Press briefing on Millennium Development Goals Report
(Summary of Press Briefing held on 13 January 2005,
embargoed until noon, Monday, 17 January)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was thrilled to have sponsored and financed the Millennium Project on behalf of the Secretary-General, who had commissioned it, and on behalf of the United Nations Development Group, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said at the outset of Thursday’s briefing on the United Nations Millennium Project’s final report, “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”.
The UN Millennium Project consisted of a report by Jeffrey Sachs, the Project’s Director, and “250 of his dearest and closest friends, policy makers, analysts and academics” from around the world, organized in 10 task forces with a very active group of young researchers in New York, who had created the task force reports.
The proposition was a simple one, he said. “Was it possible by 2015 to achieve the Millennium Development Goals adopted so solemnly by governments in 2000?” The verdict was that “in many ways it’s gotten harder because we’ve missed some of the early years”. But the basic message of the report was that even now, with the right mobilization of resources and political will and reform in developing countries and in developed countries, the goals were still achievable. Good governance and the inclusion of civil society and the private sector were of key importance in that effort.
Perhaps for the UN and for the development community at large, the biggest thing was to get back our ambition -- to think big, Mr. Malloch Brown continued. The development community had become cautious and incremental, partly because of famous failures of development that didn’t work -- of poster child countries that had collapsed either because of corruption or economic mismanagement or other governance problems -- or because of the vast projects of the past -– “the big famous white elephants of bridges or roads that didn’t succeed”.
That, combined with an environment in donor countries in the last decade of reductions in official development assistance (ODA), had created an environment of enormous modesty and caution and conservatism in the development community, he said. And that was a clarion call to say “guys and women, our world’s changed and we have to seize this opportunity”. Official development assistance had been growing since Monterrey, although not nearly fast enough.
Development successes were happening all over the place, he added. Asia had banished extreme poverty in many places and was making “huge, huge progress”. Countries in Africa were demonstrating hugely improved track records of governance and economic reform. And public opinion had now moved from treating foreign aid “as that disaster, this area of public spending for which there is no constituency of support, to something that led presidents and prime ministers to break their holidays and rush back to compete against each other to increase the volume of assistance they wanted to give to the victims of the tsunami”. It had stimulated a debate about how development support must be sustained to really break the trap of poverty.
In that environment, the Millennium Project’s report could not be more timely, he continued, saying “we want to use it heavily in the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly for the Millennium Summit”. Along with the High-Level Panel on Security, the Project’s report was one of the two main intellectual inputs into the Secretary-General’s report. “And we want to see coming out of the Summit and out of various meetings of the G-8, of the European Union, of regional meetings in the run-up to the Summit, a set of actions taken.”
From increases in ODA and financing mechanisms to make that larger volumes of assistance available quickly, to trade talks culminating at Hong Kong in December, to attempts to get a trade round that helped developing countries grow, to decisions on debt taken in the Paris Club and taken in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and elsewhere -- all those decisions, with strong momentum behind them, should contribute significantly. “By the time we get to September, we should have a big head of steam behind a major new advance on the development front”, Mr. Malloch Brown stated.
“If in parallel we’ve seen equal success on the High-Level Panel on Security, perhaps there is a real opportunity of bringing these two agendas together to address rich countries’ security concerns and poor countries’ development concerns in a dramatic global bargain which allows security and development to be attached as the two driving priorities of the Secretary-General’s last years in office”, he concluded.
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the United Nations Millennium Project, said the report was a culmination of three years of effort by about 265 people, experts of various sorts in the development process working in a number of task forces in the secretariat of the Project, and actually hundreds more that had contributed in various ways.
