ECOSOC President urges investments, more foreign aid in education and health

1 July 2002 –

The current high-level segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council should centre on building on the achievements of previous UN global conferences and work towards making an upcoming summit on sustainable development a success, the President of ECOSOC, as the UN Council is known, said today.

Speaking at a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York, Ambassador Ivan Šimonovic of Croatia said that the current part of ECOSOC’s annual session, which was attended by senior government ministers and the heads of various international agencies, aimed to improve the health and education policies in developing countries and build momentum towards more international aid.

He stressed that the main message of the meeting was that investments in human resources in health and education were productive investments, noting that for example, a $1 investment in health led to $7 in economic output.

The three-day segment was also taking place in an extremely important environment, Ambassador Šimonovic said, noting that it came after the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in March in Monterrey, Mexico, and before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this year.

Furthermore, five of the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by world leaders at the 2000 Millennium Summit were directly related to health and education. In order to achieve them, he said, estimates called for a doubling of official development assistance (ODA), to about $100 billion per year.

In echoing that theme, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals, Prof. Jeffery Sachs, told reporters that a real partnership between the rich and poor countries was needed in order to achieve the goals in health and education, which were vital for poverty reduction.

With spreading pandemics of life-threatening diseases over the past decade and deteriorating living standards, the world’s poorest countries were falling further and further behind, while a least 100 million children were not attending school, even at a primary level, said Professor Sachs, the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York.

“We are just losing lives now, at a shocking rate,” he said. “The question today is what to do about it, and the answer is: It can’t be business as usual, because business as usual is not going to pull the poorest countries out of the terrible downward spiral that find themselves in. We need a real partnership between the rich and poor countries, and a real operational strategy for getting out of this mess.”

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