United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Remarks at high-level luncheon on Women's and Children's Health

I thank you very much for being here.

Thank you for committing to do your utmost towards ensuring that every woman and child on earth has the chance they deserve to live long, healthy lives.

If I may say something about myself: I was born not in a hospital but in my home - a simple small home in rural Korea.

There was nothing very strange or special about that fact.

Where I grew up, hospitals and clinics were faraway luxuries.

So older women from the community would gather at a home - mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, neighbors.

Quite often the only medical training they had was experience.


One of my strongest memories is the custom of women at the time as they went into labour.

They would look at their shoes before entering into the room and....just stare at their shoes.

Their simple rubber shoes.

I remember seeing this once and asking my mother, but why?

What is she doing?

And my mother said, "she is wondering if she will ever be able to step into those shoes again?, because at that time, there was no such medical help for women.

It was a plea, a quiet prayer: Let me make it through.

Let me walk this earth again.

Always, there were doubts.

Far too often, there were tragedies. Many women died.

Even today, in villages, towns and cities around the world, these fears remain all too real.

In our world today, too many women lose their lives giving life.

The fact remains that one preventable maternal death is too many.

Hundreds of thousands are simply unacceptable.

This, in the 21st century.

It has been 10 years since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals.

We are making great strides in some areas.

In some countries maternal deaths are declining.

That is great news.

But progress on maternal health is still lagging far behind.

For too long, maternal and child health has been at the back of the MDG train, but we know it can be the engine of development.

So we say: women and children first.

After all, a health system that delivers for mothers will deliver for the whole community.

But, first, we must deliver.

The groundbreaking response to HIV/AIDS showed the power of collaborative action.

UNAIDS is an example of this Organization successfully ?delivering as one?.

The enhanced coordination of the governments and partners in this room has been instrumental in putting us on the path to zero deaths from malaria by 2015.

The UN family is working together to accelerate support to countries to improve maternal and newborn survival.

These examples show that we have learnt how to pull together and overcome great obstacles.

I am counting on you and your commitment and leadership.

You are proven leaders in the field.

But make no mistake, all of us must do more.

Member states.

Civil society.

The business community.

The private sector.



The United Nations.

Thank you for coming together to commit to an action plan.

A concrete plan that emphasizes coordination and evidence-based interventions.

An innovative plan that offers a platform for new commitments.

A living plan that will promote unprecedented accountability.

The clock is ticking.

Between now and the MDG Summit in September, every partner must step up.

We must judge how our funding mechanisms can be used more effectively for women and children's health ? and where the gaps remain.

Developed countries can mobilize the full range of human and material resources ? and increase their financial commitments.

Developing countries can update national health plans to prioritize financing, implementation and monitoring of delivery services for women and children.

Foundations can spotlight this issue.

Businesses can develop new drugs and vaccines and work to bring the newest technologies to even the most remote communities.

Civil society groups and citizens everywhere can advocate, mobilize, and hold policymakers to account.

Over the next day and the coming months, I will be relying on your leadership and partnership.

We must accelerate progress on the MDGs - and there is no issue that can jumpstart that effort better than the cause that brings us together here today.

Women care for the children and grow the crops. Women hold families together.

Women are in the majority as societies age.

Women's health touches the heart of every issue and the soul of every society.

Let us make it the priority that it must be.

Let us act so every expectant mother can get back in her shoes...every child can get a headstart in life...and their daughters and granddaughters can truly step into a better world.

Thank you very much for your support.