25 September 2008
General AssemblyGA/10752
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

High-Level on Millennium Development Goals

Round Tables (AM & PM)



Hailing Commitments Pledged, They Stress Need for More to Advance Common Good

Today’s high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals resulted in a raft of commitments on issues ranging from malaria prevention to reforestation, but more was needed if the 2015 target year for reducing extreme poverty was to be met, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, as he closed the day-long session this evening.

“I welcome these initiatives and commitments, but additional efforts are required to fill the remaining gaps,” he said, at the conclusion of the meeting, in which world leaders and top figures from the private sector, foundations and civil society participated.  Examples of remaining gaps included an increase in official development assistance (ODA) and progress towards a “pro-poor” trade deal in the Doha Round of international trade negotiations.

Mr. Ban said he was heartened by the encouraging response to his call for a formal summit in 2010 to review implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  In addition, some $1.6 billion had been pledged to foster food security, $3 billion to launch the Malaria Action Plan, and almost half a billion dollars in new pledges had been made to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  A further $2 billion had been committed for the Millennium Goals relating to child mortality and maternal health, and pledges had also been made to support national health plans, access to clean water and sanitation, and education.  Overall, new contributions and commitments could amount to around $16 billion or more.

Convened jointly by Secretary-General Ban and General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, today’s meeting took place just days after a new United Nations report found that soaring food and fuel prices as well as the global economic downturn were impeding advances in meeting the millennium targets.

In his closing statement, Mr. d’Escoto strongly supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to hold a Millennium Development Goals review summit in 2010, and announced the start of a consultation process to develop a resolution on the objectives and modalities of that meeting so the Assembly could act on it as soon as possible.

He said that, as President of the Assembly, he was deeply committed to strengthening the development role of the United Nations and sought the full cooperation of today’s participants in that global effort.  He and the Secretary-General would jointly convene an informal thematic debate at the end of 2008 or in early 2009, on “Strengthening Global Health:  the Health MDGs and Beyond”, in addition to other efforts aimed at advancing progress in the global health arena.

Great strides had been made over the course of the day, he said, concluding:  “We must go forward in partnership, for what we can achieve together is far greater than what any country or organization can accomplish alone.  This is the very essence of the United Nations and global solidarity.”

The high-level event, held alongside the Assembly’s annual general debate, featured three round table discussions, on Poverty and Hunger, Education and Health, and Environmental Sustainability, respectively.  The round tables were co-chaired by Heads of State and Government from around the world.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi co-chaired the morning session of Round Table 1.  Lead discussants in the morning were Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development, in the United States; and Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director-General of the Africa Rice Centre, in Senegal.  In the afternoon, President Boni Yayi of Benin took the chair.  Lead discussants were Mandivamba Rukini, Regional Director of Africa Programmes at W. K. Kellogg Foundation Africa, in South Africa; and Xuan Vo Tong, Rector Emeritus of An Giang University in Viet Nam.

Co-chairing the morning session of Round Table 2 were President Danilo Türk of Slovenia and Prime Minister Ahmad Al-Sabah of Kuwait.  The lead discussants were Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange ( Netherlands) and Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.  Co-chairing the afternoon discussion were Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile.  The lead discussants were Raymond Chambers, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria, and Princess Firyal of Jordan.

Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister David Thompson of Barbados co-chaired Round Table 3 in the morning.  The lead discussants were Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi; and Christopher Flavin, President and CEO of the Worldwatch Institute.  Co-chairing the afternoon session were President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan and President Tarja Halonen of Finland.  The lead discussants were Rolph Payet, Special Adviser to the President of the Seychelles; and Bekele Geleta, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The day also witnessed a series of side events, including the launch of the Global Malaria Action Plan, during which billions of dollars in new funding to curb the spread of the disease and boost research would be announced.

Opening the high-level event this morning, the Secretary-General said there were good prospects for reducing extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, but, while the international community was moving in the right direction, it was not moving quickly enough.  “We must inject new energy into the global partnership for development.”

Also speaking this morning, the Assembly President stressed the need for a significant increase in international assistance for the world’s poorest people, maintaining that present aid amounted to only one tenth of international military budgets.  The cost of the war in Iraq alone could have paid for the primary schooling of all those children in the world now deprived of it.  Unfair trade practices had also delayed development, and the inequitable distribution of purchasing power between and within countries had generated world hunger, which was exacerbated by the thirst for biofuels.

In his address to the morning plenary, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, declared a global poverty emergency that must be urgently addressed by an unprecedented world coalition.  Throughout the ages, care for the least fortunate had been the measure of civilizations and that was also true of the current one, which was a global civilization in which all were inextricably linked.  Within that global civilization, Africa was not the problem, but rather a large part of the solution to all of today’s problems.  The major obstacle was indifference.

Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointing out the special status of the eighth Millennium Development Goal because it called for a global partnership for development that would bring together the responsibilities of developing and developed countries.  It was to be hoped that today’s event would set in motion a process to develop specific benchmarks and targets to measure properly the implementation of the requisite partnerships.

Agreeing that it was important to evaluate the Goals, Bill Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said:  “So here is my evaluation:  I love the Millennium Development Goals.  They are one of the best ideas for fighting global poverty I’ve seen in my lifetime.”  Thanks to the Millennium Goals, the world knew how it was doing in crucial measures on poverty, hunger, health and education.  Some of the numbers were good and some were not, but the focus on those numbers was “excellent”.  Of course, greater attention alone could not help change the future and greater innovation was needed, both in the tools and the way to deliver them.

Also speaking in today’s opening segment were President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African Union), Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of China, and Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al-Sabah of Qatar.

The President of the European Commission and the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India also addressed the Assembly.


BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the session following the presentation of a short film, Make it Happen, produced specially for today’s event.  Recalling the ambitious objectives undertaken by Member States eight years ago -- freeing humankind from hunger, illiteracy, disease, marginalization and the degradation of the environment –- he said many successes had been achieved, with millions having emerged from poverty, not only in China and India, but in numerous other countries, including some of the poorest ones.  There were good prospects for reducing extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, but while the international community was moving in the right direction, it was not moving quickly enough.

Citing the remaining challenges, he noted that sub-Saharan Africa had actually seen the number of its poor increase between 1990 and 2005, while women and girls suffered persistent bias and neglect, evidenced by disturbing gender gaps in health, education, employment and empowerment.  The current global financial crisis threatened the well-being of billions of people, none more so than the poorest of the poor.  That only compounded the damage being caused by much higher food and fuel prices.  “We must rise to all of these challenges immediately.  We must inject new energy into the global partnership for development,” he added.

