Global perspective Human stories

Continuing official visit to Spain, Annan speaks on efforts to reduce global poverty

Continuing official visit to Spain, Annan speaks on efforts to reduce global poverty

Continuing his official visit to Spain today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was awarded an honorary degree by the 500-year-old Alcala University, where he spoke about ongoing efforts to reduce poverty worldwide.

"'There are only two families in the world - the Haves and the Have-nots,'" the Secretary-General said in his acceptance speech, quoting Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote and was born in Alcala.

The writer "could have been speaking and writing about our own era, when some people enjoy fabulous wealth while nearly half of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day," Mr. Annan said.

The antidote to that disparity was balanced development - "encompassing education and health; human rights, good governance and the rule of law; strong institutions and environmental protection; sound policies that give a voice and opportunities to all, most notably women," the Secretary-General noted.

Eighteen months ago, world leaders agreed that the first 15 years of the 21st century should be used to begin a major onslaught on poverty, illiteracy and disease, and established a set of very specific targets, Mr. Annan said. Last month, they gathered again in Monterrey, Mexico, for the International Conference on Financing for Development, where they discussed how to mobilize the resources needed for those goals.

While the consensus reached in Monterrey reflected a transformation in the view of the poor, it also was a result of a landmark global deal between developed and developing countries, the Secretary-General said.

"The latter, it is understood, will continue to reform their economies, strengthen their institutions, fight corruption, respect human rights and the rule of law, and spend more money on the needs of the poor," he noted. "And the developed countries will support them by providing debt relief, opening their markets, offering a bigger say in decision-making on the global economy, and providing more and better-targeted aid and investment."

In other activities in his official programme today in Madrid, the Secretary-General received the keys to the city and then visited the World Tourism Organization, which is based there.

The Secretary-General also addressed a ceremony for the Global Compact, an initiative he pioneered to promote better corporate citizenship through respect for international principles on the environment, human rights and labour rights.