UN boss appeals for poverty reduction

SECRETARY General Ban Ki-moon opened a summit yesterday with a plea to the assembled presidents, prime ministers and kings to use their power to meet UN goals to help the world’s poorest by 2015.

Ten years after world leaders set the most ambitious goals ever to tackle global poverty, they are gathered again 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 opened the summit saying: “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.

They vowed to reduce extreme poverty by half, ensure that every child has a primary school education, halt and reverse the HIV/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.”

But Ban called 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 on the Millennium Development Goals, which will be followed by the annual ministerial meeting of the General Assembly so leaders will be presenting positions, not only on global anti-poverty plans but also on global issues.

In advance of this week’s summit, diplomats from the 192 UN member states agreed on the document to be adopted by the leaders which spells out specific actions to accelerate implementation of each of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in the next five years.

It says the goals could be achieved “with renewed commitment, effective implementation, and intensified collective action by all member states and other relevant stakeholders at both domestic and international levels”.

Many recent reports show that the world’s poorest countries have made little progress in eradicating poverty. And in Africa, Asia and Latin America there has been a lack of progress in reducing mother and child deaths, providing clean water and sanitation, and promoting women’s equality.

Ban warned that “inequities are growing within and among countries”, a problem compounded by the global economic crisis.

“I know there [is] scepticism, but my role as secretary general is to fight against this scepticism and make this action plan deliver,” Ban said.

Amnesty International, which says world leaders have failed more than a billion of the world’s poorest people, were to unveil a Maternal Death Clock in Times Square in New York yesterday to count maternal deaths around the globe as world leaders met.

Maternal mortality remains unacceptably high and the clock will begin at 5,317,280, the number of women Amnesty says have died since the MDGs were adopted in September 2000. It predicted about 3,700 would die during the summit, which ends tomorrow.

On the plus side, the Overseas Development Institute, a British think tank, said Ghana outperformed all other countries in reducing hunger by nearly three- quarters, from 34% in 1990 to 9% in 2004. Vietnam reduced the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day from nearly 66% to 20% in just 14 years.

Ten African countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, and post-conflict Angola, have halved their absolute poverty levels, Benin ranked in the top 10 in education improvements, and Angola and Niger significantly reduced child deaths.


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