“We are the first generation to possess the resources, knowledge and skills to eliminate poverty,” he continued.  Experience showed that where there was strong political resolve, progress was achieved, and where there was partnership, there were gains.  The current campaign against malaria was proof of that, as the world got closer to containing the disease.  With enhanced efforts, full coverage could be achieved by 2010, and malaria deaths could be stopped by 2015.  That was being done through a path-breaking public-private coalition, with solid science, better statistics, precise financing and, above all, with leadership.  That was a new kind of problem-solving, and now the same should be done with education, maternal health, climate and agriculture.  There was no better place to start than global health, he said, adding that, before the end of the year, he and the President of the General Assembly planned to bring together all the main constituencies to get a new effort “up and running”.

Even more immediately, all stakeholders should send a clear signal of their readiness to reach agreement on the way forward at the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development in December, he said.  Poor people around the world looked to their Governments and to the United Nations for help and solidarity.  “We are accountable to them.  Here in this house, everyone counts, so let us live up to our responsibility.”  Member States should be bold and generous, and hopefully, the international community would agree to his proposed convening of a formal summit in 2010 to take stock of achievements.

MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN ( Nicaragua), President of the General Assembly, described today’s event as an opportunity to focus, in a spirit of unity and brotherhood, on the great challenge of eradicating poverty and hunger.  Essential to that goal was a significant increase in international assistance for the world’s poorest, which now amounted to only one tenth of military budgets.  The cost of the war in Iraq alone could have paid for the primary schooling of all those children in the world now deprived of it.

Unfair trade practices had also delayed development, and the inequitable distribution of purchasing power between and within countries had generated world hunger, he said, adding that it was exacerbated by the thirst for biofuels.  “Faced with today’s world food crisis, we must speak out on behalf of our brothers and sisters and say ‘This is not right.’  It is not just to keep in place agricultural and energy policies that give rise to these kinds of distortions.  Now is the time to help the poorest countries to boost their food production capacity.”

Unfortunately, food production had been monopolized by a handful of multinational corporations, and hedge funds controlled 60 per cent of the supply of wheat and other basic grains, he said.  Neoliberal economic policies had affected access to all of life’s basic necessities, including food, water and fuel.  For those reasons, global inequality remained exactly the same as it had been in 2000, and may even have deteriorated.  The current credit crisis presented another threat, and must not be used as a pretext for failing to honour the commitments undertaken in Monterrey and elsewhere.

Inviting all participants in today’s activities to share their successful experiences with effective, sustainable practices that would benefit the poorest of the poor, he said that only through deep reflection and clear, courageous political decisions would the world be able to address structural problems and achieve the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000.

JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Chairman of the African Union, stressed the “monumental importance” of today’s meeting, and recalled that on 22 September, the Secretary-General had convened a high-level meeting on African needs.  One of the reasons for that meeting was the necessity of mobilizing the resources for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.  One of its highlights had been the adoption of a political declaration on Africa’s development needs, which, among other things, recognized poverty as the continent’s greatest challenge, while underlining the need to establish economic growth to overcome it.  It also reaffirmed the validity of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as the overarching framework for sustainable development in the region.

Noting that some progress in development had been made in the countries of Africa, as well as advances in democratic governance, rule of law, human rights protection and the resolution of some long-standing conflicts, he pointed out that some Millennium Development Goals were off track, and there was a serious shortfall in resources to meet Africa’s development needs.  In trade, Africa’s prospects remained bleak as the Doha Round was stalled.  New negative trends included climate change and soaring fuel and food prices.  Several round-table discussions had underlined the necessity of meeting commitments and obligations, and of agreeing on aligning development assistance with national goals.  Speakers had emphasized the need for better coordination of aid, and for more South-South cooperation.  The need for conflict resolution had also been emphasized.  The Secretary-General had been requested to submit a comprehensive report to the General Assembly on those issues.

GORDON BROWN, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, declared a global poverty emergency that must be urgently addressed by an unprecedented coalition of all stakeholders.  Throughout the ages, care for the least fortunate had been the measure of civilizations, and that was also true of the current one, which was a global civilization.  Within that global civilization, Africa was not the problem, but rather part of the solution to all of today’s problems.  The major obstacle was indifference.

The United Nations was under trial as it represented the international community’s best efforts to deal with common problems, he said, emphasizing that in order to make poverty history, history must be made now.  A million health workers had to be trained, malaria eradicated and starvation in the Horn of Africa ended.  Huge investments had to be made in Africa, not just for relief, as in the past, but in order to enable the continent to feed itself, and eventually the world.  The international community should work to finally free those enslaved by extreme poverty.

WEN JIABAO, Premier of the State Council of China, said his country had accelerated its development through a process of reform and “opening-up”.  In less than 30 years, China had reduced the number of people living in absolute poverty from 250 million to 15 million, achieved free nine-year compulsory education, and put in place a new type of medical care system, financed mainly by the Government.  “In the final analysis, all that we do in China now serves but one purpose –- to eradicate poverty, and build on this basis to achieve modernization with prosperity, democracy, advanced culture and harmony.”

He said that, though his country was not rich, it had honoured its commitments to the Millennium Declaration, cancelling a total of RMB24.7 billion in debt for 49 heavily indebted poor and least developed countries in Asia and Africa, providing RMB206.5 billion in various forms of assistance, and offering zero-tariff treatment for goods from 42 least developed countries.  China had also trained 15,000 African professionals, sent medical teams to the region and provided free anti-malaria medicine.  To enhance Africa’s capacity for independent development, China had decided, at the end of 2007, to provide it with RMB2.377 billion in free aid and RMB700 million in interest-free loans.

The vision of the Millennium Declaration was gradually being turned into reality in China, he said, cautioning, however, that it was important to recognize that about 1 billion people in the world still lived below the poverty line, and hundreds of millions suffered from hunger.  China was also under pressure in terms of population, resources and the environment, facing such challenges as uneven development between urban and rural areas.  Attaining the goals of the Millennium Declaration globally remained a long, uphill journey.  It was important that Governments give top priority to development, while underdeveloped countries made poverty eradication through development a central task.  Developed nations should provide enabling conditions for the development of underdeveloped countries.

Emphasizing the need to encourage all countries to take development paths suited to their national conditions, and to respect the right of all countries independently to choose their development models, he said it was also important to step up international assistance, which should be provided selflessly, with no political strings attached.  It was particularly important to increase assistance to the least developed countries and regions, focusing on hunger, medical care and education.  In that regard, China proposed that donor countries double their donations to the World Food Programme (WFP) over the next five years, and that the international community do more to cancel or reduce debt owned by the least developed countries, while also granting zero-tariff treatment to their exports.

He said that in order to facilitate attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, his country stood ready to double the number of its agricultural technology demonstration centres for developing countries to 30, increase the number of agricultural experts and technicians it sent overseas by 1,000, and provide agricultural training for 3,000 people from developing countries.  China would also increase food aid, give 10,000 additional scholarships to developing countries in the next five years, and provide training for 1,500 school principals and teachers from Africa, as well as 1,000 doctors, nurses and managers.  The 30 hospitals China intended to build for African countries would be properly staffed and equipped.  In addition, China would cancel the outstanding interest-free loans owed by least developed countries that would mature before the end of 2008, and give zero-tariff treatment to 95 per cent of exports from those countries.  China also intended to build 100 small-scale clean energy projects for developing countries.

