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International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
17 October

Secretary-General's Message for 2004

Next September, world leaders will gather at United Nations Headquarters for a high-level event to review progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration they adopted in 2000.  But even now, well before that event, we already know that a major breakthrough will be needed if the eight Millennium Development Goals derived from the Declaration are to be met by the target year of 2015.

There have been some notable advances and cause for hope.  The goals have transformed the practice of development cooperation.  The broad consensus around a set of clear, measurable and time-bound goals has generated unprecedented, coordinated action, not only within the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions, but also within the wider donor community and, most importantly, within developing countries themselves.

In terms of actual progress towards the goals, the data available so far suggest that developing countries fall into three broad groups.  The first, comprising most of Asia and Northern Africa, is largely on track to meet the target of halving extreme poverty and to achieve many of the social targets.  The second, mainly in West Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, has been making good progress towards some individual goals, such as achieving universal primary education, but has been less successful in reducing poverty.  The third group, largely comprising countries in sub-Saharan Africa but also least developed countries in other regions, are far from making adequate progress on most of the goals.

Intent as we are on drawing up a solid statistical picture of our gains and shortfalls, let us also remember that our concern is not numbers but individuals:  young people at work and out of school, children orphaned by AIDS and other preventable diseases, mothers who die in childbirth, communities affected by environmental degradation.  It is well within our power to overcome these and other terrible manifestations of poverty and underdevelopment.

Ten years from the target date, the goals remain feasible and affordable.  But we need a quantum leap in aid, debt relief and trade concessions on the part of developed countries as expressed in goal number eight.  And we need similarly dramatic changes on the part of developing countries to retool their development programmes.  On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I urge all countries to uphold their responsibilities.  And I urge the world’s leaders to make next year’s high-level event not just a simple stock-taking exercise, but an occasion on which we inject new political energy into an effort that is crucial for the world’s future security and well-being.

Kofi Annan

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