Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a summit Monday with a plea to the assembled presidents, prime ministers and kings to use their power to meet UN goals to help the world’s poorest by 2015.
Ten years after world leaders set the most ambitious goals ever to tackle global poverty, they are gathered again to spur action to meet the deadline — which the UN says will be difficult, if not impossible, in some cases.
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss told the summit, “We must achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We want to achieve them. And we can achieve them.”
For centuries, the plight of the world’s poor had been ignored but with the turn of the new millennium, leaders pledged to begin tackling poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.
They vowed to reduce extreme poverty by half, ensure that every child has a primary school education, halt and reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic, reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds. Goals additionally called for cutting by half the number of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation — all by 2015. They also set goals to promote equality for women, protect the environment, increase development aid, and open the global trading and financial system.
“We brought new urgency to an age-old mission,” the secretary general told the assembled leaders. “And now, we have real results. New thinking and path-breaking public-private partnerships. Dramatic increases in school enrolment. Expanded access to clean water. Better control of disease. The spread of technology — from mobile to green.”
But Ban call the advances “fragile” and declared “the clock is ticking, with much more to do.”
He urged the leaders to deliver the needed resources “above all by exercising political leadership.”
“Despite the obstacles, despite the skepticism, despite the fast-approaching deadline of 2015, the Millennium Development Goals are achievable,” the secretary-general said.
More than 140 world leaders were expected at the summit and security was exceedingly tight, as even UN staff and permanent correspondents were subjected full screening to enter and move around the international complex. UN missions have often been the target of terrorist attacks worldwide. The international organization’s operation in Baghdad was one of the first hit in a deadly bombing as the insurgency there gained strength in late 2003.
Many heavily armed U.S. Coast Guard and New York police craft patrolled the East River along side the UN complex. Frogmen were aboard interceptor boats mounted with .50-calibre machine-guns.
The three-day summit on the goals, known as the MDGs, will be followed by the annual ministerial meeting of the General Assembly so leaders will be presenting positions on global anti-poverty plans and on global issues.
In advance of this week’s summit, diplomats from the 192 UN member states agreed on the document to be adopted by the leaders which spells out specific actions to accelerate implementation of each of the eight MDGs in the next five years.
“We are convinced that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, including in the poorest countries, with renewed commitment, effective implementation, and intensified collective action by all member states and other relevant stakeholders at both domestic and international levels,” it says.
Many recent reports show that the world’s poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have made little progress in eradicating poverty. And in Africa, Asia and Latin America there also has been a lack of progress in reducing mother and child deaths, providing clean water and sanitation, and promoting women’s equality.
“Many countries are falling short, especially in Africa,” Ban warned, and “inequities are growing within and among countries,” a problem compounded by the global economic crisis.
“I know there are skepticism, but my role as secretary-general is to fight against this skepticism and make this action plan deliver,” Ban said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There will be some hurdles. Nobody said it is an easy plan, but I think that it can be done.”