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International Relations

Global crisis should not hamper Millennium goals, Ban warns

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged world leaders to lift millions of people out of poverty despite of the global economic downturn. But experts doubt the goals can be met by the 2015 deadline.

Ban Ki-Moon

The poor should not suffer more than they have, Ban said

The United Nations' Secretary General urged world leaders to push forward in reaching the UN's goals to eliminate poverty, despite recent drops in aid funds due to the global financial crisis.

"We should not balance budgets on the back of the poor," Ban said in his address at the opening of a special summit to review the progress on UN Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, on Monday in New York.

He added that governments should aim to achieve clear results under the development scheme adopted in 2000 with a target date of 2015. The plans to meet the goals are badly behind schedule.

"Despite the obstacles, despite the skepticism, despite the fast approaching deadline of 2015, the MDGs are achievable," he said.

Reducing extreme poverty and hunger top the MDGs. Other goals include developing a global partnership for development, providing primary schooling for all children, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and reducing child and maternal mortality.

An 'achievable' goal

Ban told some 140 presidents, prime ministers and scores of foreign ministers attending the three-day summit that the transformative impact of the MDGs was undeniable. "This is an achievement we can be proud of," he said.

Ahead of the UN summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed for an unreserved assessment of the goals defined ten years ago. It was important, she said, to determine where the world stood, but just as important to be able to ask what could be done differently.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy said donor nations had no right to back down on pledges

Merkel used her weekly video podcast to urge her fellow leaders to redouble efforts to tackle poverty and try to meet the MDG targets. Merkel said although it was "good news" that the number of hungry people in the world was down by hundreds of millions, it was not good enough.

'We have no right to do less than what we decided to do'

Despite words of encouragement, most experts say none of the aims will be reached by the target date of 2015.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reacted to reports of dwindling aid, telling the assembled UN leaders: "We have no right to do less than what we have decided to do."

Sarkozy pledged to boost his country's aid to the world's poorest by 20 percent over the next three years and urged other developed nations to join him.

He proposed that the international community create a small international tax on financial transactions that would go toward ending poverty and meeting other millennium goals.

Education declining in impoverished countries

As world leaders met in New York, the Global Campaign for Education warned that the financial crisis had halted improvements to primary education in impoverished countries.

There are still 69 million children out of school around the world, the report stated. One of the MDGs was to ensure that all children could complete primary education by 2015.

A four-year-old eats rice out of a bowl in a waste heap in China

69 million children do not attend school

The report, which ranked Somalia as having the world's worst education system, estimated that slashed donations due to the global financial crisis would mean an average 13 percent drop in education resources for each student in primary school in sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank on Monday pledged an additional $750 million (575 million euros) in grants over the next five years to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia that are struggling to meet the education goal.

Nepal wins MGD award

Meanwhile, the UN on Monday granted Nepal the MGD award for its progress in the area of maternal health.

Nepal recorded a reduction in maternal mortality rate from 415 deaths in 2000 to 229 deaths in 2010 per 100,000 live births. MDG targets a three-quarter reduction in MMRs by 2015.

Authors: Dagmar Breitenbach, David Levitz (AFP/AP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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