Secretary-General Kofi Annan today issued a strong call to leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries meeting in Evian, France, to renew their commitment to a series of anti-poverty goals set at a United Nations summit held in the year 2000.
Offering a "scorecard" on progress achieved in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Secretary-General pointed out that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has actually increased in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. "Only East Asia and the Pacific are on pace to meet the poverty goal, while South Asia is making good progress," he observed.
Africa, South Asia and the Arab States need to greatly accelerate their progress if they are to achieve universal primary education, Mr. Annan said in remarks to the G-8's afternoon working session. Progress in promoting gender equality, empowering women and reducing child mortality has been made in all regions, but sub-Saharan Africa lags behind.
Concerning the AIDS pandemic, he cited the sobering fact that only Thailand and Uganda have managed to reverse the spread of HIV once it reached crisis proportions.
"As you can see, formidable challenges lie ahead if we are to even come close to meeting the goals," he said.
Acknowledging that developing nations have chief responsibility for attaining the targets, he told the assembled leaders that these States "are applying the very policy prescriptions that you, the G-8 countries, have asked for."
"Their efforts deserve your support, since most cannot reach the MDGs on their own," he said, calling for debt relief, better access to global markets, and increased official development assistance for poor countries.
At the same time, he drew hope from recent developments. "Most of you, I know, have really shown your commitment by increasing aid and, while we are still far from our goal of finding the extra $50 billion a year that is needed, at a minimum, to achieve the MDGs, I think it's a very good signal that we must continue," he said.
In addition to setting a specific timetable for cutting poverty, the goals call for ensuring – by the year 2015 – universal primary education for boys and girls, a reduction in maternal mortality by three quarters, and a halt to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The meeting of the G-8 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States – is set to run through 3 June.