UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark concludes four-country Africa tour

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UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark concludes four-country Africa tour

21 May 2010

Helen Clark meets with beneficiaries of an HIV project in Timbuktu. 04 May 2010. Credit: UNDP

The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Helen Clark recently ended a four-country tour of Africa to highlight progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the run-up to the MDGs Summit in September 2010. Ms Clark travelled to Mali, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and South Africa.

“Achieving the MDGs means quite simply a better life for billions of people,” Helen Clark said. “...Reaching the Millennium Development Goals is possible, and there is a range of tried and tested policies which ensure progress, particularly when backed by strong partnerships.”

UNAIDS participated in one leg of the tour as part of a joint mission with UNDP. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé accompanied Ms Clark to Mali on a four-day mission where he reiterated his call for preventing HIV transmission from mothers to children. "I am honoured to join Helen Clark on her first visit to Mali, which is a clear sign of the UN's commitment to reach zero new HIV infections," Mr Sidibé said.

Ms Clark met with Heads of State and Ministers, touched base with women leaders and members of civil society, and visited development projects.

Mali has been making important headway in tackling the AIDS epidemic, having reduced national prevalence from 1.7% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2006 and dramatically expanding universal access to HIV services.

Ms Clark also reiterated the importance of empowering women to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, describing “economic empowerment, access to legal rights, including inheritance rights, and participation in decision-making” as key steps toward achieving women’s empowerment.

In Burkina Faso, she toured a project which facilitates access to energy for rural women, and visited one of 176 UNDP-supported AIDS community associations where she spoke with sex workers about their concerns for the future.

The prevalence rate of HIV in Burkina Faso has dropped from 7% in 2002 to 1.6% in 2008, one of the lowest in West Africa. Despite this progress, the country still faces an epidemic mostly affecting women between 15 and 24 years old.

In Tanzania, Ms Clark met with the Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mustafa Mkulo, to discuss the country’s progress towards the MDGs, particularly on the AIDS response, empowering women, and enrolling children in primary school. She also travelled to Zanzibar and visited the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area, the single most important site for the conservation of the island’s biodiversity.

Ms Clark toured the National Electoral Commission’s voter registration facilities where she spoke to first-time voters planning to take part in the national elections this October. UNDP’s support to Tanzania’s election process includes voter education, training for media and political parties, and training domestic observers.

In the last leg of her Africa tour Ms Clark visited South Africa, where she launched an MDGs campaign song in Johannesburg for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, "8 Goals for Africa". The song encourages commitment to the achievement of the MDGs.

“There can be no spectators in the fight against poverty,” she said at the launch. “Everyone has a role to play in scoring the 8 Millennium Development Goals, which if reached would improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people across developing countries.”

Ms Clark ended her four-country tour of Africa by launching the second annual Picture This photo contest in Johannesburg in partnership with Olympus Corporation and the Agence France-Presse (AFP) Foundation. The contest, titled Picture This: We Can End Poverty, seeks to show the inspirational work that is being done in many countries to achieve the MDGs.

“Through the photo contest this year we want to show that the MDGs can be reached, even in the poorest and most disadvantaged countries,” Ms Clark concluded.