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UN: Still Much to be Done to Reach Poverty Reduction Goals - 2002-10-01

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the world is falling short in the area of social and economic development, with too many people still living with poverty and disease. Mr. Annan released a report on progress toward the goals governments agreed on two-years ago to launch the new millenium.

With so much news focused on Iraq, Secretary-General Annan cautions against neglecting the rest of the world, where hunger, poverty and disease are rampant. He notes well more than one billion people are struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day, without clean water and sanitation, and go to bed hungry every night.

National leaders issued a Millennium Declaration at the United Nations in 2000, agreeing on development goals to be achieved within 15-years. Developing countries committed themselves to human rights and democracy, and ending corruption and waste, while rich countries promised more financial and trade assistance.

Secretary-General Annan, in a new report on the so-called millennium goals, said the world, for the most part, is falling short.

"If we carry on the way we are, most of the pledges are not going to be fulfilled," he stressed. "We are moving too slowly. Unless we can speed things up dramatically, we shall find when we get to 2015 that the words of the Declaration ring hollow."

The U.N. report presents a mixed picture. East Asia, for example, has already halved the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day, from 28 percent to 14 percent. South Asia has also recorded some success, but much more modest, while Africa has barely budged.

To give development more momentum, the United Nations is launching what it calls a "Millennium Campaign." It aims to make the goals of social and economic progress better known throughout the world, to try to make sure that something is done.

The head of U.N. development activities, Mark Malloch Brown, said the idea is to spur people to action, to demand their governments do what is right by them.

"These are not U.N. goals. We can not reach them," he said. "They will only be reached if countries take ownership of this, if parliamentarians and trade union and church leaders, civil society, and governments, all demand that these goals are met and force the political process to respond."

Secretary-General Annan has hired former Dutch minister for Development Cooperation, Eveline Herfkens, to help aggressively promote the millennium goals. Ms. Herfkens pointed out that the world, rid of all the divisions of the past 50 years, such as the Cold War, is free at last to pursue meaningful changes.

"The best news in decades for the poor has been that finally there is an international consensus about the millennium development goals," she said. "And that all these different actors are rallying around that. The best news for the poor in centuries would be if we actually would implement these goals."

Besides eliminating poverty, governments have pledged to try to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, a disease that is ravaging many of the poorest countries. Another goal is getting all children into schools, especially girls, who are still denied an education in many developing nations.