“We’ve been engaged around the world with many pilot countries that have been engaged actively with virtually all of the UN agencies”, and other international organizations such as the Tropical Agriculture Research Institutes and many other academic centres, he said. While a vast amount of knowledge and expertise had been synthesized in a short document of 74 pages, on Monday 17 January 3,000 pages would be delivered to the Secretary-General, which constitute many volumes of work on specific aspects of hunger, disease control, water and sanitation, science and technology, and international trade -- each one a monograph -- plus the synthesis report and a fuller report. There had never been such a comprehensive effort to assess the underpinning of the investments needed to escape from poverty, he said, and the report pooled together a vast amount of knowledge from specialized sectors that needed to be brought together to get an accurate view of the challenge facing the world.
“The first point is that we’re talking about investments. We’re not talking about handouts or charity”, Mr. Sachs said. This was about investing in long-term improvements in people’s lives around the planet. Second, it was called in subtitle, a practical plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and that’s the challenge that he said he would like to put to the world. He believed emphatically that the effort was not “a dreamy set of global ambitions and challenges”. It was identifying very specific investments and interventions across a wide range of areas that could spell the difference between life and death, the practical difference between extreme poverty and income; the practical difference of being caught in a trap of suffering with the constant risk of imminent death from drought or infection or some other blight or natural hazard, as had been witnessed in the Asian disaster, versus safety from that kind of risk and a chance for long-term economic development.
So, the essence of the recommendations was a practical set of measures, he said. Many of them were not new; in fact, most of them were not new. But the overwhelming reality on the planet was that impoverished people got sick and died for lack of access to basic, practical means that could help keep them alive, and do more than that -- help them achieve livelihoods and escape from poverty. Something as simple as a bed net to fight malaria, if properly introduced, could save more than a million lives of children in the current year.
The world’s eyes were focused on the Indian Ocean tsunami, “but the world continues to overlook the silent tsunami of death from malaria, which takes every month the number of people that died in the Asian tragedy”, he said. Every month 150,000 children in Africa, if not more, were dying from the silent tsunami of malaria, a largely preventable and utterly treatable disease. There was hunger because farmers did not grow enough food. But that was no great mystery -- if soil nutrients were not used, crops would not be adequate to feed families.
The point was that the problems of the poor could be diagnosed and could be understood in practical terms -- could be understood in terms of the challenges of insufficient rainfall or mosquitoes that transmitted malaria, or populations that did not have access to roads or to power, or to other basic needs which empowered persons to be productive members of a global society. The essence of the challenge was overcoming a trap of impoverishment in which people that had virtually nothing in material resources, also lacked, therefore, the financial means to address those gaps on their own.
“You know that it’s a matter of a road, a school, a clinic, a doctor or a bed net -- you know that, but you don’t have the money to pay for it”, he said. He had been meeting impoverished people all over the world as part of his work, and had had hundreds of encounters in clinics and hospitals with impoverished farmers. They knew very well what they lacked could make the difference for them. “So, we’re asking the world not to go on with the high theory, but with the basic realities of life of the billion people absolutely at the bottom, and the 1.8 billion slightly above that live on $2 a day, not the $1 a day or below, and look at a practical means of doing this”, he added.
“The essence of the conclusion is that if you do what we have done -- which is the most serious, detailed costing that has ever been done, on these issues -- the amounts of resources required to address these challenges are beyond the means of the poorest countries”, Mr. Sachs continued. Clearly, they involved more than the entire budgets of those countries, but they were so far within the means of the world that it was almost inconceivable that those investments would continue not to be made. And most importantly, they were well within the boundaries of what the rich countries had long-promised to do and recommitted in Monterrey to do -- which was to make concrete efforts towards the target 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) in official development assistance.
“Simply honouring the commitments on both sides -- good governance, adequate financing, open trade, access to global science and technology -- could end extreme poverty on this planet within our generation”, he added, and certainly bring it down by half by the year 2015, which was the commitment of the Millennium Development Goals. That was the essence of the finding distilled from 3,000 pages down to a few sentences.
“We believe in 2005 those commitments will be honoured”, he said. His discussions with world leaders, including President Kibaki of Kenya just three days ago, had indicated that leaders in poor countries were ready for quality leadership, and transparent and consequent governance. But they were looking for partnership from the other side as well.