SHEIKH HAMAD BIN JASSIM BIN JABR AL-THANI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said the 2000 Millennium Declaration provided a bold vision stemming from a shared commitment to human rights.  It was supported by clear development goals and a specific timetable to establish a more equitable world order.  Looking at the achievements so far, the number of people living in extreme poverty was declining, but that success masked slow progress in some regions of the world.

He recalled that in 2005, his country had declared a commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of its national income to development assistance, with 0.15 per cent allocated to the least developed countries.  Qatar stood ready to provide more aid, so as to facilitate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and was keen to develop strategies to improve the effectiveness of its assistance.  The challenge was to maintain the sustainability of recent positive developments.  It was crucial that developed countries take appropriate policy measures to overcome persistent disparities in the international trading system.  Any global approach that gave developing countries more room to participate in the coordination of economic and financial global policies was in the interest of developed and developing countries alike.

Midway to the year 2015, he noted, children, young people and persons with disabilities in many regions of the world were still deprived of access to quality education, health-care services, training opportunities and decent work for both genders.  The Millennium Goals could not be achieved in full unless social development was considered an integral part of economic development.  The main engine for achieving the Goals remained, therefore, new partnerships and innovative and practical mechanisms for financing education, health and youth employment for both genders.

Calling for the accelerated adoption of a decision to declare the current session the beginning of the “Decade of Development”, he said the follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, to be hosted by his country in Doha, would provide a critical opportunity to adopt the required plans of action, not only to get back on track for attainment of the 2015 targets, but also to overcome the deep inequalities that divided nations.  The event would provide an opportunity for Heads of State and Government to mobilize investment resources, and develop the necessary investment plans to build lines of defence capable of confronting challenges.

WINSTON BALDWIN SPENCER, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointing out the special status of the eighth Millennium Development Goal because it was the enabling one.  It called for a global partnership for development that would bring together the responsibilities of developing and developed countries.  Today’s high-level review should focus on action to implement already-made commitments under that Millennium Goal, and set in motion a process to develop specific benchmarks and targets to measure properly the implementation of the requisite partnerships.

He emphasized that the target for most of the Millennium Development Goals was not to eradicate or eliminate particular ills, but rather to reduce the extent of suffering and deprivation.  For that reason, the Goals did not address the full scope of the development agenda.  In addition, it must be noted that the current global crises relating to food, energy and the failures of economic and financial systems would have their most severe impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in the developing countries.  The cost of meeting the Millennium Goals was, therefore, increasing and would continue to rise more rapidly with time.  Today’s deliberations should be organized into a coherent declaration or targeted plan of action to enable the tracking of progress, looking ahead to a final major review in 2010, and a final adjustment in the speed of implementation to ensure timely achievement of the targets.

JOSÉ MANUEL DURÃO BARROSO, President of the European Commission, said, “Each of us must explain, without too much soaring rhetoric, what we will do to bring about the success of the Millennium Development Goals.  Otherwise, we, the international community, must get ready to explain how and why we failed to meet these ambitious but feasible targets.”  What had to be done was not rocket science; the key first step was to deliver more aid, and more effective aid.

To that end, the European Union had set out its commitments in the “EU Agenda for Action”, unanimously adopted by Heads of State and Government in June, he said.  European Union member States had also confirmed their commitments to increase aid flows to reach, collectively as the European Union, 0.56 per cent of gross national product (GNP) by 2010 and 0.7 per cent by 2015.  By doubling development assistance, the European Union could increase its annual support to education by €4 billion, and to health by €8 billion.  That meant 25 million more children going to primary school and 20 per cent fewer children under 5 who were underweight.  It also meant saving the lives of 4 million children a year.

Aid should also be more effective, he said, pointing out that the Secretary-General’s Steering Group for the Millennium Development Goals in Africa had recommended predictability of aid, a better division of labour among donors, and better alignment to national priorities and rules, meaning more output and less bureaucracy.  The fact that, in 2007, donors had asked the United Republic of Tanzania to produce 2,400 reports did not reflect accountability, but rather “Kafkaesque madness”.

New crises, including the food crisis, had led to 75 million more people facing malnutrition in 2008 than in 2005, he said, noting that those people could not wait until 2015.  The European Commission, therefore, proposed to create a new “Food Facility” for developing countries.  Apart from the €800 million in short-term measures already allocated, the proposed facility would mean an extra €1 billion to increase agricultural production in developing countries.

BILL GATES, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said he saw his address at the United Nations as a sign of partnership -- the world understood that no sector acting alone could achieve the goals that were the Organization’s mission.  At the present point, it was crucial to evaluate both achievements and areas where the international community was falling short of its targets.  It was also important to evaluate the Goals themselves as a force for change.  “So here is my evaluation:  I love the Millennium Development Goals.  They are one of the best ideas for fighting global poverty I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Thanks to the Millennium Goals, the world knew how it was doing in crucial measures on poverty, hunger, health and education, he continued.  Some of the numbers were good, some were not, but the focus on those numbers was excellent.  One could see where things were going well, and spread those approaches.  The international community could see where it was falling short, and decide what to do next.  That was the purpose of the Goals, and it was brilliant.  Of course, greater attention alone could not help change the future.  Greater innovation, in both the tools and the way to deliver them, was also needed.  Combining smallpox vaccine with an innovative approach to delivering it had helped track the disease and eradicate it.  Eradicating smallpox and expanding childhood vaccination were two of the greatest accomplishments in the history of global health, achieved without today’s stunning new tools.  New advances in biotechnology, computers and the Internet would give the world the power to solve many more problems.

He said other encouraging examples included work on drought-tolerant maize for Africa; new vaccines for livestock; and the Medicine and Malaria venture on a new synthetic treatment that opened the possibility of a single-dose cure for malaria.  The opportunities for innovation were just staggering, and the Millennium Goals could guide the search for new discoveries.  Naturally, progress in some areas had been disappointing, but that should not mean discouraging.

“This is the first time the whole world has ever made a focused effort to track its progress in improving the lives of the poorest people,” he said.  “Of course, we are not going to be perfect, so I disagree with those who focus only on the disappointments and try to spread around blame and guilt.”  People were motivated by success, and there were phenomenal opportunities for success.  Progress on the Millennium Development Goals would help fuel the broad-based economic growth that leaders sought for their countries.  That was an important reason why the Goals should have the strong support of Governments.

