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UN call to financial arms for new war on poverty

30 may 2013, 10:01
0
©AFP
©AFP
Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent battling extreme poverty and disease since 2000 and now the United Nations is lining up a new war on the social distress still suffered by huge numbers around the world, AFP reports.

Ideas on targets to follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and how to pay will be in a report to be handed over by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday to UN leader Ban Ki-moon.

Yudhoyono, Liberia's President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron drew up the report with 24 other ministers, business representatives and experts. The UN now has less than 1,000 days to meet the existing eight Millennium goals and decide how they should be followed.

When the MDGs were agreed at a UN summit in 2000, experts predicted the goals -- ranging from halving numbers living on less than $1.25 a day, to cutting mortality among under fives by two thirds and halting the spread of AIDS -- would cost about $60 billion dollars.

The UN says the poverty target has already been reached, mainly because China's economic miracle has created so much new wealth.

Progress on the other targets has been steady, but Ban's panel has agreed that helping the remaining 1.5 billion chronically poor -- increasingly entrenched in sub-Saharan Africa -- remains the priority. The UN could face a battle on how to carry out the renewed vow, though.

Experts are reluctant to estimate how much has been spent on the MDGS so far.

"Western donors have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in aid since the Millennium goals were agreed in 2000," said Simon Scott, head of the statistics and development finance division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

"In fact, annual aid flows have increased by half in real terms since then. Most donors orient their aid towards achieving the goals," Scott said.

But the financial crisis has badly hit donor payments in the past five years and Cameron said on a recent visit to New York that there had to be a "transformational shift" in the way development goals are reached. Private enterprise must be "at the heart of our agenda" of economic change.

The new targets had to build on the MDGs but all had agreed that goals "weren't perfect," Cameron added.

"Rich countries meeting their aid commitments is important, but it will not be enough on its own. And our report will make clear that we need to tackle the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms," said the prime minister.

Cameron said "the importance of good governance (and) lack of corruption" would be a key new element of the new goals.

East Timor's Finance Minister Emilia Pires, a member of the panel, stressed the need to eradicate conflict to help the poorest countries.

"The lack of peace was one of the major obstacles for achieving the MDGs," Pires told AFP in an interview. "If people are scared, children do not attend schools, they do not go to hospitals."

There have to be targets for all countries, not just for the poorest, she said, and some of the existing goals have to be refined. "We must make sure we do not leave behind all those people who have already been left behind with the first goals."

East Timor is emerging from its own instability which needed a UN peacekeeping force and is now saving toward a sovereign wealth fund from the discovery of valuable gas and oil reserves.

Pires said better financial management in the target countries could help pay for the new goals.

"A lot of the poor countries, countries with a lot of poor people, especially those in conflict, are actually very rich in terms of mineral wealth, oil and gas. The problem is that the resources are not well managed," she said.

"If we make sure that our resources are are well managed, that revenues goes into some sort of sovereign wealth fund, we can fund out our own needs," she said.

But small countries need help with good governance and to haggle with multinational companies to get the best deal for resources.

"They have lawyers, they have all these negotiators. You are sitting there like David and Goliath and then you sign off on contractors that later you regret," she said. "But it is too late and all the revenues have left the country."

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