He also believed that the link of security and development was not a trade, saying “it stands at the essence of what can make a safe world”. The chances of a hungry, disease-ridden country falling into conflict were vastly higher than when people were fed and well-nourished and had the dignity of participating properly in the world economy. That was what could be accomplished.
The evidence was compelling, and there were important signs that governments around the world were ready to act. “But, we’re not there yet”, he said. Business, as usual, would leave hundreds of millions of people behind and would lead to millions and millions of unnecessary deaths every year. But action could rectify that, and “I think we have identified the most practical means to do that, and we have found throughout the world a readiness to act.”
There were 10 key recommendations at the beginning of the book, he said. One had to think specifically in the context of each country to make a strategy for development that was Millennium Goal-based. On that basis, it was possible to do a financial-need assessment, and to craft an investment programme that was consistent with achieving the Millennium Goals. That involved investing across a number of sectors. “There is no one magic bullet in this”, he added. “If someone says, ‘I know the key! It’s education, that’s the key’, or ‘It’s health, that’s the key’, that was a mistaken view, “because a manageable, but still not single, set of decisions and actions needed to be taken across the range of the Millennium Goals. That was why there were eight -- they were all inter-connected.
Good governance was essential, Mr. Sachs continued. But he had also found that there was a significant number of well governed poor countries that did not get the help they needed. There was not a governance barrier right now for those countries. It was often a financing barrier. In 2005 there needed to be at least a dozen fast-track countries in the low-income world where the donors followed through on their commitments for scaling up, because those countries had been identified as well-governed countries under just about anybody’s criteria. He called for fast-tracking at least a dozen, but possibly two or three dozen countries. As soon as that happened, others would run to be included on the basis of being more transparent, better governed, seeing the hope that they actually could be part of a much more dynamic process.
“We believe there are a number of quick wins that it’s absolutely unbelievable that the world doesn’t do right now, such as fighting malaria with the powerful tools that we have that, at very low cost, could save millions of lives per year”, he said. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other regional strategies can play a key role and indeed had already dramatically improved governance and prioritization within the low-income countries.
“We call on donors essentially to double their aid during the next 10 years as a share of their GNP, but on a rising path which takes into account the realities of an increase in investment over time”, he said. So that was a bit less than doubling initially or it was a bit less than .5 per cent of GNP. But by 2015, all donor countries were asked to reach the long-standing target, which, by that time, would be 40 years after the original promised date of 1975 of 0.7 per cent of GNP in official development assistance. There were five countries that were already there and six more had recently committed on a timetable. That was half of the 22 donor countries. Hopefully, all donor countries would get on the timetable by the year 2015 because “our analysis shows that a proper scale-up to end extreme poverty, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the other needs that will come up, calls for that fulfilment”.
He called for a successful completion of the Doha Round and an accelerated timetable no later than 2006 -- already beyond the original target date. “We call for $7 billion a year of investments in science for the poor, for areas that are neglected now.”
The United Nations had a unique role to play in the fulfilment of the goals, he said. His experience was that the United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes had the highest quality of professionalism and world-class expertise that was vitally important. It was not well-understood but the experts of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO) and countless other agencies were a unique resource for the world. “And we call on the Secretary-General to redouble the efforts to mobilize the UN resources for this goal with several very practical recommendations that we hope the Secretary-General will take up”, he concluded.
Questions and Answers
Asked if anything had fundamentally altered the way he, his team of researchers and others thought about the way the international community was combating poverty, Mr. Sachs said the Project’s report was unique, and it indicated very strongly that the international community was not on the way, at present, to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The report, more than any other study ever before on the poverty issue, had pointed out the practical steps, in a detailed and interconnected manner that could be taken in many development areas, such as child mortality reduction.
