Leaders urged to keep to anti-poverty pledges

Leaders urged to keep to anti-poverty pledges

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pleaded with the world's leaders to use their power to meet UN goals to help the poorest by 2015.

Ten years after they set the most ambitious goals ever to tackle global poverty, presidents, prime ministers and kings gathered again in the US for a summit to spur action to meet the deadline - which the UN says will be difficult, if not impossible, in some cases.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said: "We must achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We want to achieve them. And we can achieve them."

For centuries, the plight of the world's poor had been ignored but with the turn of the new millennium, leaders pledged to begin tackling poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made an impassioned plea to developed countries join with France in raising its contribution to meet the millennium goals.

France, he said, would increase its contribution by 20% over the next three years.

"We have no right to do less than what we have decided to do," Sarkozy told the assembled leaders. He also said the world body should join in creating a small international tax on financial transactions that would go toward ending poverty and meeting other millennium goals.

Leaders have vowed to reduce extreme poverty by half, ensure that every child has a primary school education, halt and reverse the Aids pandemic, reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds.

Goals additionally called for cutting by half the number of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation - all by 2015.

They also set goals to promote equality for women, protect the environment, increase development aid, and open the global trading and financial system.

"We brought new urgency to an age-old mission," the secretary-general told the assembled leaders. "And now, we have real results. New thinking and path-breaking public-private partnerships. Dramatic increases in school enrolment. Expanded access to clean water. Better control of disease. The spread of technology - from mobile to green."

But Mr Ban call the advances "fragile" and declared "the clock is ticking, with much more to do."

He urged the leaders to deliver the needed resources "above all by exercising political leadership."

"Despite the obstacles, despite the scepticism, despite the fast-approaching deadline of 2015, the Millennium Development Goals are achievable," the secretary-general said.

More than 140 world leaders were expected at the summit and security was tight. UN missions have often been the target of terrorist attacks worldwide. The international organisation's operation in Baghdad was one of the first hit in a deadly bombing as the insurgency there gained strength in late 2003.

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