Focus On Poverty: Next Week’s UN Summit in New York
The summit will gather together world’s leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Preceding the annual U.N. General Assembly, this summit is meant to raise such issues as world poverty in an attempt to save the Millennium Development Goals, a quite daring set of targets, document signed by more than 150 leaders ten years ago. The Millennium Development Goals was meant at that time to establish measures that should be taken in order to reduce poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015.
The summit will take place on September 20-22.
Having proved to be a quite ambitious plan, given the worldwide economic situation, it seems that a decade after the UN set those targets, it has become quite clear that many of the established goals prove to be quite impossible to be realized meeting the established deadline. We can mention here the situation that Africa faces at this moment.
According to a report that came this week from an African commission appointed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the situation of undernourishment in Africa has been the same since 1990. Figures show that about 32 per cent of Africans today suffer of malnutrition.
Having registered some progress as far as education and health in Africa are concerned, the situation of nourishment and malnutrition remains the same in most African countries.
When issues such as maternal and child health are being raised, one can also speak of failure to make much progress in the last few years. The death rate for women in childbirth was 920 per 100,000 births in 1990, reaching 900 per 100,000 births in 2005. Therefore one can speak slight changes that have taken place over the last 15 years. With a slight improvement on child mortality in many African countries in the same period, one can have little or no hope that the so called fight against poverty will show some results. Tragically, One-seventh of African children are still dying before the age of five.
A renewed effort in the fight against poverty and disease is being made.
The summit, reuniting leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be joined by business tycoons and political activists.
The promised new funds raise to $26-billion. Yet, in spite of all the promises that have been made, much more will be needed this time, as critics say.
A new report that came from Oxfam, an international development agency, states that “Unless an urgent rescue package is developed to accelerate fulfillment of all the [Millennium Development Goals], we are likely to witness the greatest collective failure in history.”
With the world facing the worst global financial crisis, some of the goals that have been established ten years ago seem to be quite far from being reached, having been pushed “desperately off course,” as the report of Oxfam also mentions.
As a result of the global economic slowdown last year 64 million people have fallen into extreme poverty.
The situation proves to be more than desperate in some of its aspects, as the number of people living in hunger has reached the quite disastrous number of more than a billion.
Even though there has been a slight progress in the previous years, the number of people facing extreme poverty has increased in the past three years.
Having set quite bold targets, the Millennium Development Goals has proven to be quite impossible to be realized by the year 2015, as established.
Among the goals targeted at that time, meaning 10 years ago, we can mention the rate of extreme poverty and hunger which was to be cut in half by 2015, child mortality to be reduced by two-thirds, the rate of mortality to be reduced by three-quarters, the prevalence of malaria and AIDS to be reduced and primary school education to be made universal.
The flow of aid to Africa and other poor regions has been lately slowed down by the global economical background.
Due to the global situation, it has been almost impossible for some of the donor countries to respect the promises that had been made in 2005, and this resulted in a cutting of the aid they should have offered to poor countries. Therefore foreign aid to Africa is 40 per cent lower than the amount promised by donor countries in 2005.
According to a draft of a 31-page document that will be adopted at the summit in New York next week and over which diplomats have given their agreement, despite the delays caused by the crisis, the millennium goals can still be met if there is “renewed commitment” and “intensified collective action” by all of the UN member states.
Yet, some anti-poverty activists think that this summit should rather turn into an “emergency summit”, trying to bring more realistic goals.
Despite the fact that China and India have registered a significant boost in economy, prosperity has reached little of Africa, where 38 percent of the population is likely to live below the poverty line in 2015.
For the poor, the global financial and economic crisis, reached a worrying level, being felt in a much more intense manner. The soaring prices for food and fuel and job losses have caused despair for many people, most of them living in African countries.
Without a job to support their families, workers from abroad returned to their homelands and the situation becomes more and more desperate as they see that they cannot find any solution for their situation to be improved in some way.
Goals that have been targeted 10 years ago, such goals as those of reducing hunger and malnutrition, improving gender equality, access to health care and education, tackling climate change and helping mothers and their newborns, have registered far less progress than expected.
The world crisis seems to have worsened the situation since the IMF and World Bank have estimated that 71 million more people will be pushed into poverty by 2020.
Therefore the perspectives appear to be quite gloomy. Whether solutions in order to do something for the situation to be improved can be found, we shall see.
Other events are as well planned to take place during the General Assembly session. These events include a meeting of six big-power foreign ministers on Iran’s nuclear program, as well as high-level talks on Pakistan, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen, and a meeting to break a 12-year-old impasse in disarmament talks.
The solution proposed by Hugh Bredenkamp, deputy director of the strategy, policy and review department at the International Monetary Fund, was that of adopting policies that boost growth. These policies can be adopted by both rich and poorer nations.
Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal were a few examples of where there had been successes. Yet many more countries witness now the worse economic situation ever.
Therefore this somehow calls for realistic goals. Can poverty be banished?
Perhaps Next week’s UN summit in New York will manage to answer this question.11