Saakashvili speaks at the Millennium Development Goals Summit
By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, September 22
Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, delivered a speech at the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the UN headquarters in New York on September 20. In the 15-minute-long address, Saakashvili outlined the situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions and focused on the reforms carried out in the country.
20 percent of Georgia’s territory consists of “black holes”, the Georgian President said at the summit, referring to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. He focused on the environmental problems in Abkhazia and called on the international community to assist the Georgian government in monitoring the situation on the ground. “Unfortunately the Georgian government cannot control the situation on this territory. We are very concerned about the damage done to the environment due to the export of natural resources to Sochi ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in 2014,” Saakashvili noted.
Saakashvili talked about the State Strategy on Occupied Territories as well. “I would like to ask all of you to support the Strategy,” the President said “We have numerous IDPs and refugees in Georgia, the occupied territories are almost abandoned. Even in these conditions, we do not want to leave any citizen beyond the Strategy, which envisages different social programs. However without the help of the international community, it will be impossible to implement them in reality,” he added.
The President highlighted Georgia’s “progress” in fighting corruption and poverty, healthcare and education reforms and the efforts made to develop local business. “Our aim is to develop financial mechanisms and local business conditions in the country. There was a chance that Georgia would become a bureaucratic state, but instead our country achieved significant success. No financial assistance will bring any specific results if we do not pay more attention to the poverty issue. The world will not be stable unless we care about healthcare and education,” Saakashvili stated.
Georgia has made a “big step” towards fighting corruption and decreasing the poverty level since 2003, according to the President. The development of local business is “directly linked” with defeating corruption, he suggested. “When Georgia was signing up to the Millennium programme, Georgia was an unsuccessful state, with underdeveloped infrastructure and systematic corruption. The Georgian government started its fight against corruption and poverty and this has brought some results now,” Saakashvili said “The poverty indicator was above 40 percent in 2003, now it is less than 18 percent. The number of people below the poverty line is now less than 6 percent. The progress that we have reached is only the beginning,” he noted, adding that the Georgian government will carry on working to decrease the poverty indicator.
One of the challenges of the millennium for Georgia is improving its education system, Saakashvili said when talking about the reforms in the education sphere. “Education should bring people out of poverty,” he stated. Saakashvili outlined the specific changes made in the field, saying that the Georgian government is planning to invest “a lot of money” to bring the Georgian education system in line with international standards. “I am proud that Georgia was the first among the Post Soviet states to introduce self governance in the schools,” Saakashvili said.
The President touched upon the issue of gender equality in Georgia, saying that the revolution in the country was carried out by both male and female reformers. “As a result, women have more opportunity to participate in the political and economic processes. We are doing our best to achieve gender equality – trying to have more women in the Parliament and in the Government,” he said.
As part of his visit to the United States, President Saakashvili will hold up to 90 meetings, according to the President’s press service. Saakashvili is also expected to address the UN General Assembly session on September 23. The Georgian President’s visit to the US ends on September 25.