" Reverend ‘Alifeleti Atiola; Distinguished Guests, Excellencies from the Donor Community; Cabinet Ministers, Government Heads of Ministries; Non-Governmental Organizations; Private Sector; Media Representatives; Ladies and Gentlemen;
May I Join the Minister for Finance and National Planning in wishing you a belated but nevertheless very Happy New Year.
It is a great honor for me to be invited, to the Launching of Tonga's 2nd Status Report on the Millennium Development Goals, and The Government appreciate and recognize your dedication and commitment to Tonga's development.
Let me start by thanking the United Nations Development Program, represented here by Mr. Navin Bhan, for their generous support in funding the work on the compilation of the main report. I would also like to sincerely thank the Chairman of the MDG Taskforce and its members for their leadership, and the members of the MDG Technical Committee and the many stakeholders both national and external partners who contributed to the detailed work on the report.
As you may know, Tonga's second MDG report is now ready and has been endorsed by the Government. This report is another milestone for Tonga on its progress towards the achievement of the MDGs by 2015. The new report provides an important opportunity to review the country's progress to date, ten years after the commitment to the MDGs was made at the Millennium Conference in 2000, and we are proud to share this information with Tonga's development partners and the people of Tonga themselves.
The second MDG report on Tonga's progress towards the Goals comes at a critical time. Ten years ago, Tonga, along with other 188 countries, signed the UN Millennium Declaration which set time-bound, quantifiable targets to be reached in 2015. There are now just five years left to achieve the eight goals agreed upon.
I cannot emphasize how important this report is for Tonga as it enables us to take stock of our progress and the challenges we must still overcome. This report is a crucial opportunity for the government, the people and Tonga's development partners in the international community to renew our collective commitment to improvement of human development status of the people of Tonga in general and to achieving the MDGs in particular.
The report indicates that Tonga is broadly "on-track" to achieve six of the eight Goals, and with some additional effort and acceleration of progress should be able to achieve a further two Goals. Tonga is certainly proud to be at the forefront of MDG progress in the region, and we will be happy to share the lessons learned in our country in the hopes that others might benefit from our successes, such as achievements in universal primary education or the reduction of child mortality.
Late last year Tonga recorded other milestones in the area of socio-economic development planning with the publication of the National Strategic Planning Framework 2009/2010 - 2011/2012, the development of Corporate Plans for Government Ministries and the completion of the Ha'apai Master Plan taking place. I hope that a comprehensive review of MDG progress will help to renew and revitalize efforts to achieve the goals in Tonga and contribute to the development of national strategies and plans to promote a model of socio-economic development that is both equitable and sustainable.
To briefly summarize, there is no extreme poverty or hunger in Tonga, but we need to step up our efforts in combating basic-needs poverty, and provide employment, in particular for youth. We are still feeling the effects of the global economic and financial crisis and we are experiencing further increases in the prices of fuel and basic food items in response to the various natural disasters that are happening around the globe. Many families here in Tonga are experiencing increasing levels of hardship as their standards of living are eroded by these external shocks. We must therefore give renewed emphasis to promoting equitable economic growth throughout the kingdom.
Tonga has however achieved great success under MDG 2 in providing universal access to primary education. Tonga is also doing well in the health-related MDGs, namely in child and maternal health, but our urgent priority is the reduction in the prevalence and impact of non-communicable diseases. Tonga is very committed to a sustainable environment, in particular through our Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and we are making efforts at closing some data gaps in this area. MDG8 calls for a global partnership, and I take this opportunity to thank our donors for their continued support in social services, in particular in light of Tonga's heightened debt burden.
Our task is to ensure that the report can provide the Government, as well as national and international stakeholders, information on, and policy guidance in, five key areas. These are: (i) the progress of each of the MDG targets; (ii) inequality in MDG achievement; (iii) bottlenecks that impede progress on MDGs; (iv) the impact of the global economic and climate crises; and (v) good practice examples that can accelerate progress.
Last, but not least, national efforts must be supplemented by international support if the MDGs are to be achieved. We call on the international community, Tonga's development partners, to significantly step up and fulfill their commitments on both aid and trade made under the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Cairns Compact and our bilateral partnerships for development. All partners should honor the commitments stemming from these and other international agreements.
In conclusion I very much welcome today's launch of Tonga's MDG database and webpage which is implemented under the Ministry of Finance website, enabling MDG stakeholders and development partners to contribute to Tonga in its efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
Please let me stress this Government's commitment to raise the living standard of all Tongan and to emphasize the private sector-led economic development of Tonga during its first term of office.
Let me once again thank the National MDG taskforce for this opportunity for launching Tonga 2nd status report and database for the Kingdom of Tonga.
I have great honor to officially launch the Tonga 2nd status report on Millennium Development Goals and hope that everyone present would find this report very useful and interesting and we work together for betterment of people's life in Tonga.
TU'A ‘OFA ATU.
Issued by Ministry of Information and Communications, 2011.