DR. ARUN KASHYAP // Remarks on the Occasion of the UN Day Reception

Oct 24, 2013

• Senator the Honourable Arnold J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
• Other Honourable Ministers of Government;
• Members of the Opposition;
• Permanent Secretaries and other colleagues from the Government;
• Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
• International development partners
• Partners from civil society, the private sector and academia
• Heads and representatives of international organizations; My UN Country Team and other Colleagues including retired staff members and their families,
• Members of the Media
• Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen. 

A very good evening to all of you.

On behalf of the UN Country Team in Jamaica it is a pleasure for me to warmly welcome you all this evening and thank you very much for joining us to celebrate the United Nations Day.  It is an opportunity for us to recognize the contribution to peace, common progress and inclusive development by this invaluable Organization and reiterate our faith – if I may borrow the words of the —The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister  our faith “in the influence for good that exists (sic) in the United Nations”.  And, to top it all, the organization belongs to all of us. 

We are especially pleased that Honourable Minister Nicholson has been able to join us; we recognize that he made special efforts to be here with us and we are deeply grateful to you, sir.

Honourable Minister, this evening provides us a perfect opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to the Government of Jamaica for its gracious support and hospitality to the UN family – to those who live and work here as well as our colleagues who visit us on mission.  Today we celebrate thirty-seven years of the UN’s presence in Jamaica; but this relationship between the UN and Jamaica goes back fifty one years to when Jamaica became a member of the UN just six weeks after gaining its political independence.  Since its membership, Jamaica and Jamaicans have played a noteworthy role in the United Nations by supporting international attention on advancement of human rights, equitable human well-being, economic cooperation and gender issues.  In fact, Jamaica led the designation of 1968 as the International Year for Human Rights to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and underscore the promise of the UN Charter.

The United Nations in Jamaica is dedicated to supporting the Government in the achievement of its Vision 2030 Jamaica, National Development Plan.  Being a trusted partner of the Government, the United Nations supports demand-based national capacity development.  It presents the optimum evidence-based advice and best practices to promote inclusive and equitable development for all Jamaicans, while respecting human rights and complying with obligations under international Conventions and Treaties.  The United Nations in Jamaica is represented by nine resident agencies and nine non-resident agencies that substantially cooperate with the national leadership to meet development priorities reflected in the Vision 2030 Jamaica.

In addition to our close partnership with the government, we rely on support by the international development partners, leaders of parishes and communities, NGOs and civil society, the private sector, and academia.  All of you are a part of the success; actually, you are critical to the success that we achieve together.  As I said before, - this evening belongs to all of you.

UN Day’s events included a well-attended Panel Discussion with some of the partners to hear their perspective on how the UN contributes towards achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica. The broad-based and heartening discussion captured a cross section of our work ranging from improvement in the living conditions of orphans and vulnerable children to youth empowerment, combating HIV AIDS and STI including by improving contraception security of the country to management and valuation of protected areas, and job creation through vitalization of animation industry.  The catalytic support and substantive excellence of UN was a cross cutting highlight.

As a related illustration of progress realized, the national estimates confirm that Jamaica will achieve most of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meet targets for poverty reduction, infant and child nutrition, primary education and access to safe drinking water.  Today life expectancy in Jamaica is 73 years and infant mortality rates have improved to 20 per 1,000.  Access to safe water is now enjoyed by 81% of Jamaican families and a majority of households have access to sanitary facilities.  Jamaica is now regarded as an upper middle-income country with a Human Development Rank of 85 out of 187 countries (HDR 2013).

The headway made by Jamaica in the achievement of MDGs is indeed promising.  However, with barely 900 days left until the 2015 deadline for the accomplishment of the MDGs there is still much work to be done. The Government’s 2009 analysis shows that the poorest decile of the population account for 2.7% of national consumption compared to 29% by the wealthiest 10%.  Over a million Jamaicans presently live below the poverty line.  Although the Jamaican population living in poverty significantly decreased in 2007, it increased to 17.6% in 2010.  The projected poverty rate for 2013 is about 14%. Rural areas continue to have the largest proportion of poor people at 23.2%. Even with an overall increase in the labour force in Jamaica, the youth unemployment rate, at over 30% is more than three times higher than adult unemployment.

While Universal access to reproductive health is on target, Jamaica is far behind in reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters by 2015.  Gender disparity is obvious by grade 6 in primary schools, with boys being the majority of dropouts at the secondary level. Males are under-represented by 2:1 at the tertiary level. 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 United Nations stands ready to strategically partner with the Government to advance progress in these areas, support Jamaica to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and simultaneously prepare for the Post 2015 development agenda.  The United Nations truly values and supports the National Motto of Jamaica "Out of Many, One People". It forms the core of Government’s emphasis on greater equality.  Also, the importance placed by the Government on creating decent jobs and exploring opportunities to spur inclusive growth is commendable. While some progress is being made in addressing the issue of an inadequate fiscal space and fulfilling the conditionality of IMF’s Extended Fund Facility agreement, we look forward to working together toward even greater progress ranging from strengthening the Government’s ability to reduce poverty and inequity, enhancing delivery of basic goods and services and providing social protection to all citizens and transforming the lives of the people who need it most - the marginalized and underserved communities, especially women, children and the youth experiencing the greatest vulnerability.

By creating a Ministry with a clear mandate to address climate change issues, the Government has demonstrated proactive leadership to combat the challenges presented by the most complex development issues faced by the global community today.  We are pleased to have partnered with the Government in shaping the structure, responsibilities and sustainability of the Climate Change Division within the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.  It reflects the priority accorded to increasing resilience and reducing vulnerabilities of the disadvantaged population including the provision of cost effective clean energy solutions to all.

As we approach 2015 and prepare to take account of the progress towards achievement of the MDGs, the global community is invigorated by the endorsement of the roadmap for creation of an inclusive Post 2015 agenda by Heads of States during the 68th UN General Assembly.  The Prime Minister’s address at this session coherently provides the core of this framework and goals. The Prime Minister stated, “In our deliberations on a Post 2015 development agenda, we must determine how best to shape a global compact that is universal and people-centered, and which strikes the balance between the need for robust economic growth, job creation, poverty eradication and the equally important need to preserve and protect the environment.”

We subscribe to the Prime Minister’s appeal that the augmentation of the Post 2015 development framework would benefit from accelerating the unfinished business of MDG achievement aligned with the Millennium Declaration that constitutes a solemn pledge by all countries to “free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.”  The UN team in Jamaica recognizes its obligation to contribute to these important efforts.  An integrated and synergistic development approach is as critical for the Government as it is for the entire UN System.  In fact, I would propose that the development effectiveness framework requires all development partners to work together and contribute to achieving the agreed upon national priorities in Jamaica.

Let us reaffirm our individual commitment and collective resolve to strengthen our teamwork, jointly realign development tasks, and collaborate effectively to support Jamaicans in the achievement of MDGs.  This will in turn foster the timely achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica, promote inclusive growth and advance Post 2015 development agenda to make sustainability a reality.

Thank you very much for being here, and enjoy the rest of the evening.

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