H. E. Mr. Leonel Fernández
24 September 2008
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LEONEL FERNÁNDEZ REYNA, President of the Dominican Republic, recalled that eight years ago, representatives of 189 countries made what was possibly the most transcendent commitment that such a large grouping had ever undertaken: they had agreed on the Millennium Development Goals. Those Goals would be remembered as the bravest ethical decision taken to combat extreme poverty.
“We did not fill the Millennium Declaration with abstract and grandiloquent concepts,” he said. “On the contrary, we analysed, with the greatest rigor possible, the situation we wanted to correct.” At the midpoint to 2015, States faced a disheartening international climate filled with obstacles to achieving the Goals.
The Dominican Republic had made progress, he said, noting that it had reduced, by more than half, the percentage of five-year-old underweight children. Despite progress in his and other developing countries, there were, however, still more than half a million women who died every year due to pregnancy-related complications that could be prevented. Without extraordinary effort, the Goal of reducing the percentage of children born with a less-than-healthy birth weight would not be reached. Preventive measures against AIDS, “an ominous pandemic”, were grossly insufficient. Without greater efforts, more than 600 million would not have better sanitary services, he added.
At the same time, rich nations, which had agreed to provide ODA to achieve the Goals, had fallen short in following up on their pledges. Only five of those nations –- Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Luxemburg -– had honoured them, making contributions equal to, or more than, 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).
Achieving the Goals required a financial “rescue plan”, he said, citing a World Bank study that showed a yearly average of $50 billion was needed. Between now until 2015, $350 billion in external assistance would be needed. He did not want to think that rescuing the dignity of the world’s poor did not have the same priority as rescuing credit institutions in the world’s financial centre.
On unregulated speculation in the purchase and sale of futures contracts for oil and food, he said there was no way to hide the fact that, without market regulation, futures contracts lent themselves to fraud. In July, he had been shocked to see that the price of a barrel of oil had risen $10 in a single day. There was only one explanation: excessive speculation in the futures markets. In only five years, hundreds of billions of dollars had entered commodities futures markets, much of which had been directed towards energy. Also in that time, the price of wheat had jumped by 177 per cent; and soy by 196 per cent. He reiterated that rising oil prices were among the factors that most affected achievement of the Millennium Goals.
“The world does not aspire to be a gambling den,” he declared. Rather, people had simple aspirations: to live in conditions of social justice and equity. To achieve such noble objectives, nations that believed in the Goals as an agenda of genuine social transformation turned to the Organization with hope of correcting existing distortions.