Member States have the duty to ensure that this week’s World Summit outcome document makes a real difference in the outside world, especially given the anger of so many people about the pace of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the General Assembly’s President Jan Eliasson said today.
On the opening day of the General Debate of the Assembly’s 60th session, held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Eliasson was one of several speakers to highlight the issue of the MDGs and the continuing problems of poverty and the uneven rate of development around the world.
Mr. Eliasson said the Summit showed that many people are pained and frustrated by what he called “insufficient” progress towards the MDGs and the commitments made at Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 on increasing official development assistance (ODA) to poor countries.
“The cost is being counted in the innumerable lives lost or made intolerable as a result of preventable poverty, and in the failure to unleash the massive potential of so many of our men, women and children around the world,” he said.
Yet while many people argue that the Summit outcome document will make little difference to their day-to-day lives, Mr. Eliasson said, the text showed there is a way forward on issues from aid to debt to trade.
Referring to trade, he said that “I trust the world will have heard the overwhelming message of so many of our leaders that failure to make real and substantial progress in Hong Kong [where the World Trade Organization holds a ministerial meeting in December] must not be an option.”
Mr. Eliasson also said emphasized that the global public expects progress on other issues, including human rights, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons.
Jamaica’s President P. J. Patterson stressed the link between security and development in his address to the Assembly, noting that progress is so slow on some MDGs – such as the elimination of hunger – that at the current pace they may not be achieved for centuries.
“No one can remain safe and secure or even content while living in an oasis of wealth surrounded by a desert of poverty,” he said.
Martin Torrijos Espino, President of Panama, underscored the difficulties facing poor countries, especially those that do not produce oil. The cost of petroleum had become so exorbitant it was interfering with development, he said. He called for international financial assistance to enable affected countries to produce their own clean, low-cost sources of energy.
“Our countries are not looking for hand-outs,” he said. “They want, yes, greater equality in the rules of play.”
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Paraguay’s President, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, said developing countries should have access to new information and communications technologies. “The use and knowledge of these resources cannot be concentrated in the hands of the few, they must be made universal. The increase in global
Begum Khaleda Zia, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said her country has achieved two of the MDGs – eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary schools and providing access to safe drinking water. “We are close to achieving two other goals, namely, reduction of income poverty and under-five child mortality rates.”
At the same time, she cautioned that the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) remain extremely vulnerable. She called for their products to be accorded immediate duty-free and quota-free access to global markets.