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Slow Progress on World Development Goals

Despite Slow Progress on World Development Goals, Still Reason for Optimism: UN Adviser

New York, Dec 20 2006 7:00PM

Progress on attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to tackle poverty, hunger and other social ills by 2015, remains slow but countries are realizing the importance of the life-and-death targets and increasingly know what needs to be done to attain them, the UN adviser on the project said today, sounding a note of optimism.

However Jeffrey Sachs, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the MDGs, said he was under no illusion that while talk about the goals by donor countries or organizations was welcome, it means little unless concrete action is taken to back up their words.

“I think we can end this year on a note of optimism that many important things are being done. Many different governments are joining the effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The biggest reason for optimism is that we are a world that is rich in knowledge, science and technology and proven approaches to fighting poverty, hunger and disease and I think the world’s going to get the job done,” he told reporters.

“But you know I have no illusion, it’s one thing to have the words, it’s another thing to make the processes work and that’s part of the practice. And I see things happening right now, I of course, would like to see them happen faster,” he added, referring to a vast range of global initiatives from combating malaria and other diseases to reducing poverty in Africa.

Mr. Sachs paid tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who leaves office at the end of this month, for initiating the idea of the MDGs – which were agreed by world leaders in 2000 – and said they will be one his “great legacies.” He acknowledged that progress remains slow but expressed confidence that Ban Ki-moon will continue to stress their importance when he takes over at the UN’s helm on 1 January.

“There was a long, slow start after 2000 to actual implementation and indeed it remains slow in many ways, promises remain far ahead of reality on the ground. The good point though is that there is more and more understanding of what it would take to actually accomplish the goals,” Mr. Sachs said, highlighting for example getting bed-nets out to children to protect them from malaria as a relatively quick fix to help fight this deadly disease.

“My sense is that the incoming Secretary-General’s going to make a very central focus on these [MDG] issues, I have no doubt about it, he’s mentioned them on many occasions and I have little doubt that they will be very high on his priorities,” he added.

The MDGs were agreed by world leaders at the UN’s Millennium Summit in 2000. They cover eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and fostering a global partnership for development.


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