UN unveils action plan to save millions of lives
UNITED NATIONS: More than 500 million people can escape abject poverty, 250 million people will no longer go to bed hungry and 30 million children can be saved if rich countries double development aid over the next 10 years to $195 billion, a new UN-sponsored report said on Monday.
The 3,000-word plan written by 265 experts says the money should be spent on both long-term projects and quick fixes, such as supplying mosquito bed nets and creating free school lunch programmes. These would enable countries to meet global goals to combat poverty, hunger and disease that all nations promised at a UN summit in 2000.
“The goals are not utopian. They are eminently achievable,” said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in accepting the report from Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor and lead author of the survey, labelled as the most comprehensive ever on global poverty. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed on by all nations in 2000, include halving extreme poverty and hunger for at least 1 billion people living on $1 a day, reversing the spread of AIDS and malaria and providing basic education by 2015. The new report lays out plans for achieving those goals by setting deadlines for specific, often simple, projects that experts say have been proven to work, rather than just calling for scattershot aid. They include providing fertiliser for farmers, fixing roads or eliminating school fees as well as opening markets to goods from poor countries.
“The system is not working right now,” Sachs said. “It has taken too long to figure out an approach that will work.” The report, ‘Investing in Development’, commissioned by Annan, is to be presented to the Group of Eight countries meeting in July and to world leaders in September at the UN General Assembly, which is expected to set a global development agenda.
Government aid from rich countries should amount to $135 billion in 2003, rising to $195 billion in 2015 or about 0.54 percent of these nations’ GNP, about twice the current level to reach the Millennium goals, the report said. World leaders have agreed on 0.7 percent of GNP for development aid for the Millennium goals and other projects. But the United States with its $12 trillion economy would have to raise its contributions considerably. Although the US is the largest donor in the world, it contributes the smallest proportion of its GNP to development aid among 22 industrial nations. Washington spends some 0.16 percent or $25 billion and to reach a target of 0.7 percent of its GNP, it would have to spend $80 billion.
Japan, the world’s second largest economy, is also low at 0.20 percent as is Italy at 0.17 percent, and Germany at 0.27. Among industrial nations, only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have spent more than the world target of 0.7 percent of their gross national product. Britain, Belgium, France, Finland and Ireland have made promised to reach the target before 2015.
“We are not asking for one new promise from any country in the world, only to follow through on what has already been committed,” Sachs told a news conference. “We have the world’s eyes focused on the tsunami of the Indian Ocean,” he said. “But the world continues to overlook the silent tsunamis of deaths from malaria which take every month the number of people that died in the Asian tragedy.” Aid should be channelled through humanitarian groups, who can monitor progress on the ground. Middle-income developing nations, like China, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia and South Africa, can afford the programmes.
Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, a contributor to the report, said Latin America whose growth had slowed over the past 30 years still needed to reorder his priorities to wipe out deep pockets of poverty in many nations.
Following are the main proposals in the report:
* Developing nations should produce detailed strategies to meet the Millennium goals by 2006. They should include scaling up public investments, promoting the private sector and establishing good governance and respecting human rights.
* High-income nations should increase development aid from 0.25 percent of their gross national income in 2003 to 0.44 percent in 2006 and 0.54 percent in 2015 in support of the Millennium goals. These countries should reach the target of 0.7 percent for both the Millennium goals and other development aid by 2015.
* Wealthy donors should identify at least a dozen “fast-track” countries, which are able to handle assistance well for a rapid increase of development aid.
* Rich and poor countries should participate in “quick win” projects for fast results that would save lives and cut hunger immediately. They include providing antiretroviral drugs to 3 million AIDS victims by 2005, eliminating school fees and uniforms and providing free schools lunches, distributing mosquito bed nets to prevent malaria deaths and giving poor farmers soil nutrients.
* Rich nations should open their markets to developing country exports through the Doha round of global trade talks which should be completed no later than 2006.
* International donors should support scientific research, estimated at $7 billion a year by 2015, to address the needs of the poor in health, agriculture, natural resource and environmental management, energy and climate change. reuters