The United States, France and Iran are among nations meeting at the UN Monday to get the Millennium Developments Goals back on schedule, with experts warning that the poverty-reducing targets will be nearly impossible to reach by a 2015 deadline.
REUTERS - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to world leaders on Monday not to divert aid from the poor to shore up their own economies in the wake of a sputtering global economic recovery.
"We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor," Ban told 140 leaders at the opening of a three-day summit to review the U.N.-agreed Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
"We must not draw back from official development assistance -- a lifeline of billions for billions," he said.
The United Nations agrees the world is likely to halve poverty and hunger by 2015 but is behind in meeting the other goals of the initiative, which range from child education and gender equality to environmental sustainability.
The global financial and economic crisis has complicated efforts to slash poverty and hunger in the world's poorest countries as donors face growing budget pressures and battle unemployment at home.
With rich nations already behind on their aid pledges, donors are keen to see new strategies that ensure aid does not go to wasteful programs that have little impact on the poor.
British International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell called for a plan that will track progress in meeting the poverty goals over the remaining five years of the Millennium Development Goals initiative, which started 10 years ago.
Mitchell said Britain wanted more transparency, coordination and a special focus on helping pregnant women and their newborns.
"We want a proper agenda for action over each of the next five years, not a load of blah-blah and big sums of money being thrown about, although big sums of money are important," he told reporters.
"We want to see a focus on what we're going to achieve, what the results are going to be for those who are going to help."
France to boost contribution to AIDS fund
U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah told Reuters ahead of the summit the United States would press for new strategies that highlight economic growth, accountability and tackling corruption.
Shah said U.S. President Barack Obama's administration was committed to boosting the U.S. aid budget to $52 billion from about $25 billion.
With U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 2 focusing on voter frustrations over the economy and unemployment, Washington is pressed to show Americans that their tax dollars are being put to good use in helping poor countries.
Obama is due to address the summit on Wednesday. Also taking part are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned leaders that the world will fail to meet commitments under the Millennium Development Goals unless both rich and poor countries implement policies that restore global growth.
He urged advanced economies to stick to 2005 pledges to increase aid to Africa and to increase trade with poor countries that would not burden their budgets.
"Trade is one of the most important ways that advanced countries can help their low-income neighbors and without budgetary costs," he said.
While new aid pledges are likely to be scarce, France said it will boost its annual contribution to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- now 300 million euros ($391 million) -- by 20 percent in the next three years for a total increase of 180 million euros ($235 million).
Sarkozy urged other nations to follow suit and called for a special focus on Africa, where he said 1 million children die from malaria each year.
"To put it bluntly, before the end of my speech, 30 children will have died of malaria on that continent," he said in a text of his remarks. "We can save them if we wish."
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