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U.N.: Nations not doing enough on poverty

In criticism aimed primarily at the United States, Japan and the European Union, a U.N. report said Thursday that rich nations haven't delivered on promises to help the world's poorest nations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

In criticism aimed primarily at the United States, Japan and the European Union, a U.N. report said Thursday that rich nations haven't delivered on promises to help the world's poorest nations and must increase aid by $18 billion a year.

The report also criticized the failure of rich and poor countries to reach accord in seven years of negotiations on expanding global trade opportunities for developing countries as a way to reduce poverty. It called for redoubled efforts to produce a new trade treaty.

The report comes ahead of a Sept. 25 meeting of world leaders at U.N. headquarters to boost efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals adopted at a 2000 summit. The goals include cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary school education and halting the AIDS pandemic, all by 2015.

The 52-page report, which was produced by more than 20 U.N. bodies and key global financial institutions, focuses on progress in achieving the goal of creating a global partnership for development.

'A strong alarm'
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference that the report "sounds a strong alarm."

"The main message is that while there has been progress on several counts, delivery on commitments made by member states has been deficient, and has fallen behind schedule," he said. "We are already in the second half of our contest against poverty. We are running out of time."

According to the report, aid to developing countries climbed steadily after 1997, peaking at $107 billion in 2005, "boosted by exceptional debt relief in that year." In 2006, however, international aid dropped by 4.7 percent and fell 8.4 percent more in 2007, the report said.

Ban noted that total aid from the world's richest nations amounted to only 0.28 percent of their combined national incomes, far below the U.N. target of 0.7 percent. The only countries to reach or exceed that target were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

If the donor nations are to meet the 2010 target set at the Group of Eight summit in 2005, aids "will have to increase by $18 billion a year," Ban said. "Of that, $7.3 billion would have to go to Africa."

At that summit, the major industrialized powers agreed to increase yearly aid to developing countries, amounting to an extra $50 billion by 2010 compared to 2004, and to channel $25 billion of the increase to Africa.

Nations need to 'step up'
Rob Vos of the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs, the report's lead author, said that over the last two years, "development assistance has been going down by all the major donors — the United States, Japan, but also the European Union."

"On average, the European Union gives more in relative terms vis a vis their national income than the other principal donors, the United States and Japan," Vos said. "But we can say to all of them that they have to step up their efforts to meet the commitments they've made ... ."

Carolyn Vadino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said "the U.S. certainly supports the Millennium Development Goals and we're committed to the core issues, reducing poverty and hunger and improving health and education and combating disease."

"We're the largest foreign assistance donor, and since 2002 we have more than doubled our foreign assistance," she said.

Ad Melkert, associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program, said he hopes the Sept. 25 meeting will remind countries to keep their commitments and promote the transfer of technology — another millennium goal — to address climate change.

Since trade ministers failed to reach a deal at World Trade Organization talks in July, Melkert suggested that negotiations be taken up by heads of state and the U.N. chief.