ELA BHATT, founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India, said the desire to cut poverty in half by 2015 had met with marginal success because the poor were still not a priority.  Today’s economic environment was out of balance because it did not address simple human needs and fundamental human rights like food, water and shelter for all.  It assumed technology would solve all problems.  “We are proud of our modern cities, our high-tech hospitals, our shining universities and the bright minds who go on to earn millions, but we are not ashamed of our dying villages and urban slums, where populations go hungry, illiteracy is rampant and curable diseases weaken the people.”

She proposed placing the Millennium Development Goals squarely in the centre of national budgets, guaranteeing a living income, providing social protection, ensuring decent work, and building communities.  There was a need to focus on decent work, and to provide subsidies for local businesses, training centres, micro-lending enterprises and initiatives for full employment.  Empowerment of the poor was also important, as was the engagement of community organizations in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the Millennium Goals.  Donors should contribute to the building of local capacity and the local economy, and support the efforts of the poor to build their own organizations so they could manage their own destinies.

Round Table 1:  Poverty and Hunger

Round Table 1 was co-chaired by the President of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the President of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, in the morning , with lead discussants Nancy Birdsall, of the Center for Global Development, United States, and Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director-General of the Africa Rice Centre, Senegal. 

The afternoon was chaired by the President of Benin, Boni Yayi, and lead discussants were Mandivamba Rukini, the Regional Director of Africa Programmes W.K. Kellogg Foundation Africa, South Africa, and Xuan Vo Tong, Rector Emeritus of An Giang University, Viet Nam.

President ZAPATERO of Spain noted that the number of people living in extreme poverty throughout the world was dropping, but a weakened global economy, coupled with a rise in energy costs, threatened progress towards the goal of halving poverty by 2015.  Added to that, the world must now grapple with the effects of climate change.  Against that backdrop, he encouraged participants of the Round Table to share ideas on ways to raise productivity among subsistence farmers and how to help agricultural economies diversify their economic base. 

He also asked participants to consider ways to increase food security around the world, and of helping farmers to counter the forces arising from the rising demand for biofuel.  He noted that Spain was currently devoting 0.5 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA) and would reach the targeted 0.7 per cent by 2012.  He urged other developed countries to do the same, adding that ODA should be harmonized with national poverty alleviation efforts.

President YAYI of Benin, who opened the afternoon session, stressed the importance of preserving human dignity, adding that that concept was central to the philosophy of the United Nations.  In that context, he asked participants to consider ways to elevate the status of women in society, in a way that would advance the development process.  He also asked participants to consider the elements needed for a world partnership for development that would help the donor community and recipient nations to apply development assistance in the most effective way possible.  Finally, he asked participants to discuss how the international community could conclude the World Trade Organization’s Doha development round in a way that supported development.

The first lead discussant, Ms. BIRDSALL, said the war on poverty could only be won by “the leaders and citizens of developing countries themselves”.  However, in an increasingly interconnected world, the actions of rich countries and their leaders -- on trade, migration, greenhouse gas emissions and financial policies in particular -- all had an impact on the wider global community.  As such, rich countries should be held to account for their actions or inaction and their efforts as part of the global fight against poverty.  To date, such accountability had not existed. 

The eighth Millennium Development Goal was the only Goal that addressed the responsibilities of rich countries, she added.  It was also the “least discussed” Goal and its text was a “hodge-podge of elements” that reflected the reluctance of some countries to delve into the specifics of their commitments.  She urged those gathered at the Round Table to use their power and influence “to put teeth” into the eighth Goal and recommended that Governments of rich countries reaffirm their Millennium commitments and agree to report annually on their progress towards fulfilling those promises, including reporting to international organizations, other Governments and to the public at large.  She also called on the Secretary-General to “harness the moral power of the United Nations” and find leaders who would be willing to take up her recommendations and put “real meaning” into the eighth Goal.

Mr. SECK said Africa had the potential to be one of the greatest agricultural producers in the world.  Africa had sufficient land, tremendous ecological diversity and the human resources.  Unfortunately, its resources were not being used to their full potential, due to a dearth in technology.  A successful agricultural economy involved the use of well-adapted technology, high quality infrastructure, and a conducive economic environment with an emphasis on environmental preservation.  Indeed, Africa could very well become a net exporter of rice, provided that it increased the size of arable land by 15 per cent and began growing different varieties of rice.  Already, a number of Asian rice-growing countries were seeking to move production to Africa, driven by lack of land and water on their continent. 

At the moment, only an average of 4 per cent of State budgets were devoted to agriculture and very little was being spent on research, he continued.  Further, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), only 4 per cent of renewable water resources were being used in Africa.  Yields could be improved if irrigated farming became popularized, rather than merely relying on rainfall.  Africa should be allowed to make use of subsidies to shore up its agricultural sector.  Access to markets should be eased, and institutions created to help farmers deal with a poor crop.

Mr. RUKINI said that hunger and malnutrition in Africa was a “manmade situation” created by an overall decay in the traditional African way of life.  Traditionally, African society was based on strong families and strong communities that supported each other through a vast familial network.  However, that foundation had been weakened by attempts to “westernize Africa”.  The western model was to build big city-states, but that model was not the right model for Africa, since such a model required cheap labour, cheap food, cheap fuel -- and Africa would never have those things.  He argued that Africa should be “modernized not westernized”. 

The first step towards building a new and modern model for Africa was for African Governments to invest more in rural areas, he said.  On average, Governments in Africa spent less than 10 per cent of public funds in rural areas, despite the fact that more than 50 per cent of the population lived in those areas.  To increase agricultural productivity in Africa and to ensure adequate support for its rural and agrarian societies, Governments should invest in five key areas:  technology, education, rural infrastructure, rural institutions and in the development of appropriate land tenure doctrines.  However, he stressed, without rebuilding the foundation of African society -- strong families and strong communities -- it would never be possible to build a vibrant African economy.

XUAN VO TONG noted that poverty levels in the Asia Pacific were the highest in the world, where 600 million people were living on $1 per day and 1.7 billion people on $2 per day.  Around 60 per cent of their income went towards food.  Rapid population growth in that region meant that the number of poor would only become higher.  Poverty resulted from inequity, and current poverty programmes simply encouraged more inequality, which was most stark between urban and rural inhabitants.  In his opinion, there was little accountability among United Nations agencies, international financial institutions and donor countries, whose high operating costs led to too few funds to reach the grass roots. 

Improved procedures for aid-giving were very much needed, he added.  He suggested that the donor community compare how much was being spent on foreign debt servicing and armament spending, as opposed to poverty reduction.  He also pointed out that poverty reduction could not be addressed through the work of a single ministry.  Governments must use a holistic approach to help poor farmers to produce a quality harvest and link them to the markets.  Internationally, the United Nations, international financial institutions and the donor community must cut red tape and costly pre-project activities.

