Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia

Indonesia--Working Together to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals

September 13, 2005 02:45 PM


by Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President Yudhoyono: Thank you, Professor Sachs, for your nice word of
introductions. Excellencies, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
thank you, Professor Sachs, for giving me the opportunity to share with your
distinguished colleagues and guests my thoughts about the Millennium
Development Goals. One of the most difficult things to do these days is to say
something important about the Millennium Development Goals and the problems
of poverty that has not already been said or written by Professor Sachs. Having
said that, I wish to begin by quoting a few familiar statistics that are grim enough
to bear repeating any time. Despite the abundance of the world as a whole,
there are still 1.1 billion people living in extreme poverty.

Nearly 3 billion live on less than $2 a day. Some 1.3 billion people have no
access to clean water. Three billion have no sanitation. Two billion have no
access to electricity and close to one billion entered the twenty-first century
unable to read or write. But the most startling statistic is the number of people
who die every year because they are too poor to live: eight million, enough to
populate a sizable national capital. It is said that statistics do not bleed, but when
they are as horrible as this you have to pause and think. And apart from that
when you see those video clips on TV of skeletal babies in the throes of helpless
hunger your humanity is challenged.

You cannot avert your eyes. Attention must be paid; actions must be taken. And
yet it took many years and many major U.N. conferences and summits before the
world community found a way of taking concrete actions. At the millennium
summit of September 2000, in New York, the heads of state and representatives
of 189 governments finally adopted the Millennium Declaration and its agenda for
development. That agenda, called the Millennium Development Goals, are
actually all about human development and how the human race would make a
journey out of poverty. Much has happened since then. What the (Inaudible)
deprecated as just another U.N. declaration turned out to be far from being just
business as usual.

We knew how serious was the U.N. system on this matter when the Secretary
General set up the Millennium Project and had it chaired by Professor Sachs to
help countries towards their MDGs. U.N. agencies and other multilateral
institutions have given top priority to helping countries attain their MDGs. Many
governments have successfully integrated MDG target into national development
planning and public investment strategies. But there is a great deal of global
(inaudible) today's massive effort. Financial flows for development are
insufficient and are moreover often flowing in the wrong directions. We do not
have an international trading regime that can effectively open up markets for the
exports of developing countries.

Some developed countries that can make a real difference between success and
failure in this grand endeavor do not have a genuine sense of partnership with
the developing world. In the Asia Pacific region it can be said that there has
been real progress towards the achievement of the goals. Alongside their robust
economic growth that took place in some countries, the region has sounds of the
fastest-growing economies in the world with high domestic saving and plenty of
international results. Yet the promise of the MDGs remains out of the reach of
millions. Many countries in the region lack the institutional capacity to take
appropriate action towards these goals. They have limited capacity to deliver
efficiently and equitably the basic services needed to improve the overall quality
of life of their people.

Those, despite a dramatically reduction of poverty, the region is still home to
more than 700 million people languishing in extreme destitution. That is about 70
percent of the world's poor. Malnutrition persists among 400 million people in the
Asia Pacific. Two of every three Asians have no access to safe drinking water.
Of every two Asians, one has no access to adequate sanitation facilities. And
this is the region to which the 21st century is supposed to belong. Women and
children, especially in the rural areas, are still often overlooked. They should
now have access to basic healthcare, education and economic resources.

Pockets of poverty that are the result of uneven progress should be identified and
acted upon instead of being concealed in national aggregations. This is exactly
what the leaders of Asian and Africa countries agreed to do when they met in
Jakarta, Indonesia in April of last year, the first time the Asia African conference
was held since 1955. This time around they issued the declarations of the new
Asian African Strategic partnership, where they agreed among others to meet
internationally agreed targets and goals in poverty eradication, development and
growth while emphasizing the importance of cooperation with all regions. The
declarations of the regional ministerial meeting on MDGs in the Asia Pacific held
in Jakarta early last month also recognized these challenges.

The meeting emphasized the need for collective action while acknowledging that
attainment of the MDGs is still the primary responsibility of individual countries.
The ministers proposed (inaudible) regional cooperation and partnership for
achieving the MDGs in the region with special attention to the needs of least-
developed countries, land-locked developing countries and small island
developing countries. We in the region remain firmly committed and determined
to attain our MDGs. We are mobilizing regional resources and initiatives such as
the Asian Development Bank and the Associations of Southeast Asian Nations,
to help us towards those goals.

We have sought the assistance of international financial institutions and
multilateral development agencies such as the UNDB. We have invited the
United Nations system to provide comprehensive and coherent programs of
support for regional countries. Specifically we have called on the United Nation
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to help us formulate a
road map to guide our future effort as we move towards 2015. We urgently need
that road map. The drive towards the MDGs has turned out to be a complex
journey with many obstacles. Though the MDGs were formulated to help all
societies, they do not serve as a formula for progress that applies to all. There is
great diversity among developing countries.

They are not affected by the same problems in the same way. They cannot have
uniform priorities. In the first place, there are many factors and combination of
factors that may have to do with the poverty of nations. This includes a country's
peculiar geography, its climate, the prevalence of disease and natural (inaudible).
There are also political factors, such as the lingering effect of oppressive and
exploitative colonial rule, the debilitating consequences of corruption, the
negligent of government and the devastation of (inaudible) armed conflict. Every
national strategy for development must therefore be tailored to the environment
of the country, to its culture and tradition as well as to its unique resources or
lack of resources.