He said the current system had not worked because it had not been “goal-directed” sufficiently. The Millennium Development Goals, set up as goals truly for the world, had been increasingly taken on politically all over the world. In a lot of countries, he noted, the Goals were actually a person-in-the-street issue, as they were at the cornerstone of how governments were thinking. But regrettably, the international system was not goal-directed properly, meaning it was one thing to have the goals, and quite another thing to show the path to reach those goals. The way poverty reduction strategies were set, designed and financed in the international system right now needed to be goal-directed, something that had not been done.
Because the existing strategies were not goal-based, -- fundamental to the successful attainment of the goals -- the Commission’s first recommendation was that poverty reduction strategies that countries were already operating under, needed to be reset to be Millennium Goals-based, because currently they were not. If countries continued on the current path, dozens of them would not come even close to meeting the Goals, while only a handful would attain that objective. Unfortunately, the present situation had failed to trigger the needed response in international organizations.
As an example, he cited what transpired when Commission members met with the IMF’s executive board over a year ago. During those discussions the members had come to realize that the board was not even getting the report of how those countries -- whose programmes they were deciding and voting upon -- were performing in relation to the Millennium Development Goals. But based on the Commission’s recommendations, the board was now getting feedback on the countries concerned. In his view, the whole system needed to be made goal-oriented so that the recommendations were not mere exaltations but actually the practical basis for action. “That’s new completely -- the idea of having objectives and targeting them and result-based management around the Millennium Development Goals”, he said, adding that when reference was made to a practical plan, what was being called for was a “set of identifiable, monitorable, measurable investments”, so that one knew if the money was put there, whether it got on the ground or not, as it was auditable.
Mr. Sachs was asked what the overall cost in general would be, and specifically how much the United States, as the world’s richest country, was expected or committed to give. Also, how many countries he hoped would be involved in donating funds to the process?
He replied that what had been done was to ask what it would take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and from that the sums involved had been calculated. For a low-income African country, it had been estimated that the investments that needed to be made were in the order of around $110 per person per year --not a lot of money from a rich country point of view, but for a country at $200 per capita, that amount translated into more than half of its income and, thus, was totally out of reach. Such countries needed every penny not for investments but simply to stay alive.
Further, it had been calculated roughly that, on average, about $10 of the $110 could be financed by households themselves, he said. About $30 of that amount could be financed through domestic budgets, the amount budget revenues would allow for a country with a per capita GNP of $300 per year, leaving a gap of about $70 per capita. He noted that the current aid for Africa, for example, was about $24 per capita and that was why for the poorest countries on the continent, a tripling of that amount would be needed.
A detailed analysis of the total price tag indicated that middle-income countries, by and large could afford to meet basic needs out of their own resources, he continued. The vast majority of the donor resources, therefore, ought to be directed at the poorest countries rather than the middle-income countries, he said. That implied roughly a doubling of development assistance as a share of GNP during the coming decade from about 0.24 per cent of GNP now to about 0.5 per cent of GNP on average during the years 2006 to 2015, but on a rising course. “So, we’re urging countries by the end of that process -- all the donor countries -- to be at 0.7 per cent.”
For the United States, for example, he explained that this meant that, on average, for the 22 donor countries of the development assistance committee, as of 2006, assistance should be at about 0.46 per cent of GNP. The US was now at about 0.15 per cent of GNP, a gap of about 0.3 of 1 per cent of GNP. For a $12 trillion economy, that was a gap of a bit more than $30 billion per year. In his view, that was a very moderate amount compared to a $12 trillion GNP. With the United States’ $12 trillion of GNP per year and the rest of the rich world’s $30 trillion of GNP per year, the capacity to help the poorest peoples survive and get out of poverty was huge.
“In short, ladies and gentlemen, when I say 0.5 per cent of GNP, we’re talking about the rich countries committing 50 cents out of every $100 of income. That’s all -- 50 cents out of every $100 of income to help the poorest people in the world to get a foothold on the ladder of development to escape from extreme poverty and to survive against the challenges disease and hunger. That’s all we’re talking about”, Mr. Sachs added.