In the ensuing discussions, which took place over two meetings, many world leaders expressed support for increased production to help countries deal with the current food security crisis.  The President of Madagascar, MARC RAVALOMANANA, said over half of the arable land in his country was currently unexploited and the low levels of national agricultural productivity resulted in his country suffering more severely from the current food crisis.  Madagascar was currently off-target on meeting the majority of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the food crisis threatened to push them even further off-track.  Others pointed out that, even in countries that were on target, the situation was difficult.  The President of the Philippines, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, described how “almost overnight” the significant gains her country had made to alleviate hunger and poverty had “come under assault” due to rising food prices. 

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, FAKHRUDDIN AHMED, explained that the food crisis would push another 100 million people into extreme poverty worldwide, thus posing a serious threat to poverty reduction.  He suggested the creation of a global food bank as a possible long-term solution to hunger and a necessary step towards eradicating poverty.  The President of Turkey, ABDULLAH GÜL, suggested a wide variety of other solutions that might be equally effective, from enhancing agricultural productivity to supporting pro-poor growth strategies.  However, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, RALPH GONSALVES, said that those solutions might be effective in theory, but the reality was quite different.  For example, smallholder farmers in his country had been told to diversify their crops to help manage the food insecurity, but with the price of fertilizer having more than quadrupled in recent months, diversification was proving nearly impossible.  For small island developing States such as his own, the situation was so severe that the only feasible solution would be if the international community stepped in with real support, particularly more rapid delivery of aid dollars to developing countries.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, OMAR TOURAY, said that tackling hunger through limited charitable donations, such as donations of food, would only treat the symptoms of poverty and not the root causes.  National economic growth was a pre-requisite to poverty reduction, he said, as was the development of social sector policies that enhanced employment opportunities for the poor and ensured minimum safety nets.  That was similar to the path taken by India, as described by the Minister for Finance, PALANIAPPAN CHIDAMBARAM, who said his Government had created a “unique social safety net” that, among other things, guaranteed 100 days of employment to every rural family in India. 

PAAVO VÄYRYNEN, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland -- a donor country –- asked participants what kind of development aid policy would be most effective.  He said a more comprehensive approach to aid would be, in his opinion, more effective, remarking that, in the past, the European Union and other donor countries had channelled much of their funding through the public sector, directed specifically towards poverty reduction, to the detriment of private sector development and infrastructure.  Speaking from the private sector, JOSE SERGIO GABRIELLI DE AVECEDO, the Chairman of PETROBRAS, a Brazilian energy company, said that corporations also had a responsibility to help create employment, improve national economic growth and better the lives of the poor and the hungry.  That did not mean sacrificing financial returns for social responsibility.  He argued that a corporation could use its “natural strength” to generate positive financial returns for activities that improved social progress.  HENRIETTA FORE, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said that private sector economic growth went hand-in-hand with foreign assistance and stressed the importance of including private sector partners in the development dialogue. 

On a governmental level, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Luxembourg, JEAN ASSELBORN, said Member States had a responsibility to ensure a successful outcome to the Doha Round trade negotiations to help build a more favourable economic environment for development.  The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, said that agricultural export subsidies, high tariffs and trade-distorting policies had seriously damaged the agricultural sector of developing countries.  Adding to those comments, but from the perspective of a non-governmental organization, the President of the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa, NDIOGOU FALL, said that smallholder farmers and family-based businesses had not seen any benefits of the liberalized global trading and financial system.  Indeed, he said it was now even harder for small producers to access credit facilities or sell products on the market.  The Minister for External Relations of Nicaragua, SAMUEL SANTOS LOPEZ, called for a restructuring of the entire global financial model in order to better distribute global wealth, saying that the current international financial institutions and their respective mechanisms were “incompetent”.

Speakers also addressed other important issues related to poverty eradication, such as gender equality, climate change and peace and security.  The Prime Minister of Denmark, ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, said that, in sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural productivity could increase by up to 20 per cent if women had equal access to resources as their male counterparts.  “If you empower one woman,” he said, “you empower the whole family and generations to come.”  The Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA, echoed those sentiments, saying that women should be better empowered through education and access to land.  The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, HAN SEUNG-SOO, called attention to the issue of climate change, noting that climate-related disasters had hit least developing countries the hardest and “green growth” should be a priority.  Focusing on the link between peace, stability and poverty reduction, the President of Timor L’Este, JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, suggested that developing countries spend less money on buying weapons, while developed countries that exported weapons should study how the trade in weapons “really ruins economies”. 

In his closing statement, the President of Malawi, BINGU WA MUTHARIKA, said that the Millennium Development Goals could benefit from a revision, so that they would better take into account the actual capacities of countries to implement the Goals.  For example, no country could achieve universal primary education without first having the physical infrastructure, materials and human resources required.  Indeed, an overall lack of resources was the biggest constraint in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  The United Nations should thus play a primary role in helping build the capacities of the least developed countries and increase both their human and financial resources.  Only such efforts would ensure the full implementation of the Millennium Goals. 

Also speaking at Round Table 1 were the Heads of State and Government and Ministers from Panama, Cyprus, Mozambique, Chile, Morocco, Nepal, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, Malawi, Slovakia, Guinea, Japan, Pakistan, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Botswana, Argentina, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Hungary, Egypt, Brazil, Cambodia, Lebanon, Libya, Thailand and Venezuela. 

Observers for the Holy See and the Commonwealth Secretariat also spoke, as did civil society representatives of the National Confederation of Dalit Organizations and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Round Table 2:  Education and Health

Co-chairing the morning meeting were DANILO TÜRK, President of Slovenia, andSheikh NASSER AL-MOHAMMAD AL-AHMAD AL JABER AL-SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait.

Lead discussants were JEFFREY SACHS, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, and Prince WILLEM-ALEXANDER, the Prince of Orange, Netherlands, and Chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

The co-chairs in the afternoon were JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, and MICHELLE BACHELET JERIA, President of Chile.

Lead discussants were RAYMOND CHAMBERS, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria, and Princess FIRYAL of Jordan.

Opening the Round Table was co-chair TÜRK, who said that the discussion was expected to address a critical aspect of development and an important set of the Millennium Development Goals.  The Round Table must discuss significant issues, such as how to develop a sustainable health and education system; how to improve the emerging global partnership on health to provide, among other things, essential drugs to the poor; and how to comprehensively address education and health beyond just primary education, so that the whole development pyramid was perceived as a long-term process.  Education and health required discussion and action-oriented decisions.  Cross-cutting issues concerning obstacles to education, such as employment and political participation goals for men and women, should also be discussed, as should the impact of the food crisis on education.

Mr. AL-SABAH said that the holding of the event was tantamount to the road to renewing the achievements of the past eight years.  It was necessary to attain the education and health Goals, particularly as they concerned gender disparity and the poor quality of education and health, as the Secretary-General’s report had pointed out.  In fact, it was essential to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals in education and health before the 2015 target.