And let us never lose sight of the close relationship between development and
security, as has been mentioned by Professor Sachs. I am convinced that the
struggle for world peace and security will never been won unless the challenge of
poverty has been defeated. I do not have to look too far to find a case that
demonstrates that truism. For decades the Indonesian province of Aceh
smoldered in resentment. You know Aceh. Aceh is the province in Indonesia
that was hit by the tsunami that cost 130,000 lives. Again, for decades the
Indonesian province of Aceh smoldered in resentment at what it perceived as an
unfair selling of the revenues from its wealth of natural resources.

For lack of development the proud and courageous people of Aceh felt that they
were poor and did not deserve it. Poverty was robbing them of their dignity.
Grievance and resentment eventually broke out into rebellion and separatisms.
The result was three decades of armed conflict. And while the conflict was
raging and taking a heavy toll of human life, the province became even more
impoverished. The situation became a vicious cycle: poverty bred violence and
the reign of violence rendered the people even poorer. In the (inaudible) reform
movement that was launched in the midst of the crisis of 1998, the government of
Indonesia failed to address the problems of Aceh through dialogue and
reconciliation. It was not an easy task.

Their first attempt aboard the government of Indonesia and the (inaudible)
movement to achieve peace through negotiation was a failure. Then came an
act of God, the earthquake and tsunami of last December that visited tragedy
upon the province. The unprecedented catastrophe killed more, as I have said,
130,000 people died and about 120,000 missing in Aceh alone. And it
devastated of 500 kilometers stretch a coastline. More than half a million lost
their homes. It is amazing how tragedy can make people see more clearly the
situation they are in. Both the government and the free Aceh movement saw that
the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the province could only be carried out
successfully in an atmosphere of peace.

And the only way to peace is to make peace. We made that peace in record time
and that peace is holding. The challenge now is to make that peace endure so
that it will become the environment of a battle in which former adversaries will be
fighting on the same side the battle against poverty. Today the reconstruction
and rehabilitation of Aceh is being carried out in a way that can serve as model
for development planning for the rest of Indonesia. A master plan was prepared
with the full participations of the people or of the communities being rebuilt. The
implementations of projects are monitored and evaluated by the people. Thus
the people feel that they are the owners of their own recovery. At the same time
we have put in place an airtight system that guaranteed transparency and
accountability and the disbursement of funds.

I believe that by doing so we have been able to eliminate one formidable ally of
poverty: corruption. It was in the spirit of reform that we were able to address
with any success the challenges of (inaudible) and development. It has been the
same spirit of reform that we have been addressing the challenge of national
security and national development since mid-1998. Where there are grievances
we bring justice and (inaudible) and reconciliation. We are fostering interfaith
dialogue with the intentions of encouraging religious leaders and scholars to take
a frontline position in the (inaudible). Right after this session I will be attending
the interfaith dialogue that they will be attending by world leaders and hosted by
President Arroyo of the Philippines.

Indonesia also hosted many occasions of the interfaith dialogue because this is
very important for Indonesia as a diverse country that we have to bring harmony,
respect others to at the end achieve true peace in Indonesia. Where there is a
development project to be carried out we shift the involvement of the largest
possible (inaudible) of (inaudible) orders. On the long term we are investing
heavily in human development, as reflected in our budgetary outlay of education
and health. We have in place an economic strategy that is basically pro growth
and pro poor. That strategy entails strengthening of the export sector, promoting
domestic and foreign direct investment to create jobs and accelerating the
development of rural economies.

We are putting new emphasis on rural infrastructure. Nothing is too small to
matter. A bridge that can cut by half a day a farmer's trek to town, a schoolhouse
where there was none for miles around, this makes a world of difference in the
villages. In the face of the skyrocketing of oil prices we are exercising fiscal
restraint and budgetary discipline. At the same time we are putting in place a
social safety net to protect our poor from the rigors of these hard times especially
when we allow fuel prices to rise to market level. The national social net will
consist of undertaking a human resources development, infrastructural building
and of course food security. Initially, we expect to spend 1.9 billion for this effort
to help and to protect the poor because of the new government policy to increase
the price of the fuel.

The pockets of poverty in Indonesia are considerable. We will neither deny nor
conceal these through deceptive aggregate statistics, nor will we give into
despair. For we have a vision of ourselves becoming a people that have
conquered poverty as the basic problem of the human condition. We see
ourselves today as a people who have suffered much but in the process gain a
wealth of experience and insight. In the current debate on fighting global poverty
the developing countries have argued that the developed world are not doing
enough to help developing countries. In turn, the developed world suggests that
the developing countries are not doing enough to help themselves. Well, I think
they are both right.

Each of us, the developed and developing world, needs to do more if we are to
tackle global poverty through global cooperation. We in Indonesia know to
address the ills of our society we need to improve government, fight corruption,
have better planning, invest more in our education and health, and utilize our
resources efficiently. Unless we do this with the seriousness that we deserve,
international cooperation alone will not be sufficient. In the struggle for
development we know what works and what does not work. We know what it
takes to attain prosperity, and that is the continuing refinement of our institution
and human development in an environment of democracy. We believe in the
perfectibility of our democracy and in the fruitfulness of our constant process of
reform. That is our fighting fit and our battle cry. Ladies and gentlemen, thank
you for your kind attention.

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