The United Nations has unveiled a package of proposals aimed at cutting the number of people living in poverty by one-half within 10 years. The plans were developed by an independent panel including leading experts in the field of development.
It is being called the most comprehensive strategy every put forward for combating poverty, hunger, and disease.
Five-years ago, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan set out what are known as the Millennium Development Goals. The idea was to improve the lives of at least one billion people in poor developing countries by 2015.
But five-years later, little progress has been made. So a group of 265 prominent development experts got together through the Millennium Project to map out a clear plan for achieving the goals.
The leader of the group, economist Jeffrey Sachs, calls the plan practical and affordable.
"This is not a dreamy set of global ambitions and challenges," he said. "This is identifying in fact very specific investments and interventions across a wide range of areas that can spell the practical difference between life and death, so the essence of what we are recommending is a practical set of measures."
A Millennium Project news release says 22 rich countries would be asked to give a total of $135 billion in development aid in 2006. That is $48 billion more than current commitments.
Professor Sachs says roughly 40 percent of the total would come from the United States. The website of the U.S. Agency for International Development says the budget request for the current year is eight-point-eight billion dollars.
Figures provided by Professor Sachs suggest that meeting the target would require the United States to more than triple its development aid budget by next year.
"On average, it means for the 22 donor countries of the development assistance committee, that we say as of 2006 they should be at about point-four-six percent of GNP," he said. "The United States right now is at about 1.5 percent of GNP. On a $12 trillion economy, that is a gap of a bit more than $30 billion a year of increase we say by calendar year 2006 would be the U.S. part of a global effort along these lines."
Another leader of the Millennium Project, U.N. Development Program Director Mark Malloch Brown expressed cautious optimism that the U.S. Congress could be persuaded to make the necessary budget allocations. He noted that the Bush administration has sharply increased U.S. foreign aid spending, and said he believes U.S. taxpayers would be willing to do even more.
"The U.S. is extremely seized, American public opinion particularly, with health and public education particularly," he said. "When this is about building these basic systems for poor people, you see instant connection like you have seen in the aftermath of the tsunami this week."
The 3,000 page Millennium Project report, titled "Investing in Development", was presented Monday to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In addition to calling for increases in aid from rich countries, the report urges poor countries to develop national strategies to meet the U.N. development goals.
Among the quick-fix solutions the report recommends are supplying mosquito bed nets and anti-malaria medicines for children, and anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS patients. The authors say such measures could be accomplished within one year, making a big start toward accomplishing the millennium goal of reversing the spread of AIDS and malaria in the developing world.