proceeds of growth are used to diversify economies, create jobs, increase incomes and investments in health, education and infrastructure to build a sustainable future.
There is one other reason why we should be confident about Africa – and indeed the prospects of the developing world.
It is a confidence, too, which has been at the heart of the work of this Foundation for the last 100 years.
In Africa as everywhere else in the developing world, there is no resource more valuable than the youth.
Africa’s population, for example, is incredibly young. Six out of ten people in sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 25.
It is the young who are most affected by poverty and war, political marginalization and social exclusion. They demand our protection.
But as events in North Africa have shown us, they are also perhaps the key component of any solution.
These young people are not only going to be the engines of economic progress but also the drivers of political and social change.
In Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, it is younger generations who have been in the lead in demanding their opportunity to shape the future for themselves, their families and their country.
I believe their vision and bravery will also drive progress in solving some of the global problems I have talked about.
But it is not just in Africa where young people have found themselves marginalized.
The upheaval created by the recent global crisis has shown that in developed economies, too, young people are vulnerable.
Job prospects for young people have rarely been tougher as recruitment contracts and redundancies are made.
As employers, we demand experience at the same time as denying young people the chance to gain it.
We speak of the potential and drive of the next generation, but are reluctant to provide them with real responsibilities and a role in governance.
It is these obstacles that this Foundation has been busy working to overcome.
Franklin D Roosevelt once remarked that `We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future`
I want to congratulate the American-Scandinavian Foundation for your determination to foster understanding and your commitment to young people.
These goals were important 100 years ago when the Foundation was formed. They are even more important today.
That is why I have no hesitation in congratulating you on your centenary but also hoping that the best is yet to come.
Thank you – and I look forward to your questions.