His leadership has certainly created the much needed political momentum towards the timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs have provided a solid framework for development in the past decade. Global challenges, including the economic and financial crisis and the adverse impacts of climate change, have made them even more pertinent today. Five years from our deadline, there is an urgent need to reaffirm our commitment and strengthen our partnership in order to meet these goals on time.
Our efforts should not be limited to government activities. We must also rally non-governmental organizations and the private sector around a revitalized development agenda.
We must attach equal importance to each and every goal. It is also crucial that the MDGs are dealt with as one holistic package in order to create synergies between all the goals.
Thus, I believe it is important to work along the following guidelines:
-- Our overarching objective must remain the eradication of poverty and hunger.
-- We need to adopt strategies in favor of the poor and vulnerable.
-- Investment in agriculture is essential to ensure food security.
-- We need to make progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
-- There should be more emphasis on education and health.
-- We need to pursue environmental sustainability with stronger political commitment and action.
-- We should acknowledge mutually reinforcing relations among the notions of democracy, development and security.
I should underline that these guidelines are drawn from Turkey’s own experience in development, as an emerging economy. Turkey is well on its way towards achieving the MDGs. We have adopted the MDGs as our primary national development goals and integrated them into our development plans.
-- In recent years, we introduced ambitious and comprehensive social welfare programs to improve living standards for vulnerable segments of our society.
-- Those policies have proven to be very effective and sustainable with solid financial resources to support them.
-- We are on track towards reaching 100 percent primary school enrollment, thanks to the direct payments given to mothers to promote the enrollment of girls in school.
-- We recorded significant progress on maternal and child health by implementing free pre-maternal health check ups and compulsory vaccination programs.
-- With the introduction of a new social security system, our citizens now enjoy universal health coverage.
-- We also granted extensive scholarship programs to students with limited financial means in all levels of education.
-- We took all measures to contain HIV and provided access to treatment for those who need it.
-- In recent years, more than 500,000 new homes have been built by the state-owned Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ).
-- Comprehensive measures and important policies have been introduced for environmental sustainability.
As part of our commitment to the MDG agenda, we hosted a regional review meeting in İstanbul last June, in cooperation with the UNDP and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The conclusions of that review provided significant input to this High Level Plenary Meeting.
Turkey stands ready to lend its full support to the global partnership for development. Development issues now form an integral part of our broad foreign policy agenda.
As a reliable partner in development, our focus is particularly on the least developed countries (LDCs).
In order to deliver our pledge to the LDC’s, we increased our Official Development Assistance in recent years. With the contribution of Turkish NGOs, our overall development assistance exceeds $1.5 billion annually.
In 2007, as the then foreign minister and deputy prime minister, I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting my counterparts from the least developed countries in İstanbul for the United Nations Ministerial Conference on LDCs.
Once again, we feel privileged to host the 4th United Nations Conference on LDCs next year. We hope that this meeting will generate strong political momentum and new partnerships to address the persistent challenges for LDCs in the next decade. I look forward to the support of world leaders in this regard.
While we may not have too much time left for progress towards the MDGs, we certainly have the will and capacity to achieve them. But we need to act now, and act swiftly.
Let us commit here, once again, to joining our efforts in reaching our common goals. But let us not forget: Our partnership and solidarity for development must continue beyond 2015.
We must continue with a new and enhanced development agenda. This must be our pledge to future generations.
*This text is based on an address by President Abdullah Gül at the Opening Of The High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals on Sept. 20, 2010.