/ 17 March 2010

UN chief urges faster progress in reducing poverty

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday that failure to meet global poverty-reduction goals by a 2015 deadline will spawn increased instability, violence, epidemic diseases and overpopulation.

In an address to the UN General Assembly, he urged adoption of a global action plan for faster progress toward achieving the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at a UN world summit on the issue, scheduled for September 20 to 22.

“Five years from the agreed target date of 2015, we stand at a crossroads,” Ban warned.

“Many countries have achieved remarkable progress. But many others are struggling,” the UN boss added, as he outlined a report suggesting ways to speed up implementation of the MDGs.

The eight MDGs set at a 2000 world summit call for:

  • eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
  • achieving universal primary education;
  • promoting gender equality and empowering women;
  • reducing child mortality;
  • improving maternal health;
  • combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
  • ensuring environmental sustainability;
  • Developing further an open trading and financial system that is ruled-based, predictable and non-discriminatory and includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction.

“Our world possesses the knowledge and the resources to achieve the MDGs,” Ban’s report said. “If we fail, the dangers in the world — instability, violence, epidemic diseases, environmental degradation, runaway population growth — will all be multiplied.”

The report blamed the slow progress on unmet commitments by rich countries, inadequate resources and lack of focus and accountability.

It warned that several of the Millennium Goals are likely to be missed in many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The least developed countries, especially those vulnerable to natural hazards, face great obstacles. So do countries that are in or emerging from conflict,” Ban said.

He noted that his report provided a sound starting point for agreement at the September summit on an agenda for action that should be “specific, practical, and results-oriented, with concrete steps and timelines”.

Ban called for a closer partnership between developing and rich countries.

He reminded developing nations of their obligations to improve governance, empower women, promote health, education and jobs.

Rich countries for their part must provide more resources and technology, he added.

“Although official development assistance (from rich countries) reached its highest level ever in 2008, there remains large gaps, especially with respect to Africa,” Ban said. “Let me be clear: we need no new commitments here. We need only make good on the commitments that have long been in place.” — AFP