|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference to Launch ‘MDG Gap Task Force Report 2012’
Amid warnings by a new United Nations report that significant development gains worldwide risked backsliding due to the slowdown in providing aid, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for a stronger global partnership to advance progress towards poverty eradication, sustainable growth and other development targets that world leaders had pledged to achieve by 2015.
“The report paints a troubling picture,” Mr. Ban said at a Headquarters press conference where he launched the MDG Gap Task Force 2012 report sub-titled “The Global Partnership for Development: Making Rhetoric a Reality”. He added: “It is clear that we need a stronger global partnership to achieve the MDGs by the 2015 deadline.”
Recalling that the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 set specific targets — on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, reducing HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability — he said that in 2007 he had established the Task Force, comprising experts from across the United Nations system, to track progress. In March 2012, he had reported major successes in many areas, particularly in reaching important global targets on poverty, water, slums and gender parity in primary education, as well as improvements in access to HIV treatment.
After peaking in 2010, however, official development assistance (ODA) had declined in 2011 for the first time in many years, falling almost 3 per cent, he continued, citing the Task Force report. Unless that trend was reversed, fewer targets would be met in fewer countries over the next three years, he warned. “I repeat my call to the international community: do not place the burden of fiscal austerity on the backs of the poor, either in your own countries or abroad.” While challenging, meeting the remaining goals by 2015 was possible, but only if Governments honoured the commitments they had made in 2000 and provided adequate support, according to the report, which offers recommendations for sustaining the momentum on important gains relating to the Millennium Goals.
According to the Task Force report, the decline in assistance was due to a $167 billion shortfall in ODA and the failure by many donor nations to set aside the required 0.7 per cent of gross national income. It states that donor nations must more than double their aid to about $300 billion, despite domestic budgetary constraints caused by the global economic crisis, and give one quarter of the money to least developed countries. The report commends the global community for providing debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt initiative, and stresses the urgent need to devise new debt-relief programmes as existing ones come to an end.
On trade, the report warns that protectionism continues to rise and suggests that partial agreements could help create a fairer multilateral trading system and break the impasse over the Doha Round of global trade negotiations launched in 2001. Concerning health, it notes that despite increased funding in 2011 for essential medicines to treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, drugs are too expensive and available in only half of the public facilities in developing countries.
“Let us heed the lessons of this new report and keep pressing for progress,” said Mr. Ban.
Accompanying the Secretary-General were Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Robert Vos, Director of the Department’s Development and Policy Analysis Division; and Selim Jahan, Practice Director of the Poverty Group and the Strategic Policy Unit in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Ms. Akhtar described the report’s finding as “sobering”, and emphasized that development cooperation must be enhanced, in line with emerging challenges brought on by donors’ need to focus on domestic concerns and priorities. She called for improvements in aid predictability, transparency and mutual accountability, saying the United Nations was examining ways to strengthen the development cooperation framework and create a development agenda beyond 2015. It was crucial to restore ODA flows from traditional donors, while adding South-South and private funding to the mix, she added.
Asked which countries were responsible for the $167 billion gap in ODA, and whether it was feasible to close it, Mr. Vos said that Ireland, Spain and others had sharply curtailed funding due to domestic fiscal austerity measures. However, the biggest shortfall involved the largest donors, notably the United States, which contributed 0.15 per cent of its gross national income. He said that he feared funding would decline further this year and next, but added that Australia, Italy and four other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee had managed to increase their ODA commitments despite strong fiscal adjustment programmes. “It’s a matter of political priority,” he said.
When asked about steps by African Governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Vos said the report did not include statistics on specific countries, but cited increases in social expenditure, job creation and other initiatives across the continent.
Mr. Jahan added that many African countries were trying to roll out the Millennium Development Goals acceleration framework and generate domestic revenues to achieve the targets. For example, Niger had established a Millennium Development Goals action plan and set aside $35 million in domestic resources to tackle food insecurity, he noted.
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