UN says track record on development goals mixed

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that efforts to achieve a set of eight development goals have been mixed, half way to the target year of 2015, but there has also been some notable progress, particularly in reducing child mortality and improving health care. ( dpa )

Addressing a UN General Assembly session to review progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ban said "impressive" progress was made in fighting malaria, which affects up 500 million people a year.

"More than half way to 2015, the MDG track record is mixed," he said. But he added that "undeniable" progress has been made.

He said that since 2000 when the MDGs were adopted, 3 million more children now survive each year and an additional 2 million HIV patients have received treatment. Also, millions of more children are in school.

The MDGs call for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality by 2015. Other goals call for reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development by that date.

Finland's Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen announced his country is expected to be one of the few nations on track to reach the international target of spending 0.7 per cent of the country's gross national product on development in poor countries by 2015.

He said currently Finland devotes 20 per cent of the increase in government spending every year to assist the poor.

The 0.7 per cent target has been reached only by some Nordic and Scandinavian nations for overseas development assistance (ODA), as the aid is known.

Vanhanen and other government envoys attended discussion on the goals at UN headquarters in New York.

He said Finland provided 506 million euros to development aid in 2003 and is expected to increase it to 1.110 billion euros by 2011, or a 119-per-cent increase in eight years.

"During my present government, the growth of development aid corresponds to 20 per cent of the total growth of government spending," he said.

He said reaching the target of 0.7 per cent for ODA will entail many difficulties for his government, but he said Finland is willing to get there.

Turning to the UN development goals, Vanhanen and other high ranking officials said many countries around the world will not meet them. The UN said the spike in food prices around the world may contribute to slowing down efforts to reduce poverty and hunger.

Vanhanen said ending poverty and hunger is still possible by 2015 because of gains made since 2000 when the MDGs were adopted. But more efforts are needed in southern Asia and the sub-Sahara Africa region, while in East Asia, some governments have been able to stabilize policies as they pushed for economic growth and move out of the low-income status.

Ted Turner, founder of CNN and chairman of the UN Foundation, announced that he is working with the United Methodist Church and the Lutheran World Relief to raise up to 200 million dollars to fight malaria in Africa. Reducing crippling malaria infections is one the MDGs.

Turner took part in the debate to help boost progress in achieving the MDGs, saying that the partnership with the two groups would contribute to other foundations which are already embarked in fighting malaria, such as the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Stopping malaria will go a long way toward giving people in poor and rich countries alike new hope and confidence that we can succeed in the fight against poverty and realize the MDGs," he said.

Malaria kills between 1 and 3 million people a year, the majority of them children and pregnant women in Africa. It costs the African continent 12 billion dollars in economic losses a year.

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