World must act to alleviate crippling debt and rampant poverty, leaders tell UN Summit

15 September 2005

National leaders from countries both rich and poor today called for action to address crippling external debt and the blight of poverty, as the United Nations continued its 2005 Summit in New York.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines, proposed a large-scale 50 per cent conversion of debt for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) financing programmes. "We are not asking for debt forgiveness or debt cancellation," she said. "What we propose is that the debt service or principal amount should be converted into equities in new projects of at least equal value and with their own potential earnings."

Her proposal was endorsed by Allan Kemakeza, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, who said the debt level in his country remains crippling and welcomed the call for converting debts into MDG projects. "Solomon Islands calls on the IMF and the World Bank to further explore this proposal," he said.

"By adopting the Millennium Development Goals, Member States have taken a bold and historic step," said Namibia's President, Hifikepunye Pohamba. "Our resolve should therefore propel us towards a new dawn of hope, to conquer poverty, hunger, ignorance and diseases. We must mobilize resources and bring within the reach of billions of people, the hope that they and their children can have a better life."

Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, said the MDGs are crucial not merely for each individual nation and its people, but are also "central to the profound political, economic, cultural and social challenges we must all meet together." Achieving the goals will help eliminate the categories of first, second and third world countries while developing a united world in which all have shared responsibilities and shared hopes.

Coronel Azali Assoumani, President of the Comoros, said if developed countries made a real commitment to achieving the MDGs, there would be progress in a number of areas. He praised the G-8 countries for providing debt relief to certain developing countries.

Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez said poverty is not only unacceptable; it also poses a threat to democracy within nations and peace among them. For this reason, priority attention must be paid to combating poverty. He called for "concrete and immediate" actions to achieve this end, because the poor can wait no longer.

Omar Bongo Ondimba, the President of Gabon, said his country was working to reduce poverty and promote growth, but had to acknowledge that much remained to be done in the areas of housing, education and health care. Without outside support, Gabon would not be able to meet the challenges that it faced.

Guy Verhofstadt, the Prime Minister of Belgium, pointed out that while the UN is celebrating its 60th anniversary, Africa remains afflicted by ills such as AIDS, poverty and armed conflict. "This situation is morally unacceptable. It is also politically dangerous and economically wrong. We must help Africa to emerge from this vicious circle," he said, calling for investments in the continent's infrastructure, access to world markets, and the promotion of peace.

On issues of peace and security, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga drew on her country's experience with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). "Vulnerable democracies which have undertaken bold, political initiative to address the root causes of terrorism and seek political solutions by engaging ruthless armed groups find themselves in a genuine dilemma as to how to develop a credible and acceptable approach to such negotiations," she said, calling for procedures that "reward genuine peace-making on one hand, and impose sanctions on acts of terrorism on the other."

President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine said his country has already contributed much to the security in the world by abandoning its the nuclear weapons. "We are obliged to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said, adding that collective efforts are essential to combat terrorism. "The international community should do everything possible to destroy the environment nourishing the virus of terror – intolerance, tyranny, poverty and humiliation."


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