World is lagging in fight to eliminate poverty and hunger, Annan warns

20 September 2004 –

With the number of chronically hungry people on the rise around the globe and living standards in some countries diminishing instead of improving, the world is falling a long way short in its drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today at a meeting of world leaders on poverty and hunger.

In remarks to the meeting, held at UN Headquarters in New York and organized by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Mr. Annan warned of a "global underclass of the hungry poor" who keep missing out on the economic improvements enjoyed by the rest of society.

He said official development assistance to poor countries is finally increasing and foreign "aid is being better channelled," but serious obstacles remain before the developing world can reap the benefits.

"It is by no means assured that current trade negotiations will conclude in a way that brings real gains for developing countries. There remains a democratic deficit in international economic and financial decision-making," he said.

The Secretary-General called on world leaders to take immediate action to arrest the problem, pointing out that next year is the five-year mark for measuring what progress the world has made towards achieving the MDGs.

The eight time-bound goals, agreed to by world leaders at a summit in 2000, include such targets as halving, by 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day and halving the proportion which are hungry.

"Progress in eradicating extreme poverty has been uneven. In many countries, progress is too slow to meet the goals. And in some, standards of living have even deteriorated," Mr. Annan said.

At its conclusion, the Summit adopted the New York Declaration on Action against Hunger and Poverty, which underscored the determination of participants ? leaders and other officials from over 100 countries ? to fight those scourges.

Speaking to reporters, the Brazilian President said he the other members of the “Quintet against Hunger” ? the leaders of France, Chile and Spain, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ? had rallied participants to adopt the Declaration, which also reaffirmed the pivotal role played by the UN in this battle.

President Lula stressed that all members of the global community must take responsibility to fight poverty and hunger and to encourage development. At the same time, he acknowledged the difficulty of asking “any rich citizen or worker in a rich country make a donation to help a poor country without a clear understanding of where their money would go.”

The meeting was convened as analysis from a group of global economic experts, commissioned by the UN, argues that seven innovative sources of funding could finance the $50 billion which is estimated to be necessary to achieve the MDGs.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs prepared a study drawing from the analysis by the economic experts after an earlier General Assembly resolution called for an examination of new funding sources.

The seven sources of funding include the levying of global environmental taxes, such as a carbon-use tax; the creation of a global lottery and/or global premium bonds; and the establishment of a tax on currency flows to discourage excessive currency speculation.

The other sources are: encouraging greater private donations for development by businesses and individuals; making it easier for migrants to send home money; creating new "Special Drawing Rights," which allow nations to fund development; and making available an international finance facility that would allow long-term funding from donor countries to the world's poorest nations.

The study states that, acting alone, the government of an affluent nation could easily increase finance flows for development.

"A single country could, for example, allow income tax deductions for taxpayers sending remittances to fund community projects in the home country. A single country could launch a premium bond dedicated to development funding," according to the paper.

"A single country could decide to allocate to development purposes part of the proceeds from its national lottery. A single country could match out of public funds the amounts donated by its citizens to development charities."

Related Stories






In-depth Interviews