Ban urges concerted new drive towards achieving UN anti-poverty goals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

11 September 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an “aggressive push” towards attaining the anti-poverty targets world leaders pledged to achieve by 2015, after a new United Nations report found that progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is threatened by high food and fuel prices and the global economic slowdown.

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals Report 2008 is the most comprehensive global assessment to date on progress towards the targets, which range from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and achieving universal primary education, to reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

“It provides hard evidence on what we have done well, and what more needs to be done if we are to reach our goals by 2015,” Mr. Ban told a news conference in New York at which he launched the report.

Mr. Ban noted that developing countries are devoting more resources to education and health thanks to reduced external debt servicing, fresh assistance and new financing from private foundations.

In addition, primary school enrolment is rising, and there has been progress on health and gender equality, he said.

According to new data from the World Bank, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty is expected to decline by half by 2015. “But progress is largely concentrated in Asia,” said the Secretary-General, adding that until recently, sub-Saharan Africa was losing ground in the fight against extreme poverty.

The report states that current high food prices are expected to push many people into poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which are already the regions with the largest numbers of people living in extreme poverty.

He noted that despite the challenges, there are enough successes to prove that most of the Goals are reachable in all countries. “In most cases, we already know what needs to be done, and how. Now we need an aggressive push to get the world on track,” he stressed.

On 25 September, Mr. Ban and the incoming President of the General Assembly, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, will convene a high-level gathering to review progress to date, identify gaps and commit to concrete steps to ensure that all countries can achieve the MDGs.

Some 150 countries will be participating in the event, including more than 90 Heads of State or government and other international figures, as well as nearly 20 of the world’s biggest philanthropic foundations.

“We are looking for intensified action from a new and broader coalition of partners: governments, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], faith groups, the private sector and others,” said Mr. Ban. “I expect all participants to announce specific initiatives or commitments and lay out plans to realize them. By the close of the meeting, we hope to be in a very different place from where we are today.”

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