Nepali Times: What does the MDG Forum hope to achieve?
Kim Hak-Su: This Forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders from eight South Asian countries to evaluate their progress towards meeting the MDGs, the challenges they face, and the actions needed in the short-to medium-term future to meet the 2015 deadline.
The participants-who represent governments, civil society, media, and academia in their home countries-will develop an action plan listing the immediate steps necessary for South Asian countries to move forward with MDGs.
But this time, I am disappointed to see that only one government level official, just your finance minister, out of eight countries has attended the Forum. This shows that we must do more to solicit more high-level participation.
And how do you plan to do that?
UN agencies must certainly step up their awareness campaigns and the lessons learned here should be kept in mind during the other upcoming sub-regional forums, like the Southeast Asian Forum coming up in December in Hanoi.
Does achieving MDG targets mean a country is relatively problem-free?
If a country met the targets it would mean it had taken the basic steps to reduce poverty and address crucial development challenges. The UN believes the MDGs are the minimum requirements for a country to move towards progressive development. The MDGs are not the answer to all development problems, but a good blueprint for moving forward.
How does Nepal's progress on MDGs compare with other South Asian countries?
No developing country in the world is on track for all of the 2015 targets. Nepal too is on track for some, but off track for others.
Nepal has reduced the number of people with income under $1 per day, an indicator of 'extreme poverty', and increased the number of students enrolled in primary education and ensured these enrolments include girls and boys. Nepal is also progressing well in reducing deaths in children below the age of five.
However, like other South Asian countries, Nepal is not doing so well on reducing infant mortality. I hope the Forum will allow the Nepali delegation to gather lessons from other countries on how to redress this situation.
Do you agree with donors who say the conflict is the biggest obstacle to development?
Investing in MDGs, even when countries are facing security difficulties, can improve the situation. Studies show that when basic development needs are met-such as a reasonable level of income, food security, and access to basic health care-security issues can be addressed more effectively.
The MDGs are a long term plan, an investment for the future. National or international security issues, which are often temporary, should not stop our efforts to fight poverty and other goals.
How do you rate the UN's role here in achieving the MDGs?
Nepal has made progress since 2000. For example, between 1996 and 2004 Nepal reduced the percentage of people living below $1 a day from 34.4 to 24.1 percent. However, progress needs to be stepped up to meet the 2015 deadline. Like other countries in the region, Nepal needs to strengthen its institutional capacity to deliver accessible services to the poor, vulnerable, and marginalised groups.
There is a need for strengthened regional cooperation so countries like Nepal can learn from the good MDG practices of other South Asian countries. I'm proud of the work we in UNESCAP, and the tri-partite initiative with UNDP and ADB, have been doing to assist countries in meeting the MDGs.