U.N. Anti-Poverty Goals Get New Financial Pledges, But It Won’t Be Enough

September 22, 2010 - 6:04 AM

United Nations (AP) - A three-day summit to push global leaders to meet U.N. goals to significantly reduce poverty by 2015 wraps up Wednesday with new financial pledges from countries but no certainty there will be enough money and political commitment to meet the targets.

With many countries under financial pressure from the effects of the global economic crisis as well as rising food and energy prices, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged governments not to abandon the 1 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, in prepared remarks for delivery at the Millennium Development Goals summit Wednesday, urged other countries to show the same resolve as Britain in meeting their aid commitments, despite the fallout from the financial meltdown.

Clegg pointed to "fragile spaces -- like Afghanistan -- where hate can proliferate and terrorist attacks can be planned, where organized criminals can harvest the drugs that ravage our streets, where families are persecuted, displaced, pushed to seek refuge with us."

"So we do not see the Millennium Development Goals just as optimistic targets for far away lands," he said. "They are not simply charity, nor are they pure altruism. They are also the key to lasting safety and future prosperity for the people of the United Kingdom."

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the leaders Tuesday that the lack of security in his home country has made it harder to achieve the anti-poverty goals, known as the MDGs.

"The enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan are still active, orchestrating well-planned attacks against schools, clinics, teachers, doctors, government employees and even young children, particularly school girls," Rassoul said. "Unfortunately, similar attacks continue against humanitarian aid organizations and their personnel."

The world leaders are reviewing efforts to implement anti-poverty goals adopted at a summit in 2000. These include cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education, halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and cutting child and maternal mortality -- all by 2015.

More than 140 presidents, prime ministers and kings are attending the three-day summit which started Monday and many will remain in New York for the General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting which begins Thursday.

The summit's final day includes addresses in the afternoon's closing session by U.S. President Barack Obama, China's Premier Wen Jiabao and Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The secretary-general will be launching a global campaign Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit to spur action on three goals where progress has been lagging -- reducing the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth by three-quarters, cutting the number of children who die before their 5th birthday by two-thirds, and promoting equality for women.

Ban said Tuesday that an estimated $26 billion to $42 billion will be needed annually to meet targets on women's and children's health between 2011 and 2015. U.N. officials said Ban will be announcing billions of dollars in new pledges at Wednesday's event.

Ban has said the world is "on track" to cut extreme poverty by half, the No. 1 goal, by 2015 though some critics say it's mainly because of the big strides in China and India. Many recent reports show that the world's poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have made little progress in eradicating poverty. And the U.N. said that at the current rate of progress, the world will miss the target of cutting in half the proportion of people without basic sanitation.

"It rarely makes headlines but poor sanitation and dirty water kills thousands of children each day and is crippling the health of billions in developing countries," Mariame Dem of WaterAid, an organization working in 26 countries to improve access to safe water and basic sanitation, said in a statement. She urged the summit to give a higher priority to sanitation.

At a global health event Tuesday, the secretary-general praised achievements over the last decade including decreasing HIV infections by 17 percent since 2001, saving an estimated 6 million lives through work on tuberculosis, and securing financing for all the bed nets needed to fight malaria.

But Ban said an estimated $28 billion to $50 billion will be needed annually between 2011 and 2015 to achieve universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said donating public money is not enough to help end poverty and meet other U.N. goals.

He renewed France's push for a small international tax on financial transactions to fund achievement of the MDGs.

"But this is not about replacing public funding -- that's the message that the world must get through," he told reporters Tuesday, speaking in French. "It's not a technical problem, it's a political problem. We need to have strong political will."

Asked about possible opposition from other countries to the tax, the former founder of Doctors without Borders, clearly exasperated, switched to English and declared: "I know that they are not all in agreement. But it was the case when we founded Doctors Without Borders. It was impossible so we did it."

"Yes, it will be impossible, so we will do it," he said.

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Associated Press Writer Maria Sanminiatelli contributed to this report from the United Nations.