Fiscal prudence and measures to protect the vulnerable can be implemented at the same time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging richer countries not to abandon their commitments to helping poorer nations to alleviate poverty and boost social development.
“I commend those countries whose most recent budgets have retained a strong commitment to global development despite the fiscal pressures,” Mr. Ban told the European Forum on the International Financial Crisis and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the western Austrian village of Alpbach.
Mr. Ban made several proposals at the gathering which, he said, would give fillip to developing countries' efforts to reduce poverty and the social ills associated with deprivation.
“First, we must deliver on international development commitments,” the Secretary-General said. “Economic uncertainty should not be an excuse to back away from those pledges. A successful global partnership is the cornerstone for achieving the MDGs,” he added.
Jobs must also be created and more resources invested in clean and renewable energy to spur technological development and combat climate change, Mr. Ban said. Investments must be made where they will have the greatest impact – in areas such as the empowerment of women, renewable energy and infrastructure, he stated.
“Nowhere is this powerful multiplier effect more on display than in the area of maternal and children's health. This is where we are lagging most behind – but it is also where we could get the biggest return for our investment and the biggest boost towards achieving all the MDGs. That is why I have launched a Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health,” the Secretary-General said.
The eight MDGs provide concrete benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty. They include goals and targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation.
Mr. Ban pointed out that this year alone, an additional 64 million people will fall into extreme poverty, and the number of hungry people has risen above 1 billion for the first time ever.
Rising prices are hampering access to medicines and the global financial crisis had led to significant losses in education, employment, health and nutrition.
Still a lot can be accomplished and much has been done, Mr. Ban stressed.
“Time is certainly short – but there is still enough to do what is necessary. Despite setbacks, despite obstacles, we can achieve the MDGs,” he said.
“In the past few months I visited several countries in Africa. Everywhere, I saw how innovation, belief and perseverance breed success. I saw what can be achieved when partners take comprehensive and coherent action, and stand together against poverty, hunger and disease.
Surely, if the world can mobilize $20 trillion in a short period in response to the economic crisis, there can be little excuse for not finding the far more modest resources needed to go the extra mile on the MDGs,” the Secretary-General added.