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UN report warns of failure to meet MDGs, calls for swift change in aid, trade

UN report warns of failure to meet MDGs, calls for swift change in aid, trade

A week before meeting at United Nations Headquarters in the largest-ever summit of heads of State and government, world leaders today received a stark warning of the human costs of missing agreed global targets for lifting people out of extreme poverty, and an urgent plea for swift and dramatic changes in global aid, trade and security policies.

The 2005 Human Development Report, compiled by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), cites a lack of funds and political will and shows that that while there has been substantial overall progress globally, many individual countries are actually falling further behind.

“I urge member states to heed this timely message, and to use next week’s Summit to launch us on a global effort to make this vision a reality,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said of the study, which shows that 18 countries, with a total of 460 million people, have moved backwards on the Human Development Index (HDI), a compendium of key indicators such as income, life expectancy and education, since 1990.

The Report, delivered to world leaders today through the missions of the UN’s 191 member states in preparation for the 2005 World Summit, warns that there will be no chance under current trends of fulfilling the promises made at the UN summit five years ago with the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The world has the knowledge, resources and technology to end extreme poverty, but time is running out,” UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said of the MDGs, which include pledges to halve extreme poverty, reduce child deaths by two thirds and achieve universal primary education by 2015. Next week’s Summit will be assessing progress and recommending further action toward achieving the MDGs.

“The Millennium Declaration was a solemn pledge to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty,” the Report’s lead author and Director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office Kevin Watkins said.

“The MDGs are a promissory note, written by 189 governments to the world’s poor people. That note falls due in less than 10 years time, and without the required investment and political will, it will come back stamped ‘insufficient funds.”

The stark figures cited include:

  • Fifty countries with a combined population of almost 900 million are falling backwards on at least one of the Goals. Twenty-four of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Another 65 countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion risk failing to meet at least one MDG until after 2040. In other words, they may miss the target by an entire generation.

  • In 2015, on current trends, there would be 827 million people living in extreme poverty, 380 million more than if the internationally agreed target were reached. Another 1.7 billion people would be living on $2 a day.

  • On current trends, the goal to reduce the deaths of children under five years of age would be met in 2045, not 2015 – 30 years late. Over the next decade, the cumulative human cost of missing the target would translate into 41 million more child deaths.

  • In 2015, 47 million children would still be out of school, 19 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Instead of halving the ranks of the 1 billion people who lack access to fresh drinking water, on current trends the world in 2015 would still be 210 million people short of this goal. More than 2 billion would still lack proper sanitation in 2015, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Report argues that extreme inequality is a brake on progress towards the MDGs and wider human development goals, spotlighting the scale of the international wealth divide. The poorest 40 per cent of the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, live on less than $2 a day, accounting for just five per cent of all global income.

It decries what it calls "perverse taxation," under which the world’s poorest countries face the highest tariffs in rich countries, and examines the impact on the poor of agricultural subsidies and protectionism in wealthy industrialized nations. Donor countries, it shows, spend $1 billion a year aiding agriculture in developing countries and $1 billion a day on domestic subsidies that undermine the world’s poorest farmers.

“This Human Development Report presents us with a clear warning. We know that the MDGs are attainable, but if we continue with business as usual, the promise of the Millennium Declaration will be broken,” Mr. Dervis said. “That would be a tragedy above all for the world’s poor, but rich countries would not be immune to the consequences of failure. In an interdependent world our shared prosperity and collective security depend critically on success in the war against poverty.”