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Millennium Development Goals Review Summit 2010 - Round table 5: Addressing the special needs of the most vulnerable, statement by Ms. Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - New York, 22 September 2010, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. (Conference Room 4, UNHQ)

We must ensure that the MDGs work for the most deprived and excluded people. This is central to human rights and very personal to me. I witnessed the destructive power of poverty when growing up. And I have observed that, though the causes of poverty are complex, they are often related to discrimination and human rights deprivations.

This is why the human rights commitments in this Summit's Draft Outcome Document are so important. The MDGs are not a complete development strategy. But the strong emphasis on human rights in the Draft Outcome Document can help to fill critical gaps.

A human rights perspective provides critical guidance to visualize who has been left out, and to understand and address the reasons why. Building on the Draft Outcome Document, I would like to propose the following priority actions:

Firstly, we must identify who is being left behind:

If we don’t explicitly measure inequalities, we will end up exacerbating them. At a minimum, data must be disaggregated by income quintiles and gender, rural/urban and regional disparities. Ecuador, Thailand and Kenya are among the good examples. Identifying disparities affecting indigenous populations, minorities, migrants, persons with disabilities and others may also be critical in many countries.

Secondly, we need to understand why these disparities exist and address them:

People are not mere objects of statistical analysis or passive recipients of development aid. Empowering them to drive poverty reduction and accountability processes will increase the effectiveness and responsiveness of policies and budgets. Only through understanding people’s experiences, will we be able to remove the real barriers preventing their exercise of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development.

The human rights framework is universal but flexible enough to be adapted to local contexts. Bringing a human rights perspective into national development and international cooperation policies is not a one-size-fits-all formula, but nor is it “rocket science.” Resource constraints are very real in many countries, but vision, leadership and political will are the truly indispensable factors.

I am very encouraged by the fact that many developing countries, as well as some donors, have requested the assistance of my Office and the UN system to integrate human rights into their development and cooperation policies to ensure they reach the excluded.

Inspired by this, I offer the support of my Office to those States willing to integrate human rights into their development and cooperation policies. It is my intention to bring the findings from such country experiences to the attention of the 2013 “Special Event” on the MDGs proposed in the Draft Outcome Document. This will help identify success factors towards achieving the MDGs for the most excluded by the target date of 2015, and beyond.   

We have made more than enough promises to the poor and marginalized. The challenge now is implementation.

Thank you.