Asked why the report did not include a “stamp of approval-type” statement from the Bretton Woods Institutions to show that the initiative was not just UN-driven, but a priority on the part of the wider development community, Mr. Malloch Brown said he believed that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would issue press releases endorsing the report to coincide with its official launch.
The chief economists of both institutions had been heavily involved in the preparation, he added, stressing that the positions of both the Bank and the IMF mirrored that of the United Nations: strong support for the broad direction of the report, not absolute endorsement of every sub-recommendation, and obviously a bit more caution than 250 analysts, policy makers and academics would have been acting in their individual capacities. The point was that across the development community spectrum there would be launches throughout Europe and in 80 developing countries next week. The report represented a huge and growing consensus.
On “selling” the report’s recommendations to United States officials, he said that Congress’ position on the Millennium Development Goals was pretty clear: the Bush Administration had increased official development assistance, and, although there was a debate about how much because there was the difficulty of always getting the promised amount appropriated, there had been years of sharp ODA growth. Also, the United States was extremely seized -- American public opinion particularly -- with health and education issues, and initiatives aimed at building those systems and institutions for poor people. “You see the instant connection [of the American people] like we’ve seen in the aftermath of the [Indian Ocean] tsunami”, he said.
In addition, for elements of Washington that were thought to be cautious on ODA, an awful lot of what was being discussed in the report -- the building of a private sector based on small- and medium-sized enterprise development; micro finance in developing countries themselves, the importance of reformed governments, accountability and transparency; and democratic governance -- meant that everywhere, even in capitals that were worried about the price tag, the debate was a lot more balanced and nuanced.
“We’re a bit closer to the tipping point of winning more ODA than you might imagine”, he said, adding: “The biggest problem we face at this point -- not just in the US, but in some of the other major donor countries as well -- has much more to do with the general budget deficit problems that were looming so large.” The answer to that was that in the past, the ODA had had a low level of political support and, therefore, was a small budget item. Going forward, with, hopefully, growing political support, the smallness of the budget item became less of a problem. If budgets needed to be cut, it was big areas of domestic discretionary expenditure -- and for many countries, defence spending as well -- which were the two areas that “made the numbers”, not the ODA.
The “[ODA] is increasingly a big political hit, but a small financial one”, he said, “so I hope that, even in this budget environment, in the US and elsewhere -- Japan and parts of Europe -- we can make the case that even as budgets overall go down, ODA, needs to go up.”
Looking ahead to the outcome of the General Assembly’s mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals, set for this coming September 2005, one correspondent asked if Mr. Malloch Brown was optimistic that the world body’s 191 Member States would actually sign off on the plan, which was really the crux of the implementation problem. If the outcome was a success, how would the UN “hold [governments’] feet to the fire” to ensure that promises were kept?
He said that while Mr. Sachs and his team had been busy writing, he had been “chief whip” on this, counting votes for a long time. Mr. Sachs had estimated that half of the membership of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- “the club of donor countries” -- were committed to growing their ODA to this number. Coincidentally, there was an extraordinarily dynamic champion from both the European Union and the “Group of Eight” -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- who, along with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown was committed to addressing poverty in Africa over this year.
“I can see some of the holdouts coming into the ‘yes’ column”, Mr. Malloch Brown said, “I can see the movement, so people like myself and [Mr. Sachs] will be lobbying intensely throughout the coming year, along with NGOs and civil society, as well trying to get the governments that have moved to bring others with them.”
“So we don’t need the 191 votes, because developing countries are going to want this, so the issue is to get donor countries”, he said, adding that the effort would include a push to broaden the coalition of donor countries.
Before leaving the briefing, Mr. Malloch Brown reiterated his support for the extraordinary work done by Mr. Sachs and his Project team, who had “given the biggest intellectual contribution to the global development debate from the UN system in at least 20 years”. That was important because even though no one wanted to admit it, during the 1990s, the Organization had ceded intellectual leadership of the development debate to other places -- the best thinking on development was coming from elsewhere. As that was the case, the focus had slipped away from UN priorities, such as people’s needs and social issues.
