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Rich Nations Pledge More Development Funding - 2002-03-23

The United Nations conference on Financing Development drew to a close in Monterrey, Mexico on Friday with pledges by industrialized nations to increase development funding. Conference organizers say the consensus achieved at the meeting represents an important advance in the fight against poverty worldwide.

Now that all the speeches are over and all the meetings are at an end, major participants are expressing satisfaction with what was accomplished here in Monterrey. They acknowledge that aid pledges fell short of what was originally intended, but that the commitments that rich nations did make represent an important step forward.

The World Bank had called for an increase in development financing to roughly $100 billion a year, but the total that has emerged from this conference is just over $60 billion a year. President Bush says the United States will increase development funding to $15 billion a year by 2006 and the European Union plans to increase aid by $7 billion a year.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says the numbers are not as important as the overall agreement achieved here in Monterrey. "Only a few weeks ago this conference was headed towards failure, but that the process of dialogue and discussion has produced consensus between the United States and Europe and between rich nations and developing nations on how development financing should be accomplished," he noted. "This agreement bodes well for future discussions and for the effort to alleviate poverty."

Some critics of the Bush administration have attacked President Bush's aid increase proposal as insufficient. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was on hand at the conference earlier in the week to make the case for a much bigger increase in U.S. development funding. But European Commission President Romano Prodi told reporters Friday that Europeans are satisfied with the Bush proposal. He called the U.S. commitment to a substantial increase in aid "very positive" and he said what is important is not the starting point but the direction being taken by the United States.

The final statement from the Monterrey summit also emphasizes the need for more economic reforms in developing nations and the benefits of free trade in fostering development.