Ban calls for accelerated progress towards development targets

Header: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs media on MDGs report

16 March 2010 – With five years to go before the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says progress has been uneven and without an accelerated action plan several Goals are likely to be missed in many countries.

“Despite hard economic times, despite lagging progress on many fronts, we can still achieve the Millennium Development Goals by our target date of 2015,” he told reporters at his monthly press conference in New York, referring to the eight main development challenges agreed to by 147 world leaders in September 2000.

He launched a new report today, entitled Keeping the Promise, in which he unveils a new action plan aimed at getting governments, civil society actors, private businesses, philanthropy and the multilateral system to act “efficiently, effectively and collectively.”

Mr. Ban said today that with a decade of efforts towards achieving the MDGs already under the world’s belt, “we know what works and what doesn’t,” with lessons learned on how to best utilize new technologies, national development policies and better governance.

He also noted that new resource pledges are unnecessary. “If nations deliver on the financial commitments that they have already made, we can achieve the Goals,” adding that it is time to pick up the pace.

The so-called Group of Eight (G8) leaders at their summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 pledged to increase development aid by billions of dollars by this year, but Africa has received the smallest share of this commitment, the Secretary-General pointed out.

Further, last summer’s Group of 20 (G20) gathering in L’Aquila, Italy, wrapped up with nations promising $20 billion to boost agriculture in poor countries, but that money “has not come yet,” he said.

The shortage of political will, Mr. Ban said in response to a journalist’s question, is also hampering progress towards reaching the MDGs. He acknowledged that the current economic crisis has drawn the focus away from the Goals, but expressed cautious optimism that countries will commit themselves to providing the resources needed to tackle the targets.

In September, a high-level summit will be held on the MDGs, just prior to the start of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate bringing world leaders together in New York.

That gathering, the Secretary-General said, must produce a “concrete, comprehensive, result-based plan” to chart the course for the coming years. “And that is what I am determined to get.”

The new report highlights gaps, emerging challenges and opportunities, and lays out specific recommendations for action to boost progress towards the Goals over the remaining five years.

Falling short of the MDGs would be an “unacceptable failure, moral and practical,” multiplying dangers such as instability, violence, Falling short of the MDGs would be an “unacceptable failure, moral and practical,” multiplying dangers such as instability, violence, diseases and environmental degradation, the Secretary-General said in the new publication.

In it, Mr. Ban also highlighted a number of countries that have combated extreme poverty and hunger, improved school enrolment and child health, expanded access to clean water, strengthened control of malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases, and provided increased access to HIV treatment – all themes included in the MDGs.

These successes have taken place in some of the poorest countries, demonstrating that the MDGs are indeed achievable with the right policies, adequate levels of investment, and international support.

Yet progress has been uneven due to unmet commitment, inadequate resources and lack of focus and accountability, Mr. Ban noted.

This has resulted in failure to deliver on the finance, services, technical support and partnerships needed, he said. As a consequence of these shortfalls, improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, while some hard-won gains are being eroded by the food and economic crises.

The challenges are most severe in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, some small island developing States, those vulnerable to natural hazards, and countries in or emerging from conflict.

“Five years from the agreed target date of 2015, we stand at a crossroads,” the Secretary-General told the General Assembly this morning.

The September high-level summit offers an opportunity “to keep our promise to billions, yes, billions of poor and vulnerable people,” he noted. “It is a practical necessity and a moral imperative.”

Mr. Ban voiced hope that the gathering will give a new impetus to the global partnership for development. “If we don’t, if we fall short, all the dangers of our world will grow more perilous still.”

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