SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR CONCERTED ACTION
NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- The following message was issued by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October:
Two years ago, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders recognized the global progress that had been achieved in the struggle for human development, but also identified some of the serious impediments and threats -- such as HIV/AIDS, conflict, and terrorism -- that still stand between humanity and the realization of its hopes for freedom from want and freedom from fear. They responded by adopting the Millennium Declaration: a clear statement of values and priorities for action in the new century.
Among those priorities, none was more important than the pledge they made "to spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty". More specifically, they resolved that by 2015 they would: halve the proportions of the world’s people living in extreme poverty and hunger and without safe drinking water; achieve universal access to primary schooling and gender equality at all levels of education; reduce child mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters; halt the spread of HIV/AIDS and reduce the incidence of other major diseases; integrate the principles of sustainable development into their policies; and forge a global partnership for development.
This International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is an occasion for us all to recommit ourselves to these Millennium Development Goals, and reflect on the progress -- or lack of it -- so far achieved.
No doubt, the world has made some progress on the poverty front. According to the latest data, the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day in developing countries declined from one third in 1990 (the agreed start date from which progress is to be measured) to one quarter in 1999. But not every region or country has had a share in this progress. In sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in several transition economies, the absolute number of poor people has gone up.
Overall, the world is not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. By the year 2000 -- the latest for which data are available -- we should have been 40 per cent of the way there. But for most of the Millennium Development Goals, the global record shows that barely half that amount of progress had been achieved.
There is hope. The Millennium Development Goals are attainable. But poverty is an old enemy with many faces. Defeating it will require many actors to work together.
The Millennium Development Goals are global, but what will determine whether they are or are not met is what happens in each separate country. And there is no magic formula for reaching them that every country can apply.
Each country must find the right mix of policies -- the one that suits its local conditions. And the people of each country must insist that those policies be applied.
Let no one think that this applies only to developing countries. The developed countries, too, must ensure that no part of their own population falls short. And they also have a special global responsibility. They must deliver what they have promised: to open their markets fully to the products of developing countries; to let them compete in the global market on fair terms; and to provide much more generous development assistance. Without these things, many developing countries will be unable to reach the Millennium Goals, however hard they try.
In other words, it is not here at the United Nations, or by the work of United Nations officials, that these Goals can be achieved. They have to be achieved in every country, by the efforts of its government and its people.
That is why I have started a Millennium Campaign: to make the Goals better known throughout the world, and to try and mobilize the force of public opinion behind them.
I shall make a global report each year. But I hope that every developing country, with the help of the United Nations and other international institutions, will also produce its own annual report -- so that in each country the people will know how they are doing. Our hope is that, in this age of democracy, once people know, they will insist on action.
On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us recognize that extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere. Let us recall that poverty is a denial of human rights. For the first time in history, in this age of unprecedented wealth and technical prowess, we have the power to save humanity from this shameful scourge. Let us summon the will to do it.
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