Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Wednesday, addressing the country’s progress towards the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals over the past ten years.
Santos spoke about improvements Colombia has made in safety, education, health, the environment, standard of living, and the economy. He said that a decade ago, Colombia was widely considered to be a failing state, but now the country has made “a 180 turn.”
“A good part of our territory was ungovernable, and we lived with a civil war,” Santos said. “Of a total of 1,100 mayors, close to 400 could not serve from their municipalities due to security reasons.” Thanks to security improvements all mayors are now resident in the towns they govern.
“We can say that today, 10 years after the summit, that we have advanced a lot,” Santos said. “But there is still a lot to do.”
Santos said 1.7 million Colombians have been lifted out of poverty in the last eight years. Nevertheless, he added, 46% of the population still lives in poverty, and 16% are indigent. Colombia has employed two social programs, Familias en Accion and Red JUNTOS, to provide subsidies and goods to lift people out of poverty, explained the president.
“It is clear we still have a lot to achieve, but for this reason my government has made the ambitious goal – difficult yes, but impossible, no – of in the next four years lifting 7 million people out of poverty and four million out of indigence,” Santos said.
In October 2009, the U.N. declared that Colombia was behind in reaching the Millennium Development goals.
In addition to speaking about social issues, Santos urged UNDP to create a new environmental program, since the Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012. He spoke of a new agreement that would “bind and engage [countries], especially those who generate the most emissions.”
“This matter cannot wait,” Santos said of a new environmental treaty.
After his talk, Santos went to a meeting with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.