The Project’s work was remarkable because it had given the United Nations the strongest and most enduring report on development issues in a generation. The report reflected a global consensus among developed and developing countries and development institutions”, he said. It was a menu that developing countries could use to set and support their own strategies. It included costing tools and issues that needed to be addressed. But the direction and priorities those countries set to achieve the goals had to come from their own processes.
Asked what were the report’s top recommendations, specifically on how developing countries could deal with issues like corruption and mismanagement or misuse of funds, Mr. Malloch Brown said he had spent the last three years reminding the Project team that [the recommendations would be met with] taxpayers money, and people had the right to know that it was going to be used effectively. He added that Mr. Sachs had argued back that in the past, the issue of governance and corruption had been used as an excuse not to put up the ODA.
“Here, we’re saying put it up, where the countries had a demonstrated track record, but of course take the right steps to make sure it was used effectively: have results, measure against them, and track the use of funds”, he said. The initiative was not about blank checks, it was about building capacities to use the resources effectively and sequencing the growth of aid behind that capacity-building and governance improvements, not ahead of it.
“Yes, this is the opposite of a blank check”, Dr. Sachs emphasized. The project had been engaged with some of the poorest countries in the world helping to come up with some of the most brilliant analysis of how to take practical steps to fulfil the Goals. So, the Project was suggesting putting increased resources against some of the most specific and detailed planning that had perhaps ever been seen. It was proposing and helping governments design very rich and exact use of proven techniques to follow through on those objectives.
“The result is that when money is put in, not only will you know where its supposed to go, you’ll be able to follow it, and check whether it was used the way it was supposed to be used”, he said, adding: “Anti-malaria bed nets will not end up in offshore bank accounts.”
“[This] is the opposite of throwing money at a problem. It’s identifying the underlying nature of a problem, how to make the investments, and what kind of systems needed to be put in place and how to take care of monitoring and evaluation”, he said.
Asked if the argument could be made that the report on the Millennium Development Goals was five years late, Mr. Sachs said that it was a tragedy that the international system had lost a considerable amount of time since the Goals had been announced in 2000. And while the International Conference on Financing for Development had been held in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002, there had not been the consequent follow-up to link actions on the ground with the Goals. So that meant that the international community was really near the end of the permissible time in which the Goals could be met. “If 2005 is not a breakthrough year, these Goals will certainly not be met in a large number of countries”, he said.
He had been asked in 2002 to hash out what could be done, and the team had been working very hard on that with governments to get things in place. But [the international system] was hard to turn, and it often, tragically, did not have its focus on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. There was a tremendous imbalance of focus within the international community on the issues of war and peace and less on dying and suffering of the poor, who had no voice and did not command the media airwaves.
“So let’s be clear, right now, the system is not working”, he said, “it could work. The steps we’re talking about won’t need a dozen years of [analysis and debate]…We have designed a set of recommendations that we can work with in the current institutions…which can lead to consequent results.” He agreed that if there had been a much more intensive follow-through in 2000 -- not within the United Nations system but from the world’s political powers -- “we would be much farther along.”
“And incidentally, millions of lives would have been saved along the way”, he continued, stressing that the delay in implementing the Goals was not merely a question of time lost, but one of life and death. “Every day we fail to put in place a proper campaign to get malaria bed nets to children, children die.” The Project’s proposal could be practically put in place this year, he said, pleading with the journalists in the room to help explain to the world what was at stake. “People in the world do not know how much we could accomplish with the tools that we have, he said. “There is confusion all over the world on this point…People believe that these are inevitable tragedies, and that is false.”
There were practical solutions that could be introduced quickly, certainly over the remaining decade, targeted for implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. But some of the Project’s recommendations would require that full 10 years, he stressed: “So we better get started to move beyond the words in a much more consequent way.” And, while he believed that it could happen, he said “we’ll have to wait and see” if it would happen because “can and will are two different things.”