Prince WILLEM-ALEXANDER said the Goals relating to health and education could not be reached without improved water, sanitation and hygiene.  The lack of access to potable water and proper sanitation caused lasting negative effects on people’s health and development.  It was estimated that the lack of access to sanitation caused at least 25 per cent of all child deaths in the developing world.  According to the World Health Organization, the lack of potable water and basic sanitation caused some 529,000 maternal deaths annually, and improving water, sanitation and hygiene could significantly prevent disease.  By meeting the millennium water and sanitation targets, children suffering the effects of waterborne or sanitation-related diseases would recover an estimated 272 million school days. 

While the world was on track to meet the potable water targets, there was still a long way to go to achieve the sanitation targets, he said.  Fast action was required, but sanitation meant more than just building toilets.  The focus must be on demand-driven approaches that promoted the benefits of installing household toilets.  Possible ways to create demand included hygiene education at school, mass-media campaigns, demonstration latrines and exploiting community pressure and community dynamics to eliminate defecation out in the open.  He welcomed the calls by donors, recipient countries and international organizations at Wednesday’s side event on water and sanitation for a more concerted “global framework for action” and he pledged to pursue the proposals reviewed by the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Mr. SACHS, referring to Bill Gates’ comments to the General Assembly earlier this morning on smallpox, measles and polio, said that, to properly deal with those problems, there first had to be highly effective immunization, followed by a plan of action for scaling up that effective technology.  That next required financing and proper management, within national programmes and internationally.  Technology, a plan, financing and management were the four steps needed in health and education.  The technologies existed in both areas.  All countries present today could have significantly reduced mortality rates because all the child-killing diseases were preventable or treatable at a low cost.  That had not occurred, however, because the international community had not proceeded in an orderly way, except in very few cases.  Instead, it had proceeded haphazardly.  Children were dying of such illnesses as respiratory infections, worm infections, and malaria, and their mothers and fathers were dying of AIDS and tuberculosis, but there was not one disease that lacked a proven set of technologies that could decisively change conditions in countries.

The problem was the inability of poor countries to wage that fight on their own, he said.  It was arithmetic, and the gap was on the rich countries’ side.  That was no mystery.  What could be managed was not being managed.  Governments had been asked during the past eight years of the millennium campaign to make plans, and he had shelves full of good plans, but zero funding for them.  Donors had made a lot of speeches, but had not put money in the bank.  On the health side, he would recommend either opening a new window within the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, or creating a separate fund.  Education was no more complicated:  schools were needed, then teachers, supplies, toilets, running water and midday meals, all of which were basic things.  It was a matter of poverty, and the Global Fund had almost no money in it for education.  It was not just about the money; it was about technologies, national plans, implementation and money, but the money was missing.

Co-chairing the afternoon discussion, Mr. STOLTENBERG urged Member States to step up progress towards meeting the education goals so that, for example, the 75 million children presently out of school could receive primary education by 2015.  Special attention was needed for children in conflict States, and nothing was more conducive to development than investing in the education of girls.  Education was the foundation for human development, self-realization and self-esteem.  The good news was that, for the first time, the United Nations had reported that new AIDS infections were decreasing and that the number of malaria cases was set to decline.  More vaccines were reaching more children than ever before and, in Africa alone, death from measles was down by 90 per cent since 2000.  That indicated that the international community knew more about what it must do and how to do it.  States must do their utmost to achieve the millennium targets and to sharpen their focus.

Ms. BACHELET, who also co-chaired the afternoon session, said, in light of the global economic crisis, new steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals were all the more urgent.  Contributions made today should be oriented towards the most vulnerable issues in terms of education, sustainable health systems and ensuring that gender equality was an integral part of all efforts to achieve the millennium targets.  She asked how the Global Alliance for Development could contribute to the Goals and how bilateral and multilateral aid was being used towards that end.  Health must be an intersectoral issue.  She asked how to successfully conclude the Doha trade round to ensure that it was pro-development.

Chile’s Government was working to ensure that 95 per cent of all births in the country were safe, she said.  It was training medical personnel, including midwives, to expand prevention and family planning, as well as improve general health habits.  Chile also endeavoured to register 25 million more children in school.  A total of $9 billion more annually was needed for education to protect children in situations of isolation and vulnerability.  The world must understand the situation in which children lived.  They could not be invisible.  More efforts, such as the 2004 Declaration on Action against Hunger and Poverty launched by France, Brazil, Chile and Spain, were needed to fight hunger.  The world’s nations expected a lot from their leaders.  The Round Table should produce specific proposals.

Mr. CHAMBERS said that the current financial instability, the food crisis and climate change all presented challenges to achieving the millennium targets.  If there were tremendous successes to announce, there was also the potential for more success.  It was often forgotten that, apart from malaria’s health consequences in most endemic countries, on any given day, as many as one out of four workers was absent from their jobs because of malaria.  Deaths due to malaria, however, were entirely unnecessary, and incidences of malaria could be eliminated in the next 27 months.

Much of the funding was in place, and there had been new commitments totalling $3 billion, so that a significant reduction in child mortality was now within reach, he said.  The goal of near-zero deaths from malaria by 2015 was attainable.  The Secretary-General had clearly stated what must be done, but leadership was crucial in making it happen within the set time frame.  Member States needed to show that the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved with clarity of vision, determination and action.

Princess FIRYAL said the anti-poverty targets agreed in 2000 were achievable, but the international community must think about how to achieve them in light of the new global economic reality.  At the midway point to achieving the Goals, commitments to reduce extreme poverty and give every child the right to education by 2015 remained strong.  Progress achieved in education since 2000 was encouraging.  More children were in school than ever before.  School enrolment had increased dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa and it had risen in South-West Asia.  The educational outlook for the future was very positive.  Better health and living standards could not be achieved without giving all people the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge and skills, and still, 75 million children remained out of school and were among the most vulnerable in the world.  More than half of them were girls.  Millions more children learned under extremely impoverished conditions. 

Education and health were intricately connected, and there was a direct relationship between school feeding programmes and academic achievement, she said.  Ministers of Health and Education must develop sustainable ways to work together for children.  She pointed to her work with the International Hope Foundation for Street and Working Children, which she had launched in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.  As a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, she stressed the importance of a holistic approach to education for all.  The learning process began well before primary school.  Early childcare and education programmes were crucial.  On average, children of uneducated women were twice as likely to be out of school as children of educated women.

Several other high-level speakers participating in the discussion stressed that education and health, which were critical for poverty reduction and sustainable economic development, should be at the core of all development agendas.  Many participants from African countries gave progress reports on their efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, and increase school enrolment.  All agreed that increased funding and the political will of donor countries to make good on their pledge to contribute at least 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for development aid were sorely needed.  While several developing country participants lauded the announcement earlier in the day by United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown of scaled up development aid from donor countries, they echoed Mr. Sachs’ concern that the funds would not be forthcoming.  MELES ZENAWI, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said that countries in need of aid would have to learn to do more with even less, and those trying to help would have to supplement traditional assistance providers with alternative sources.  JOSE RAMON MACHADO VENTURA, First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers of Cuba, lamented that more than 100 countries in the South lacked the more than $150 billion needed to achieve the millennium targets.

