Current crises must not detract from anti-poverty goals, Madagascar tells UN

President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar

23 September 2008 – The current global food, economic and security crises should not be used by affluent countries as a rationale for cutting back on pledges of increased aid to needy States, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar’s President told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today.

Speaking to dozens of world leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Marc Ravalomanana warned that efforts to overcome the crises were threatening to push the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the globally agreed set of eight targets for slashing a host of social and economic ills – to the margins.

“If we allowed this to happen, this would be a major mistake,” he said. “We have to remain focused on the achievement of the MDGs.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s most recent report on the MDGs, released ahead of a high-level event on the issue slated for this Thursday, showed that many countries, particularly in Africa, are lagging in the race to reach the Goals by the target date of 2015.

The report noted that wealthy nations have failed to deliver on their promise to provide $50 billion to poorer countries by 2010, and called for a sharp, immediate increase in aid and development assistance to meet the timetable.

Mr. Ravalomanana said it was African nations such as his own that bore the consequences for the shortfall in financial support.

“Poor countries cannot break the cycle of poverty, families have difficulties feeding themselves, people still have very limited access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

“I call upon all donor countries to honour your promises and to demonstrate leadership by explaining to your people why supporting the MDGs and the fight against poverty is a moral obligation and is so essential for creating a more stable and peaceful world.”

He said it was clear that tackling the emerging crises of soaring food prices, troubled financial markets and recent wars and political hostilities merited the use of resources to stabilize food markets, meet energy demands and meet other aims.

“What I do not understand, however, is that these challenges sometimes offer reasons for countries to abdicate on their promises of doubled aid for education, health and infrastructure.”

Gabonese Vice-President Didjob Divungi di Ndinge, who also addressed the high-level debate today, called for collective global action to ensure there is a lasting solution to the food crisis, where soaring prices have placed many staples – such as rice – out of reach of the ordinary citizens of poor countries.

He said the use of crops for fuel production, subsidies and export restrictions had all contributed to the spike in prices.

The Vice-President also noted the links between the food crisis, climate change and environmental degradation and stressed the need for international aid to help developing nations face the challenges these threats posed.

“It is thus urgent that all partners honour their promise to double official development aid,” he said.

Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba told the Assembly debate that there was “a need for genuine political will, especially among donor countries,” if the world is to achieve all eight MDGs.

“Open, predictable and non-discriminatory trading and financial systems must be developed,” Mr. Pohamba said. “We call for the intensification of the implementation of the global partnership for development, as agreed upon at Monterrey in 2002.”

He also backed a proposal for the 192-member General Assembly to hold regular thematic debates until 2015 to chart the progress made – and also the setbacks – towards attaining the MDGs.

Boni Yayi, President of Benin, said the international community had a responsibility to mobilize the necessary resources to “correct the grave distortions” which he said had caused the food crisis.

He also called on the UN to exert its influence to ensure that enough aid reaches those countries whose populations are suffering the most as a result of the food crisis.


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