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Speech from Neal Walker
Thursday, 25 October 2007

Welcome Uchkunbek Tashbaev (Representative of the President Administration, Department of Economic and Social Policy), Baktybek Jekshenov (Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development), Mira Djangaracheva (expert on Environment and sustainable Development Problem).

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today we celebrate the United Nations Day, October 24, along with people of all countries around the world. At the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly several weeks ago, the Foreign minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. Ednan Karabaev, described the organization and its role.

Please, allow me to quote briefly from his speech:  

The United Nations keeps an unwavering status as an organization whose basic value is promotion of the moral principles of solidarity. The formation of a global civil society and the recognition of universally accepted rights and freedoms under the auspices of the United Nations play a significant role in furthering the development process.

This year, UN Day coincides with a world campaign against poverty titled "Stand Up Against Poverty". The United Nations Team in KR decided that we should use the opportunity to:

  1. Raise national awareness on the facts about poverty in the Kyrgyz Republic,
  2. Highlight recent achievements in fighting poverty in the Kyrgyz Republic, and
  3. Define the work that still needs to be done to overcome poverty. 

In Bishkek less than 1 % of the population lives in extreme poverty and only 5 % live in poverty. Thus, for all of us fortunate enough to be living here in Bishkek, it is easy to underestimate the poverty problem:

  • Nationwide, 9% of the population lives in extreme poverty; 40% live in poverty;
  • In Jalal-Abad, 17 % live in extreme poverty; 58 % live in poverty;
  • In Batken 16 % live in extreme poverty; 51 % live in poverty. 

These are government statistics and it is clear from these statistics why the Government has made the elimination of the Poverty a top priority in the National Development Strategy (NDS) that was launched several months back by President Bakiev.  One of our objectives today is to highlight national achievements in the fight against Poverty and I am pleased to note that the percentage of people in Poverty has declined nationally from 46% to 40% in the past two years. But I think we would all agree that still more can be done. A significant group of important donors in Kyrgyzstan, including the UN, has begun to align our programme around the relevant aspects of the NDS. Areas of the National Development Strategy that the UN system will emphasize in our programmes, as defined in the JCSS, include:

  1. Improving governance and effective public administration;
  2. Improved Health and Education outcomes, Social protection;
  3. Environmental sustainability and National Resources Management;
  4. Sustained  pro poor growth (the topic of today's discussion). 

In working towards the above objectives, the United Nations System: 

  1. Is nationally driven: we work in those areas where UN mandate and National priorities overlap;
  2. Brings global expertise and funding to National problems;
  3. Provides grant assistance only, not loans;
  4. Works with both Government and Civil  Society;
  5. Is focused on results. 

The focus on results is something that our UN Team in Kyrgyzstan is particularly proud of, but it is a message that comes from the very top of our organization. Please allow me to quote from the Secretary General's message on UN Day:

I am determined to ensure that we make progress on the pressing issues of our time, step by step, building achievements along the way, working both with member states and civil society. That means strengthening UN's ability to play its role to the fullest extent in conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building. 

At the same time, we must redouble our efforts to reach the MDG's. I will seek to mobilize political will and hold leaders to their commitments on aid, trade and debt relief.

We will be judged in the future on the actions we take today - on Results. On this UN day, let us rededicate ourselves to achieving them.

So, before we begin, allow me to briefly explain today's event. The forum is divided into two parts: 

First, we will look at recent achievements in terms of economic growth and social development and explore to what extent this is resulting in overall poverty reduction.

After the break we will identify the remaining challenges to overcome inequality, including social and geographical disparities in the distribution of the benefits of economic growth.

During the coffee break and after the forum you will have a chance to visit the exhibition which we have organized to highlight the innovative work of small businesses and social entrepreneurs across the country to fight poverty in their local areas. Before I introduce the first speaker, I would like to recognize that the Hyatt Hotel might seem a strange place to talk about, or even symbolically represent, poverty and inequality. In fact we chose the venue precisely because it is the ideal place to bring together national and international business representatives, as well as government and civil society, and to generate media attention on our commitments to reducing poverty in this country. And we are very grateful to the Hyatt for offering its venue for free, as part of its own contribution to these important efforts. 

Thank you very much, and I'll now turn the floor to Mr. Tashbaev.