New York, 22 September 2010

Following Monday’s launch of the MDG Summit, President Kagame, co-chair of the MDG Advocacy Group, and UN Secretary General today participated in the second meeting of the group that comprises eminent personalities selected to support the UNSG to build political will to accelerate progress on MDGs. The Advocacy Group met to discuss and adopt a Programme of Activities for the coming years.

Addressing the advocates and media at the opening session, President Kagame said the MDGs represent a noble cause which advocates believe can be achieved by 2015. He added that Africa’s experience over the last ten years of implementing the MDGs has shown us that it is possible to achieve the goals in the next five years.

President Kagame spoke about Rwanda’s particular challenges and efforts at reaching set targets, despite starting from a much disadvantaged base through sheer determination, hard work and ownership of MDGs by local leadership. Rwanda too has made progress. We have seen a significant decline in extreme hunger and poverty; made improvements in health care that have reduced maternal and child mortality, with a 50% decline in under-5 deaths over the last eight years. Despite our modest resources, we have allocated more than 25% of our annual national budget to education, helping us to realize 98% enrollment target for primary education, well ahead of 2015.”

President Kagame called for a revisiting of the universal, progressive values that have guided many nations to prosperity saying that these should serve as a basis to guide action of the MDGs Advocacy Group. Pointing to a recent Heads of State forum on MDG that took place in Kigali in early September, President Kagame said that African leaders had agreed that: ““… The MDG agenda requires strong leadership and government ownership; the appreciation of Africa’s greatest asset, its people; and the mobilization of resources and new global partnerships to build catalytic physical and human infrastructure.””

President Kagame said that many around the world owe much to the MDGs, are watching with anticipation the actions the advocates are taking and called on the Advocacy Group to fulfill these expectations.

The Advocacy Group includes well-known figures such as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Muhammad Yunus and Wangari Maathai, former Chilean president and new head of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, former Mozambican first lady Graça Machel, entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates, and singer and political activist Bob Geldof.

On appointing the Group in June Mr. Ban called them “a real collection of superheroes in defeating poverty.” Addressing the meeting today, the Secretary General said: ““When it comes to raising public awareness and mobilizing political will, we need eloquent voices, inspiring leadership and creative minds. That is why I have called upon you. Your outstanding accomplishments made you obvious choices. You are especially well-placed to hold leaders accountable for sticking to their commitments”.”

The eight MDGs seek to: end poverty and hunger; achieve universal education; secure gender equality; improve child health; boost maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS; ensure environmental sustainability; and attain global partnership on development.

The opening session also heard from Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, first lady of Qatar and Muhammad Yunus.

Later Wednesday afternoon, President Kagame spoke at the launch of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health and pledged the support of the government of Rwanda for the new initiative, which he said was in line with Rwanda’s determination to stop maternal and child morbidity and mortality.

Between 2000 and 2008, Rwanda reduced under-5 mortality by 48% from 196 to 103 per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality by 64% from 1,071 to 383 per 100,000 live births. President Kagame however said that;

“These figures were still high and that Rwandans would strive to do more and better to improve health outcomes for women and children.”

President Kagame outlined elements of Rwanda’s renewed efforts in the coming years which will focus on achieving sustainable universal health insurance coverage; committing 15% of Rwanda’s budget to the health sector by 2012, and mainstreaming financing of high impact interventions for maternal and child health through gender responsive budgeting, performance based financing and use of demand side incentives.

On participation of Rwandan’s in improving the nation’s health status, President Kagame said: ““We will empower our communities to take healthcare into their own hands through devolution of decision making and resources to local health centres and the strengthening of community health workers.””

On further government commitment to Rwanda’s health system, President Kagame said;”“We will upgrade our health infrastructures, increase the provision of emergency obstetric and neo-natal services; roll out and deepen a national health education programme to reach all adolescent girls; and promote effective nutrition practices, especially among under fives, school children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.””

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Heads of State and Government, along with the private sector, foundations, international organizations, civil society and research organizations, kicked off the concerted world-wide effort to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children. More than $40 billion in financial commitments by governments and non-profit agencies were announced for the global strategy.

““We know what works to save women’s and children’s lives, and we know that women and children are critical to all of the MDGs,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Today we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed.””

Other speakers at the “Every Woman, Every Child” event included the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, and Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.