“I believe that the urgency is for the global public to understand what we could accomplish on this planet for true security and true reduction of suffering if we choose to, through very practical steps”, Mr Sachs stated.
He said many donors were already increasing their aid significantly, others not so significantly. There was a change in mindset, however, but whether that change would translate into the scale of change was the big question. That change was caused by a recognition that the earlier strategies were not working. It was important that the process now got set in a systematic way. Recommendations were being made to set a process in place, with a long list of criteria for the United Nations system to be far more operational in supporting the Millennium Development Goals. He said he would be making specific recommendations to the Secretary-General in that regard.
Asked about some of the poorest countries that had natural resources being exploited by foreign companies, Mr. Sachs said that in the extractive industries there needed to be transparency. A transparent relationship vis-à-vis the business community was vital for a poor country, as well as the international official community. There was a need for countries concerned to make a detailed analysis to identify issues of availability of resources. That was in the “toolkit of good professional analysis”, which was not adequately applied right now. Up until now, the IMF and the World Bank had not negotiated MDG-based programmes with developing countries. From now on there was a need for a “goal-based set of specific, technical progresses” to answers questions about availability of resources.
Answering a question about whether countries seeking a permanent seat in the Security Council, like Japan, should meet the criteria of contributing 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to the ODA, he said certainly, any country that aspired to that kind of global leadership should take on the global responsibility it had committed itself to, among other things, as signatories to the Monterrey Consensus. Part of the leadership for security was promoting security through development.
Addressing a correspondent’s remark that part of the reason the ODA had fallen was a lack of confidence in its effectiveness and that it had not helped countries get out of the “poverty trap”, he said he would urge people to look at the numbers rather than “follow slogans”. The level of assistance that actually reached Africa was such a tiny fraction of what was actually needed to escape the poverty trap. Aid to Africa was now at an average of $24 per person, while the real need to make the basic investments was many times that. A lot of those $24 consisted of emergency aid instead of assistance to farmers to grow food. A lot was also dedicated to technical assistance through consultants from outside.
Part of it was also debt relief and not cash-flow transfer, he continued. The actual level of investment going to the Millennium Development Goals of the donor assistance was about $6 per capita. United States’ aid to Africa, other than the recent AIDS assistance, was emergency food relief, debt cancellation and technical assistance. The aid specifically directed towards Millennium Development Goals actually worked. He compared the situation to a whole city block on fire and one fireman being sent. As the fire spread, analysts would say that money spent on firemen was wasted.
What was the biggest obstacle for a practical plan in 2005 was that the poorest of the poor in the world were voiceless and lacked the ability to have their needs recognized by the rest of the world, Mr. Sachs replied to another question. There had been a generous outpouring for the tsunami disaster, but the world was unaware of the fact that 150,000 children were dying every month from a “readily preventable” cause: malaria. The biggest challenge was public confusion that there was nothing to do, or that everything was already being done that could be done, or that the poor were poor because they were lazy or other false stereotypes. The biggest confusion in the world was the lack of understanding how addressable the challenge was, and what a bargain it was to address it. “If the public could understand this better, I believe that there will be the commensurate response”, he said.
Asked about a public relations campaign necessary to bring that message across, he said he had been contacted widely by personalities who were interested in getting involved. Mentioning the “One Campaign” and the “Poverty History Campaign”, he said the tsunami disaster had shocked the people into paying attention to those concerns and issues. The eyes were open. There was now in the US more of a debate about what could be done about the poor than there had been in years. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown were committed to keep the debate vigorous. All of that was an opportunity for having a unique, global debate on those issues. If the confusion could be stripped away, the essential message was that, at a very small cost, a tremendous gain could be achieved in saving lives, in helping to end extreme poverty, in helping to put countries on a path of sustained economic growth and in providing greater security.
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