Annan urges G-8 leaders to give top priority to Millennium Development Goals

7 June 2004 – Ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the leaders of the so-called G-8 to give high priority in their national policies to a set of key development goals approved by world leaders four years ago at the Millennium Summit.

“Let me appeal to you to incorporate the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] as an explicit priority in the programmes and policies of your Governments, and to do whatever you can to show that you are serious about them,” the Secretary-General wrote in a letter to the G-8 summit that will be held in the United States from 8 to 10 June on Sea Island, Georgia.

The Millennium Development Goals adopted unanimously by all UN Member States back in 2000, set out yardsticks for measuring development progress by 2015 in eight areas of global importance, including hunger, poverty and health.

Noting that four of the 15 years have already passed with “mixed results,” the Secretary-General stressed that the goals could still be reached by almost every country – “as long as it pushes through the necessary internal reforms and receives the necessary external support.”

“We are running out of time, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” Mr. Annan wrote in the letter that was released at UN Headquarters in New York. Noting that the task of achieving the MDGs posed the greatest challenge in Africa, he said that trade, health and official development assistance (ODA) were the three areas were action was vital for the continent.

The Secretary-General emphasized the crucial importance of Goal Eight – a global partnership between developed and developing countries – for achieving the other seven targets. He also pointed out that reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS was a prerequisite for attaining other goals in regions where the impact of AIDS and malaria was particularly severe, as in sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Annan welcomed recent initiatives by Canada and United States to give developing countries easier access to affordable anti-retroviral therapies, but noted that in themselves those measures were “not enough.”

In a related development, the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) called on G-8 leaders to remember the plight of children in many countries.

“If we are to meet the Millennium Development Goal aiming to reduce child mortality by two-thirds, the world needs to action greater deliberation and urgency,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement. “The G-8 countries have the power to drive child mortality rates down. UNICEF urges them to use it.”

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