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As Usual There's a Struggle to Agree UN Summit Kickstart for Millennium Goals

by Kathy Jones on September 10, 2010 at 9:47 PM
 As Usual There's a Struggle to Agree UN Summit Kickstart for Millennium Goals

The strategy to be embraced at a looming United Nations summit aiming to get the lofty Millennium Development Goals back on track is gaining acceptance gradually.

Ten years after more than 150 leaders set eight ambitious targets for 2015 -- ranging from cutting child mortality rates by two thirds, to halving the number of people living in absolute poverty and spreading access to the Internet -- none are likely to be reached, experts say.


Fallout from the financial crisis, a lack of will and bad policies have been blamed by aid groups and experts for the millions of children still dying needlessly from treatable illnesses, to a lack of work for the poor and inequality faced by women.

Experts are looking to presidents Barack Obama of the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and other leaders at the Millennium reunion summit on September 20-22 to lay on a turbo-charged finish to the goal line.

"The final five years of the goals are going to require two things: more money to be spent and better policies," said Peter Yeo, executive director of the Better World Campaign and a vice president of the United Nations Foundation.

For the moment, there are divisions over how to pay for the development catch-up and the division of responsibilities, diplomats said. One deadline for a final summit blueprint passed last Friday. Negotiators now aim to have a document ready by September 15.

Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and other countries want to see "innovative financing", such as a tax on air tickets or financial transactions, used for development, said one western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. A United States-led bloc is strongly against such ideas.

How much emphasis to be put on human rights is another dispute between developing countries and their Western counterparts, another diplomat said.

While consensus crumbled at the climate summit in Copenhagen last year, observers say there is still a firm commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) even if few believe they will be met.

"The MDGs shook up the rather stale debate on how the developed and developing world could work together to reduce extreme poverty," said Yeo of the UN Foundation.

"The MDGs set the international norms for donor countries, multilateral institutions and the developing world. Before the adoption of the MDGs, effective international norms on alleviating extreme poverty were largely absent," he said.

"We would like to see a strong and firm commitment," said Paul Seger, Switzerland's UN ambassador who will be president of the UN General Assembly which follows the summit.

"It should be a document with strong political will, not a document by bureaucrats," he added.

Much attention will be placed on finding new money to improve health and education, as well as ways to make sure it is well spent. "It is the finance that has caused the deepest divisions," said the western diplomat. "There is enormous pressure now on the budgets of rich countries."

For many aid groups though, governments have got to set new priorities to get the goals back on track. Many feel that cutting infant mortality is the most important of the goals, but also the most difficult to reach.

The Save The Children group released a report Tuesday saying that four million kids under five have died since the Millennium summit because medical advances have not been fairly spread to the poorest.

Carolyn Miles, Save the Children executive vice president, said the world is not even close to reaching this target on time.

"There has been a 28-percent reduction over the last 10 years and that is good but we really should be moving at a much faster rate," she said.

"If we continue at this rate, we won't get to the two-thirds reduction until 2045."

For Miles, who blames a lack of resources and government will, "something has to change on how this happens."

Source: AFP
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