UN Warns on Development Goals

Following the World Summit on Sustainable Development held recently in Johannesburg, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, reports that global efforts at development are falling short. Funding pledges made by richer developed countries two years ago have not been fulfilled, and little progress has been made in addressing global development issues such as poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. – YaleGlobal

UN Warns on Development Goals

Carola Hoyos
Tuesday, October 1, 2002

The United Nations warned on Tuesday that many countries were failing to meet the development goals leaders agreed two years ago at the UN's Millennium General Assembly.

In his first progress report since the goals were agreed at the assembly, and then endorsed at the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development this summer, Kofi Annan, the UN's secretary-general, said the picture looked "decidedly mixed". "The world is falling short. If we carry on as we are, most of the pledges are not going to be fulfilled," he said.

The pledges of the UN's 189 members at the time included halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, halting the spread of Aids and other diseases and reversing the loss of environmental resources.

Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UN's development programme, said that since the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, development had both suffered and gained.

"Development is set back by conflict, and yet on the other hand it's the same security impulse that drives up spending on both military and development. They are the unlikely twins of the September 11 response."

But he warned that the global figure gives one greater optimism than the regional data.

Indeed, the report points out that even though the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day fell to 23 per cent from 29 per cent in the past decade, 1.2bn people still live in extreme poverty and improvements vary greatly between, and even within, regions.

In east Asia the poverty number has been halved (from 28-14 per cent) in the past decade, while in south Asia the drop was more modest (44-37 per cent). In Africa the improvement was a negligible 1 per cent, with nearly half the population still living in extreme poverty.

The UN is hoping to move away from its much criticised system of following up the goals set by its member nations with large, often unwieldy summits, such as the Johannesburg conference.

That conference was overshadowed by the lack of progress countries had made on the environmental goals they had set in Rio de Janeiro 10 years earlier.

"Now there is no more waiting for follow-up conferences, this reporting for the street rather than the policy room," said Mr Malloch Brown, "we are putting the power of data and performance in peoples' hands."

The UN expects nearly all developing countries in the next two years to complete reports of their progress in meeting the goals.

Mr Annan on Tuesday announced he had appointed Eveline Herfkens, the former Dutch minister for development co-operation, as his adviser on the millennium development goals.

Mr Annan stressed that it was up to the UN's individual members to keep their promises.

© Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2002.