27 November 2006 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned today that the likelihood of attaining the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), designed to combat poverty, hunger and deal with a host of other social ills, are “mixed, at best”, stressing to the General Assembly the need for all countries and sections of society to work together to “turn this situation around.”
Mr. Annan’s emphasis on partnerships between developed and developing countries, as well as on closer ties between the private and public sectors to work for development, was echoed by Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, and other senior officials in their remarks at today’s special session held to discuss the MDGs.
“We have laid a foundation for development, but no more than that… Our ultimate test remains the Millennium Development Goals, and our ability to attain them on time, everywhere and for everyone. Frankly, the prospects are mixed, at best,” Mr. Annan said, referring to the goals agreed upon six years ago and which have a target date of 2015.
“If the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved, developing countries themselves must live up to their commitments to adopt and transparently implement comprehensive national strategies for reaching these goals… Development will simply not happen if the developing world doesn’t get its own house in order.”
“But whenever and wherever developing countries have adopted such sound strategies for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, it is equally vital that richer countries live up to their commitment to provide resources to enable those strategies to succeed,” Mr. Annan said.
In her opening remarks, Sheikha Haya outlined examples of development progress already made, including the fact that in the past 20 years 400 million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty, while last year official development assistance (ODA) reached $100 billion for the first time.
However, she also highlighted the challenges, pointing out for example that in some countries, pregnancy and childbirth kill a woman every minute, while 270 million children worldwide have no access to health care, and calling on the global community to follow up on its responsibility to assist those in greatest need.
“World leaders have reaffirmed the central position of the General Assembly as the chief deliberative and policymaking organ of the United Nations… Our emphasis must be on partnership because the development goals of Member States will only be achieved if the private sector, civil society and governments are fully engaged.”
“When poverty is so immediate and the suffering so intense, the world has a moral and strategic obligation, to address the concerns of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa,” she said, referring to the first MDG which calls for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.
A highlight of today’s event was an announcement by the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank Group, Amadou Boubacar Cisse, of a new fund of $10 billion to fight poverty. The new money will target the MDGs in the world’s poorest countries, with a special focus on primary education, particularly for girls; malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; rural infrastructure; and micro-finance.
Again emphasizing the theme of global partnership for development – which is the eighth MDG – UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Dervis stressed in his remarks the need for this to be “decisively strengthened,” highlighting that despite strong global growth many poor countries remain worse off than ever.
“No region is currently on track to meet all the MDGs by 2015… We are of course referring here to current trends. These trends can still be altered in many cases with more resources combined with better policies. Political will for this is what is needed – by developing and developed countries alike.”
“In our interdependent world nations can only progress rapidly if the international environment is favourable to equitable worldwide development. From trade to climate change, from financial stability to the control of infectious disease, it is only by working very closely together that we can build human security and prosperity for all.”
In their addresses to the Assembly, Ali Hachani, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also highlighted the need for international solidarity for development, while Jeffrey Sachs, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the MDGs, stressed the need for more action.
“Our challenge is to get focused, because we are a rich world filled with people dying of poverty. We must scale up our interventions,” Mr. Sachs said, as he called on all delegations to take advantage of today’s informal hearings to renew and reinforce their commitment to the MDGs.
The day-long discussion also involved numerous representatives from Member States, civil society and the private sector, including new and emerging donors such as the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the Soros Foundation.