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G-8 must fulfil pledges to developing world

Annan calls on G-8 summit to fulfil pledges to developing world

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling on next week’s summit of top industrial countries to make good on their pledges to the developing world – some of which are in “grave danger” of not being met – ranging from trade and aid to AIDS, medicines and clean water.

“The developing countries look to you, the leaders of the world’s most prosperous and powerful countries, for active support,” Mr. Annan says in a letter to the Heads of State and government of the Group of Eight (G-8) that will meet in Evian, France. The Group comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Secretary-General himself will be travelling over the weekend to attend, at the Group’s invitation, an informal summit on 1 June with the leaders of a number of developing countries.

In his letter, the Secretary-General noted that in 2001, at the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, representatives from the G8 had agreed to confront distortions in agricultural trade that subsidies and tariffs cause the developing world, and the need to enable these nations to procure medicines to protect their peoples’ health. “Key negotiating deadlines have been missed and there is now a grave danger that the next ministerial meeting in Cancun (Mexico) in September will pass without those two vital promises being met,” he said.

Such an outcome will dash the hopes of millions that an open market system affords a fair chance to all. “That would be a tragic outcome indeed,” he writes. “But it need not happen, if together you summon the political will to give priority to a global interest shared by all peoples.”

Mr. Annan highlights Africa’s “deadly triad” of interlinked crises – HIV/AIDS, food security and governance – with the disease decimating women who play the major role in food production and killing off the most skilled and productive members of society capable of governing and administering. “Africa needs to fight HIV/AIDS with a concerted effort. It can do so only if resources are made available,” he writes. “Sustained funding for it is a must.”

Stressing that more than 2.2 million people, mostly children in developing countries, die every year from diseases associated with poor water and sanitary conditions, he noted that the UN Millennium Summit pledged to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

“There is a great deal to be done if those pledges are to be fulfilled,” he tells the summit. “And all this will need more money. In fact the world needs at least to double its spending on water infrastructure.”

The Secretary-General commends the leaders for some “encouraging news” – that last year the long decline in official aid flows was at last halted, rising to $57 billion from $52.3 billion in 2001.

“But,” he warns, “even if the noble commitments announced in Monterrey (at the International Conference on Financing for Development last year) are fulfilled, the total will still far short of the $100 billion per year that will be required, at a minimum, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by all world leaders three years ago.”

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