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Statement by UNICEF Iran Representative on the Millennium Development Goals

Iran, 27 June 2010 Today, we gather here to discuss the much-anticipated September Summit on the Millennium Development Goals – eight key commitments inspired by the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which ten years ago launched an unprecedented global movement to build a more peaceful, prosperous and just world for all. As UNICEF Iran, we are pleased to join everyone here today to reaffirm our joint commitment to the MDG’s and children’s rights – and especially the world’s most forgotten and marginalized children. As the world measures its progress toward meeting the MDGs, it is increasingly clear that millions of children are being left behind. In fact, data is beginning to show widening rifts between rich and poor countries, and glaring disparities within developing nations. For example, in countries like Afghanistan, the under-five mortality rate has not dropped by as much as a single percentage point, even as the global rate has dropped by 30% between 1990 and 2008. A woman in Niger has a 1 in 7 chance of dying from a pregnancy-related cause over the course of her lifetime. In the richest countries that rate is 1 in 8,000 on average. Within the developing world, children in the poorest 20% of their societies are two or three times more likely to be underweight than children from the richest 20% of their societies; two to three times more likely to suffer from stunting; two to three times less likely to attend school. In some countries, these disparities are growing – and they affect girls, indigenous children, and children from ethnic minorities most of all. Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves that there are still 1.000 unnecessary, tragic reminders of the challenge that still remains. Every hour, one thousand. That is 24.000 lives of children lost every day, of diseases that are easily prevented. All this is cause for alarm – and immediate action. Focusing our efforts to meet the MDGs on the easiest areas and people to reach might achieve a statistical success. But it would mask a moral failure -- leaving behind those who are most in need. We must focus more effort therefore, on the forgotten children. A central question is: how do we reach the greatest number of these children without leaving behind those children who are the hardest to reach. UNICEF believes it is precisely those most vulnerable, those hardest to reach children on who we must focus. Because the 5th quintile must never be our 5th priority. In fact, because they are the hardest to reach, they need to be our first, including in Iran. Iran has made significant progress on a number of MDGs, most notably in reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria and providing primary education. The time is now to refocus our efforts in new ways to meet new challenges, without abandoning what has worked before. For the children in Iran, UNICEF is here to assist our national partners to help ensure Iran’s strengths, capacities, resources and its social and culturally inspired care for children, continue to be the basis for our joint programmes of collaboration, and to build on these strengths to focus on newly emerging priorities. The international community asserted in 1948 that we are all ‘born free and equal in dignity and in rights’. This fundamental commitment is at the core of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified also by the Islamic Republic of Iran; it is echoed in the Millennium Declaration, and has been reaffirmed in the 2005 Paris Declaration, and many international declarations of human rights. These know no timeline or end-point, they apply everywhere and at any time. So even as we are approaching the MDGs, we need to start looking beyond 2015. We need to understand that this is not merely a statistical exercise. This is about the lives of children, and mothers, and boys and girls around the world. In this spirit, we hope you will join us in seizing this opportunity to champion children’s rights, for the whole child, and all the child’s rights, both here and worldwide – and in doing so, help lead the effort to put the world’s neediest children at the top of the MDG summit agenda in September.



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