Senior international development leaders met at United Nations Headquarters in New York today to forge an operational work agenda to boost Africa’s as yet failing efforts to meet the ambitious goals the world has set itself to slash poverty, hunger, maternal and infant mortality, and other social ills, all by 2015.
The closed-door session, chaired by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, was the first meeting of the Working Group of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Africa Steering Group launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last Friday.
Participants included leading economists from the African Union, African Development Bank, European Union, Islamic Development Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Economic Commission for Africa and the World Bank, as well as the Secretary-General Special Adviser on the MDGs, Jeffrey Sachs.
Today’s meeting was called to carry out the Steering Group’s recommendations in three areas: to identify effective mechanisms to implement commitments in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, agriculture and food security, and statistical systems; to improve aid predictability so that African governments can plan years ahead for additional hospitals, schools and train doctors, teachers and nurses; and to strengthen joint efforts at the country level.
Launching the initiative on Friday, Mr. Ban voiced concern that many African countries are off course for meeting the MDGs, particularly in sub-Saharan regions. “That is the only region in the world where not even a single country is on the track. We must help those countries so that they can join on the track,” he said.
The areas for action the Steering Group identified comprise five of the eight MDGs: cutting by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and suffering from hunger; ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling; slashing the mortality rate among children under five by two thirds; reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters; and halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.