As World Summit opens, UN agencies call for attention to their areas of expertise

14 September 2005

As a record number of world leaders convene at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 2005 World Summit today, the UN’s specialized agencies are making sure that their concerns enter into the discussions on reaching development goals and reforming the Organization that will dominate the session.

As a record number of world leaders convene at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 2005 World Summit today, the UN’s specialized agencies are making sure that their concerns enter into the discussions on reaching development goals and reforming the Organization that will dominate the session.

In a publication on mobilizing resources to reduce hunger, issued for the occasion by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Rome-based food agency called on the international community to honour commitments of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to cut world hunger in half by 2015.

“It is unacceptable that 843 million people in developing and transition countries continue to be hungry and that more than 1 billion have to live on less than $1 a day,” it said, urging governments and private sector corporations to "adequately fund actions and initiatives that reduce hunger through rural development and reduction of rural poverty, while at the same time strengthening direct access to food by the most vulnerable.”

Unfortunately, says FAO, the rate at which hunger is being reduced is painfully slow, slower than required to meet the 2015 target. It asks that a larger share of new development funding be allocated to agriculture and rural development than in past decades.

On the environmental front, a number of organizations have joined together through the Poverty-Environment Partnership (PEP) to release a publication titled: “Investing in Environmental Wealth for Poverty Reduction” for the Summit.

The partnership, which includes the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organizations such as the World Conservation Union and government agencies, today meets to plan how the environment can be mainstreamed in national poverty reduction strategies to better achieve the MDGs.

The PEP report, whose lead author was the renowned environmental economist Professor David Pearce who tragically died last week, outlines the challenges of bringing the value of the environment onto centre stage.

“It is clear from this report, and from a series of other studies published throughout the year, that the environment is something like the red ribbon running through the Millennium Development Goals,” said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director.

“It is not a luxury good, only affordable when all other problems have been solved,” he added.

The report estimates that, to reach poverty reduction targets, an annual global investment in environmental assets of $60 billion to $90 billion will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years. At least $80 billion per annum more is needed to tackle global climate change to stabilize greenhouse gases over the next 50 years.

In the sphere of education, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a statement including new data on school enrolment and what it calls a lack of progress in meeting the MDG commitment of getting 100 million children, 57 per cent of whom are girls currently not in school, enrolled into educational programs by 2015.

The statement alerts world leaders to the fact that the first target – to get as many girls as boys into school by 2005 – has been missed, and that no mention of this is made in the latest draft outcome document prepared ahead of the Summit.

“That the 2005 target has been missed with no frank and open acknowledgement in the draft outcome document and with no clear plans to redress the situation is disturbing,” the statement says. “Efforts to eliminate gender disparities in education must continue and, indeed, must be strengthened.”

In a similar vein, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pointed out that national water and sanitation plans were still leaving women out of the equation, as it hosted a meeting of Women Leaders for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

“Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene habits play a major role in child mortality,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman. “Bringing basic services to Africa’s women and girls could transform their lives and boost child survival in the region.”

 

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