|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Secretary-General to Launch
Millennium Development Goals Report 2010
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an intensified focus on priorities, political will and partnership to achieve the Millennium Development Goals this morning, as he launched a report that showed a mix of progress and obstacles in reaching the anti-poverty targets.
“This report shows that economic uncertainty cannot be an excuse to slow down our development efforts. It is a reason to speed them up,” Mr. Ban said as he introduced the major findings of the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, which showed that the overall number of people living below the poverty line was half of what it had been in 1990, but that hunger and inequality were on the rise in many parts of the world. (See also Press Release SG/SM/12970)
Accompanying Mr. Ban at the launch were Jeffrey Sachs, his Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals; Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Francesca Perucci, lead author of the report, United Nations Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
To mobilize partnership and political will, Mr. Ban announced the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, made up of 17 current and former political leaders, businesspeople and thinkers from around the world — including Mr. Sachs and business magnates Bill Gates and Ted Turner — whom he called “a real collection of superheroes in defeating poverty”.
Mr. Ban said that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would Co-Chair the Group, which planned its first meeting for next month, two months before the September Summit aimed at accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
He said that the report showed that the world had made huge strides in reducing extreme poverty, tackling HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and improving access to clean drinking water, but was still lagging in other critical areas, such as improving maternal health, ensuring the education of girls and increasing access to decent sanitation.
Among the priorities for action right now, he said that “job one is jobs”, noting that world unemployment was at the highest level ever, with 211 million people unemployed. Green jobs, economic opportunity for women and more help for small farmers were needed. Food security, through investments in a “green recovery”, was equally important.
He added that developing countries must take the lead in creating national plans to meet development goals. Smart, reliable investments from developed countries were also crucial. He pledged to continue to advocate for the richest countries to fulfil their commitments in investments and aid at the Group of Eight (G-8) and Group of 20 (G-20) meetings taking place later this week in Toronto, Canada.
A major focus in Toronto, he said, would be mustering support for the global action plan on women’s and children’s health. He was encouraged that the Canadian Government had taken that issue up as a priority. The goal was to invest an additional $45 billion by 2015 in that area. For the other Goals, he would urge that countries come through with the level of funding that had been already pledged.
In response to questions, Mr. Ban acknowledged that developed countries had been hampered in their capacity to meet aid challenges because of the ailing economy, but said that that was no excuse not to meet commitments. He said positive signs included progress in the text of an achievable action plan for the September Summit, for which a focus on accountability was important.
Mr. Sachs said that the most important commitments were those made at Monterrey and Gleneagles to double aid to Africa and increase official development assistance (ODA) to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which he maintained would provide enough direct investment to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals. It was clear that neither of those goals were being fulfilled. “The question to be posed to the G-8 is: what are they going to do about it?”
He welcomed, in that context, the maintenance of aid levels by the United Kingdom and other European countries in the face of fiscal crises, noting however that ODA of Canada was stalled at 0.3 per cent. He found that “lacklustre” for a country he that had authored the 0.7 per cent target and which had a “rather dynamic economy”.
Mr. Sachs stressed the direct correlation between investments in developing countries and saving lives. Schoolrooms, clinics, bed nets, and improved seeds and fertilizer could transform impoverished societies and build sustainable peace, he maintained, while the trillions spent on weapons had more questionable results.
After several correspondents inquired about a perceived lack of a human rights perspective in the report — in regard to the cultural situation of girls and the well-being of people caught in conflicts — Mr. Ban assured them that a concern for human rights ran through all efforts of the United Nations. Accountability for donors’ funds and the fight against corruption were also cross-cutting concerns, he said.
In response to other questions, Mr. Ban expressed hope that newly discovered mineral resources in Afghanistan would be put to the service of economic development, and the entire panel agreed with the importance of advanced information and communications technology for development, stressing the large role played by the private sector in its spread.
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