Speakers said that, in addition to scaling up support for national sustainable and inclusive health and education systems, quality strategies, action plans and international community assistance were necessary to meet the millennium targets on health and education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  WINSTON BALDWIN SPENCER, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that all people should have the knowledge and means to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS infection.  The dearth of trained medical workers in many countries was significantly thwarting the fight against HIV/AIDS, he said, stressing the importance of training and education programmes to shift medical tasks to nurses and even community-based organizers in some areas, in order to bring critical care and support to at-risk populations.  He called for support to enable Caribbean countries to access HIV/AIDS medicines, including anti-retroviral drugs, and for universal access to life-saving drugs for all in need, through the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement.

BONO said no one in the room needed to be sold on the millennium targets, but the rich world could make promises to the poorest of the poor and then not keep them because there was not enough of a social movement to hold wealthy nations to account.  Aid and education had been crucial in turning his native Ireland from a very poor country, until very recently, into the second highest country in mean average earnings in the world.  It was necessary to provide excitement around the issues of debt, AIDS, trade and Africa, and the positive collective energy developed around them, and the Millennium Development Goals this week must move forward.  Debt money had been spent very well; 29 million more children were attending school in Africa than five years ago.  It was very exciting that some new players, such as the Gulf States of Bahrain and Qatar, were entering the arena. 

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER, Secretary of International Development of the United Kingdom, said that, although funding for global health had more than doubled since 2000, the millennium health targets were mostly off track and global maternal mortality rates had stayed largely unchanged for the past two decades.  Funding for vaccines and treatment alone was not enough.  The world must help developing countries improve their health-care systems, particularly by ensuring their ability to recruit and train the 4.2 million health-care workers desperately needed worldwide.  According to the Global Campaign for Health, another $30 billion was needed by 2015 to strengthen global health systems to meet the millennium targets of reducing the mortality of children under age 5 by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters.  Earlier in the day, he had announced a new high-level task force on innovative financing for health that would recommend the mix of funding needed to pay for health-care workers and strengthen health-care systems, helping to save as many as 10 million lives by 2015 and ensure that 400 million extra births took place in good quality facilities.  The International Finance Facility for Immunization would immunize as many as half a billion people in the next 10 years.

Mr. ALEXANDER and several other speakers shed light on regional and global partnerships to advance the health and education agendas.  For example, last year, the United Kingdom had launched the International Health Partnership and would spend £450 million in the next three years for six African countries, Cambodia and Nepal, he said.  ANIBAL CAVACO SILVA, President of Portugal, said the European Union-African Joint Strategy, launched at the end of 2007, had identified education and health as priority areas for action between Portugal and its partners in Portuguese-speaking African countries, as well as in East Timor.

KEVIN RUDD, Prime Minister of Australia, said his Government had set up frameworks for Pacific Partnerships for Development with Papua New Guinea and Samoa, and was in the process of forming similar partnerships with the 12 other Pacific island nations to provide basic education and dramatically scale up training for medical personnel.  Australia’s development assistance, already up by 20 per cent this year, would significantly increase in the next four years to strength national health-care systems in the developing world, particularly Africa.

DOROTHY NGOMA, Executive Director of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi, said education, health and good nutrition were basic human rights and crucial to well-being, but free quality primary education was beyond the reach of most people in poor countries.  Recently, five pregnant women died in one week in a local hospital in Malawi.  What would have been the response had the women been Americans and the hospital been located in the United States?  Did African women’s lives have less value?  More than 500,000 women died annually in childbirth, another 500,000 died annually due to unsafe abortions.  That must end.  The global crisis of too few health-care workers could be solved, and Africa could rise to that challenge.  She implored Government leaders to provide strong and wise leadership while involving all stakeholders to meet the millennium targets. 

CARL-HENRIC SVANBERG, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ericsson, said technology, and mobile communications in particular, could play a crucial role in achieving the millennium targets.  In a few years, the number of mobile subscriptions worldwide would reach 5 billion, with 90 per cent of the growth coming from emerging economies.  Access to mobile communication broke barriers between people and cultures -- the key defining aspects of poverty -- and was proven to accelerate economic growth, bringing health, education, small business development and security to communities that had the least. 

Wrapping up the morning discussion, Mr. TÜRK said that all participating Member States had given top priority to improving education, infant and maternal mortality reduction and health-care systems overall.  But less evident was the importance of investing in higher education and research –- two areas critical for long-term development.  Speaker after speaker had noted that financing, albeit very important for development, was often inadequate, and many had discussed new sources of private and public funding. 

Concluding the afternoon discussion, Ms. BACHELET said the comments made by many speakers on their respective nations’ challenges and progress would help the Secretary-General prepare his conclusions.  Participants had very strongly expressed their political commitment to respond to the food, energy and environmental crises, and to do their utmost to meet the millennium targets on health and education.

Also participating in the discussion were Heads of State and Government and other senior officials from Croatia, Benin, Burundi, Cape Verde, Montenegro, Namibia, Bahrain, Qatar, Brunei Darussalam, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sierra Leone, Mongolia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea, Andorra, Estonia, Tonga, Barbados, Monaco, El Salvador, Solomon Islands, Romania, Russian Federation, United Republic of Tanzania, Italy, Nigeria, Sudan, Colombia, Switzerland, France, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel.

The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe also spoke.

Also making statements were the President of Rotary International and the Chairman of the Board of InterAction. 

Round Table 3:  Environmental Sustainability

In the morning, the third Round Table was co-chaired by HAN SEUNG-SOO, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, and DAVID THOMPSON, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs and Development, Labour, Civil Service and Energy of Barbados.  The lead discussants were SHEILA DIKSHIT, Chief Minister of Delhi, and CHRISTOPHER FLAVIN, President and CEO of the Worldwatch Institute, United States.

In the afternoon, the Round Table was co-chaired by EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, and TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland.  The lead discussants were ROLPH PAYET, Special Adviser to the President of the Seychelles, and BEKELE GELETA, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Mr. HAN said the world community was deep in an ecological deficit, causing more damage than the Earth could regenerate.  The impacts of climate change were already hitting many countries hard, and, despite efforts to combat those effects, the battle was being lost.  In the past, the need to protect the environment had often been seen not just as a burden, but as a cost for economic growth.  Even today, the first Millennium Development Goal, which addresses poverty reduction, continued to undermine the seventh Goal, which aimed at ensuring environmental sustainability.  To resolve that incompatibility, environmental sustainability should be fully integrated into policy planning.  A paradigm shift that maximized synergies and minimized trade-offs and engaged the public and private sectors more effectively was needed.

