PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, PRIME MINISTER OF UNITED KINGDOM, CHAIR OF GATES FOUNDATION ON MILLENNIUM GOALS HIGH-LEVEL EVENT
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, PRIME MINISTER OF UNITED KINGDOM,
CHAIR OF GATES FOUNDATION ON MILLENNIUM GOALS HIGH-LEVEL EVENT
Pronouncing today’s high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals “a very successful day”, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced some $16 billion in pledges to help the poor around the world.
“Today we did something special,” the Secretary-General said at a Headquarters press conference immediately following the closing of the day-long high-level meeting. He was accompanied by Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom and Bill Gates, Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Secretary-General Ban said the high-level event had brought together a broad coalition for change, including new partners, national leaders, chief executive officers, civil society groups, non-governmental organizations and philanthropists. “We have full commitment from many countries in pledges to help the world’s poor,” he added, noting, however, that the exact amount pledged was yet to be evaluated fully. That expression of global commitment to provide assistance was all the more remarkable against the backdrop of the world financial crisis. The brand of global leadership and partnership demonstrated today was the way of the future.
Providing examples of the actions announced today, he said that Prime Minister Brown and Mr. Gates, as well as the World Bank and others, had announced a $1 billion plan to save the lives of 10 million mothers and children by 2015. Norway had pledged $1 billion to fight deforestation in the Amazon, working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to create financial incentives to preserve, rather than cut forests. China had pledged to double the number of agricultural technicians it sent to developing countries and to train 10,000 doctors and nurses. The Gates Foundation, Howard Buffet Foundation and the Government of Belgium would collaborate with WFP to help poor farmers in Africa, under an innovative pilot project, by which the agency would enter into long-term contracts to purchase crops from local farmers. That would allow them to invest in fertilizers, seed and new technology.
With last year’s extraordinary advances on malaria, the world was now within range of containing the disease that killed a child every 30 seconds, he said. Joining together in the Global Malaria Action Plan, the partners had now pledged $3 billion to save the lives of more than 4 million people by 2015. That was a model of how to achieve all other Millennium Development Goals, including those relating to health, education and nutrition. “I think we all can agree that this year’s high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals has exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” he concluded.
Prime Minister Brown said that, today, the broadest-ever alliance had assembled to fight for a common goal -– the war on poverty. Some $16 billion had been pledged by countries, charities, foundations and businesses for the common goal of ending the poverty emergency. Some 90 countries had been represented at the summit, in addition to dozens of international chief executives, faith leaders and non-governmental organizations. It was the first time that such a global coalition had assembled under the auspices of the United Nations, not to talk, but to make specific commitments.
He went on to say that the world had committed to provide $3 billion to help reach universal coverage of bednets and sprays by 2010, and the phenomenal goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015. Some $2 billion had been pledged for emergency food aid to stop the immediate tragedy of starvation in the Horn of Africa and for rapid distribution of support to 30 priority countries by the time of the next planting season.
On health, he said the world had pledged $2 billion and launched a major new financial task force designed to help recruit a million health workers. Major commitments had also been made on education, which would make it possible to have 24 million children in school by 2010. Additional commitments had also been made with respect to water and other areas, a demonstration that, in the face of economic challenges, the international community must do more, not less, to help the world’s poorest people.
Over the last few years alone, the world had seen 40 million children in school, 3 million getting treatment for AIDS, another 3 million saved by immunization and more than 400 million lifted out of poverty, he continued. Those were great achievements, but far more could be done. The United Kingdom looked forward to working with its international partners, foundations, trusts, non-governmental organizations and new business partners, all of whom had joined together today to ensure the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Mr. Gates said he had been “thrilled” to see people come together around today’s milestone event, stressing that it would take actors of all types to make progress, including rich and developing countries, the private sector and philanthropists. They had all been present in force, looking at the progress made and pledging to do more where not enough progress had been made. The Millennium Goals had been incredibly catalytic; seeing progress made it easier for political leaders to allocate resources and explain exactly why they were needed.
He said the main challenges included the food crisis, high fuel and fertilizer prices, and financial volatility. On the other hand, scientific advances were now being applied to examine diseases, seeds and water for the poor, and how cell phones and the Internet could be used to promote development. Good news about innovation did not “grab the headlines” in the same way that challenges did, but it was indicative of how much progress had been achieved on malaria. It was encouraging to contrast today’s progress with that of a few years ago, when the disease had enjoyed little visibility. With the momentum achieved, it was to be hoped that more interest would be generated to deal with other diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
The Gates Foundation had made commitments with WFP to drive markets for small farmers and to carry out malaria-vaccine research. Today’s meeting had provided “a report card” on the Millennium Development Goals, but the international community had “lots of homework coming from the events today”.
Asked how the Millennium Goals could be attained when aid was used as a political weapon, the Secretary-General replied that the United Nations and the whole international community were working together to ensure peace and stability, which were needed in order to make development possible. It was also important for people to have freedom of expression and political association so they could engage in economic and social activities. The three pillars -– peace and security, development and human rights -– should always be upheld and go hand in hand. The United Nations would continue to encourage democratization, as well as economic and social development through the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.
In response to a question as to whether the financial bailout announced by the United States was good news, Prime Minister Brown said there was a general view among international leaders that, in order to achieve financial stabilization, the proposed resolution trust fund was the right idea, whatever the details that remained to be “hammered out” in Congress. First, it was important to reach stability in the market and then make sure there would be no recurrence of the causes of instability.
Asked if corruption and lack of accountability could affect the commitments made today, Mr. Gates said corruption could be a big factor that made some people cynical. Fortunately, while it remained a problem, properly designed programmes and outside monitoring would ensure that the “bar had been raised”. The Gates Foundation was working to avoid corruption, and all aid agencies were now more vigilant against it. The effectiveness of aid dollars was now greater than “when we were more naïve about those issues”.
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