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interview with Dr.Erna Witoelar

IndonesiaCIA World Fact Book
Interview with Dr.Erna Witoelar,
Yuli Ismartono [time 29:30]

Dr. Erna Witoelar is the United Nations Special Ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals - better known as MDGs - for Asia and the Pacific.

Dr. Witoelar is no stranger to development issues, having begun her career in consumers and environmental activism, and grassroots politics. In 1999, President Abdurrahman Wahid appointed Dr. Witoelar as Minister for Human Settlements and Regional Development. Today she chairs several civil society organizations and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia.

Yuli Ismartono: Welcome to our program THE LEADERS, I'm Yuli Ismartono from AsiaViews. With us today in Jakarta, Indonesia is Ms. Erna Witoelar, the United Nations Special Ambassador to the Millennium Development Goals, or MDG in Asia and the Pacific. Ms Witoelar is no stranger to development issues, having begun her career in consumer and environmental activism and grass-roots politics. In 1999, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid picked her as Minister for Human Settlements and Regional Development. Today she heads several civic society organizations and she is currently the chairperson of the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation. She is also known as a founder of the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia.
Ms. Witoelar, thank you for being with us, tell me, what is the Millennium Development Goals, how relevant is it to Asia, and what's different from other initiatives in the past.

Wit: The Millennium Development Goals are a set of goals agreed by governments from the United Nation member countries at the millennium summit in the years 2000.At the time they signed the millennium declaration and agreed to eradicate poverty to open more access on education for children, cut drastically children and maternal mortality, reverse the trend of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, also to provide a better environment for the poor in slum areas, access to water. So in short, it's a pledge to make the world a better, to make a better world for living, and get rid of poverty.

YI: What's the difference between this program and other programs in the past?

Wit: This is an accumulation of previous UN summit results and this is the culmination of that, where then all these goals are seen in an interdependent and interlinkage, so that achieving one goal can also be the entry point for achieving other goals. So the difference is now it's more holistic in approach, it has a time-bound target, with also concrete measurable targets.

YI: Even from a global point of view it seems colossal, it seems ambitious. Do you have priorities?

Wit: Yes, each country's going to have their own priorities, some countries have achieved their goals on poverty reduction, but have problems on maternal mortality, like Indonesia. Other countries have HIV/AIDS on top of their priorities, as well as education, access to education for girls, in some of the more advanced countries in the region they have achieved all other goals but for environment, sustainable development, it's a tough goal for countries to achieve, so countries can have their own priorities based on their own measurement on how far they have gone with all the other goals.

YI: So the determining body is the local government, the country government.

Wit: The country government, the national government. The implementation is at local level, because poverty is at the local level, malaria, is happening at the local level, so the implementation are there, but this implementation needs to be supported at the national level, promote pro poor policies, pro gender, environmentally sound policies, and that is what the world is sharing, sharing the knowledge, technology, even resources, to enable developing countries to achieve that.

YI: This is a more intense, a more extensive program, who's paying for it?

Wit: Well, there are some goals that we can pay ourselves, with our own budget, with our national budget, if we manage it better, so of course then, it is incorporated there, good governance, transparency, accountability. But there are also goals that we cannot cope with, with our own resources, like environment, reversing the environment destruction into environment restoration, that will need resources from outside, and that's why goal number eight is about that, goal number eight is about global partnership, where developed countries pledged to increase their aid, to open up more trade opportunities, to give more debt relief, debt swap, etc. to enable developing countries to pay for them.

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Presonal Plofile
Erna Witoelar,
Erna Witoelar, UN Special Ambassador for MDGs in the Asia Pacific, is former Indonesian Minister of Human Settlements and Regional Development, and founder of the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia. She is currently an Earth Charter Commissioner, chairperson of the Indonesia Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), and board member of the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium.

Before joining the government, she pursued a long career in civil society, where she was President of the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI), founder and first executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), and President of Consumers International.
Yuli Ismartono, [Interviewer]
Yuli Ismartono is executive editor of the English-language edition of Tempo, Indonesia's leading upmarket newsmagazine. She is also managing editor of the online magazine AsiaViews, launched in March 2004. After returning from studies at the University of Delhi and Syracuse University, she became a reporter for a variety of Indonesian media outlets, including the periodicals Prisma and the Indonesian Observer. After working for Tempo as a foreign correspondent in Bangkok, she helped launch the magazine's English-language edition.
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