DR. ARUN KASHYAP // On The Occasion of the UNCT Retreat 2013

Feb 7, 2013

• The Hon. Minister Dr. Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance and Planning – thank you for being here
• Fellow members of the UNCT
• Other Distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen, good morning.

Welcome to the UN Country Team Retreat 2013. I have now been in Jamaica for slightly over a year, and last year we celebrated Jamaica’s 50th year of being a member of the United Nations. Over these 50 plus years, some of the challenges faced by Jamaica have included:
• the impact of the global financial crisis on the country’s debt to GDP ratio, which has adverse effects on everyone, but especially the poor;
• an increasing crime rate (with noticeable incidences of violence against women and girls in particular);
• insufficient respect for human rights for all, and
• the negative effects of climate change on sustainable development.

The United Nations Day on 24 October 2012 (67th Annual UN Day) was particularly special to us in Jamaica, as it represented the commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of its membership of the United Nations; and it coincided with the country’s fifty years of independence celebration.   Since its membership, Jamaica and Jamaicans have played a noteworthy role in the United Nations’ system by assisting to focus international attention on advancement of human rights, equitable human well-being, economic cooperation, and gender issues including serving as the Secretary General of the World Conference of the United Nations decade for Women held in Copenhagen.

The United Nations in Jamaica is deeply committed to work with the Government of Jamaica and Jamaicans, to promote inclusive and equitable development that would tangibly improve the quality of life of all citizens - especially women, children, and the marginalized and vulnerable communities.  The United Nations in Jamaica is represented by nine resident agencies, viz.  (i) the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), (ii) the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF); (iii) United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); (iv) the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); (v) the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); (vi) the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); (vii) the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), (viii) United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and (ix) United Nations Department of Safety and Security.  Additionally, 9 non-resident agencies are considerably active in collaborating with the Government of Jamaica to meet its development priorities reflected in the Vision 2030 Jamaica - National Development Plan.  They include (i) United Nations Women, (ii) United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), (iii) International Labour Organization (ILO); (iv) International Atomic Energy Agency; (v) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; (vi) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; (vii) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; (vii) the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) ; and United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

We are now one year into the launch of the 2012-2016 United Nations Development Action Framework also called UNDAF; accordingly we are also one year into the launch of Country Programmes of the three ExCom agencies, viz.; UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF for the same period, as they are rooted in the UN’s Development Framework. 

The UNDAF, prepared in a participatory manner with the inclusion of all stakeholders, is an expression of the UN’s continuing commitment to and cooperation with the Government and People of Jamaica to work together in achieving Vision 2030 Jamaica – the National Development Plan. 

The UNDAF provides the guidance and basis for all UN agencies for their respective work in Jamaica. It also provides a strong opportunity to ensure demand-driven synergy and complementarity within the activities of the UN agencies.  The United Nations is pleased to bring the global best practices to Jamaica, assist the Government in developing human, institutional and system-wide capacities and mobilize south-south as well as north-south and triangular partnerships, as needed, to meet the aspirations of the Jamaicans for enhanced overall welfare and well-being. 

It is our firm belief that this new UNDAF will respond to Jamaica’s main development challenges and will contribute to efforts to transform the country to high standards of living especially for the socially excluded and vulnerable as indicated by enhanced quality of life; world class standards in areas of education, health care, food and nutrition; access to sustainable energy, civility and social order, citizen security and personal safety, human rights and justice; access to environmental and cultural goods and services, while having the capability to build resilience against natural disasters, as well as capacity to adapt to and combat the adverse impacts of climate change. 

We stand steadfast in our efforts to work with the Government of Jamaica and all stakeholders to work towards eliminating violence against all – children, women and all vulnerable communities, and enhance citizen security in Jamaica - in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the dignity and equal and in alienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

The implementation of UNDAF strives to fully embrace the principles of aid effectiveness by forging greater internal coherence both among the Un agencies, as well as with International Development Partners, as we all work together to enhance efficiency and effectiveness as part of a comprehensive strategy for increasing its impact in support of Jamaica’s development efforts, while evaluating the evolving role of the development community in the middle income countries.

The United Nations is proud to facilitate and advance discussions between the Government of Jamaica and the international development community to arrive at a common understanding of national priorities, identify key challenges and engender shared strategies to meet the national development vision, inter alia, through an annual event in the form of an International Development partners Retreat.

Demonstrating real progress is critical for the United Nations.  Under the leadership of the Government of Jamaica, the UN system is committed to periodically assess, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, progress in implementing key dimensions of the national and sector development strategies, based on results-oriented reporting and assessment frameworks, and learn from the lessons to improve efficiency and effectiveness of mutual activities. 

According to national estimates, it is expected that Jamaica will achieve most of its Millennium Development Goals and meet targets for poverty reduction, infant and child nutrition, primary education and access to safe drinking water.  The Government’s 2009 analysis also shows that the poorest decile of the population account for 2.7% of national consumption compared to 29% by the wealthiest 10%. While the Jamaican population living in poverty significantly decreased in 2007, it increased to 17.6% in 2010 and 14.3% in April 2012.  Rural areas continue to have the largest proportion of poor people at nearly 23.2%.  Even with an overall increase in the labour force in Jamaica, the youth unemployment rate, at nearly 24%, is nearly three times higher than adult unemployment.  There is a low representation of women in Parliament and in other areas of decision-making with a significantly higher rate of unemployment for women, despite their educational gains.  The Government has identified high unemployment including for youth and women as one of the country’s biggest problems.

While Universal access to reproductive health is on target, Jamaica is far behind in reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters for 2015. Gender disparity is obvious by grade 6 in primary schools, with boys being the majority of dropouts at the secondary level. Males continue to be under-represented by 2:1 at the tertiary level.

A major challenge currently faced by the country is to find a solution with IMF to the country’s high debt to GDP ratio with consequent limited fiscal space that adversely influences employment, trade deficit and capital flows. The policy agenda in 2013 would be led by finding sustainable solutions to address weak public finances, a high public debt burden, poor economic growth and issues of citizen security while creating livelihoods and decent jobs, raising revenues and controlling expenditures, and demonstrating a vision to shape a foundation for an inclusive and equitable economic growth.

On behalf of the United Nations, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to cooperate and work with the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaican people, to identify and implement sustainable and inclusive solutions to meet the human development needs of Jamaicans. We plan to initiate a national discussion to glean recommendations from diverse stakeholders to envision a “Post-2015 Development Agenda: Realizing the Future We Want for All”.  This is in line with the UN’s overarching goal of achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring that there is sustainable development beyond 2015.

It is a privilege for the United Nations Country Team to partner with the people of Jamaica on the journey to making Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’.

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