Noting that human activity had left a growing imprint on the world’s ecosystems, Mr. RAHMON said it was a historic time in the management of the Earth’s resources.  Over the next 5 to 10 years, the world faced a critical time in which that impact could be reversed.  But, failing to act could lead to irreparable harm.  It was important to discuss how the cost of meeting those challenges could be equitably shared across countries and regions, and how the public and private sectors could work together more efficiently.  Other pressing issues concerned how to mobilize sufficient financial and technological resources to cope with new natural diseases and to make the world more resilient in the face of heightened risks.  Efforts to capitalize on the push towards environmental sustainability should also be made.

Ms. DIKSHIT stressed that the Millennium Development Goals required close cooperation and detailed policy coordination to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in a growth-oriented yet sustainable manner.  In contrast to its past image as a city choking on its own pollution, Delhi had become one of the greenest capital cities in the world due to a host of deliberate policy decisions.  While this transformation was by no means complete, it served as an example of what could be done.

The city’s entire public transport fleet of 130,000 vehicles now ran on compressed natural gas rather than diesel, and a modernized transportation system had been constructed, she added.  Several biodiversity parks and urban-forests had been created within the city limits, and over 1 million saplings planted.  A “green brigade” had been established to encourage and instruct fellow citizens to become more eco-friendly.  Green building codes had been adopted and water and energy conservation technology was protecting those precious resources.

Mr. FLAVIN stressed that the environmentwas the foundation on which the entire global economy rested.  The global community had accumulated massive ecological debts that were now beginning to come due, and increasing levels of consumption meant that a new economic model was required.  From the Arctic to the Equator, the climate was changing at an alarming pace that undermined ecological systems everywhere.  The world could be very near a tipping point beyond which runaway climate changes would have enormous impact on storms, water availability and sea levels, with the poorest countries and peoples at the greatest risk.

New sustainable, low-carbon economies were needed on a local, national and global level, he said.  Indigenous, renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal power, presented one of the biggest set of new economic opportunities and could become the largest engine of job creation in the world.

Mr. PAYET said the world today ran on incentives which all too often promoted accumulation over sharing of wealth.  Due to the lack of proper incentives, only moderate progress had been made towards sustainable development.  If corporations and consumers were willing to pay for the real cost of pollution, real incentives would be in place.  Globalization had brought many benefits, but 90 per cent of the profits from products like fish, diamonds, wood, metal ores, sugar and palm oil were realized outside the source country.  That was a recipe for degradation of the environment and perpetual poverty.  Clear incentives were needed to sustainably use resources, while also ensuring the livelihood of future generations.

Mr. GELETA said climate change was today’s defining human development issue, and its impact could effectively cancel the development progress of recent decades.  Climate change, which disproportionately affected the world’s poorest, should be tackled not only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but by integrating adaptation policies with poverty reduction efforts.  A more positive political climate that encouraged social motivation must also be generated.  It might be comforting to know that Governments could find hundreds of billions of dollars to save markets from financial meltdowns, but it was important to ask if smaller amounts could be found to keep the world itself from melting.  Quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he said that, as climate change destroyed livelihoods, displaced people and undermined social and economic systems, no country -– however rich or powerful -– would be immune to the consequences.

Throughout the ensuing discussion, which took place during morning and afternoon sessions, many speakers described the specific and alarming ways climate change was already impacting their countries.  The representative of Mauritania said increased incidences of wildfires in the Sahelian region was threatening the safety and livelihoods of his country’s people.  ASYBEK AIDARALIEV, Special Representative of the President of Kyrgyzstan, highlighted the impact of man-made disasters on mountain communities, where poverty, social conflict and instability were growing and people were suffering dire consequences from the food crisis.  MAXWELL MKWEZALAMBA, Commissioner for Economic Affairs for the African Union, said environmental sustainability was particularly crucial to attaining the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, where up to 250 million people could face problems accessing sufficient water sources and agricultural production could be halved by 2020.

In light of such widespread changes, collective, urgent action was needed, many speakers said.  ALFRED GUSENBAUER, Federal Chancellor of Austria, noted the breathtakingly fast pace at which the world’s biodiversity was being depleted.  A technological revolution similar to the one seen in the communications sector was needed.  LAWRENCE GONZI, Prime Minister of Malta, warned that the huge strain unstable climactic conditions placed on societies posed a serious threat to international security.  Also, the link between those displaced due to environmental changes and poverty should not be underestimated.

While each country had to shoulder its own responsibilities, DIDJOB DIVUNGI DI NDINGE, Vice-President of Gabon, said the international community should focus its efforts on solidarity and, to aid less developed countries, on compensation.  Indeed, THEODOROS SKYLAKAKIS, Greece’s Special Representative on Climate Change, said it was understandable that those forced to fight every day to survive did not pay as much attention to sustainability, but there was no excuse for “the rest of us”.  Unfortunately, there was a huge deficit between the actions that had been called for by the experts and the ability of many Governments to fund adaptation and mitigation efforts. 

Picking up that thread, HASSAN WIRAJUDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said it was feasible to strike a “happy balance” between efforts to lift teeming millions out of poverty and those to protect the environment and preserve natural resources.  A critical part of doing so, however, would be addressing the funding gap, so that countries who were trying to enrich their poorest could also access ecologically friendly technologies that were often more costly.  To that end, the upcoming review of the Monterrey Consensus should make financing for climate change an integral part of its outcome.

Mexico’s President, FELIPE CALDERON HINOJOSA, said the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities should be applied in practical terms in creating any “green fund”, adding that every country should be required to contribute according to its ability.  Stressing the need to develop a variety financial mechanisms to encourage sustainable development, VALDIS ZATLERS, President of Latvia, said his country was in the process of creating financial instruments that would attract environmentally oriented investment.

Despite the attention paid to combating climate change, RUNALDO RONALD VENETIAAN, President of Suriname, said industrialized countries continued to pollute the atmosphere.  As a result, sea levels continued to rise and Arctic ice to melt.  Emphasizing that his country’s forests were, as a great carbon sink, a benefit to all humankind, he argued that financial mechanisms had to be developed to support sustainable forest management.  Reinforcing the benefit that heavily forested countries could provide in combating climate change, the representative of Guyana said it was somewhat perverse that the Kyoto Protocol addressed the issues of afforestation, deforestation and reforestation but not the preservation of existing forests.  Under the Kyoto regime, it was possible to cut down forests and replant them, but the plight of standing forests were ignored.  A post-Kyoto framework must address that gap, she said.

Drawing the attention of his fellow discussants to the “bitter and inconvenient” fact of widespread inaction on the part of the world’s leaders, ANDREI DAPKIUNAS, Permanent Representative of Belarus, reminded them that the Kyoto Protocol was not yet dead.  Thus, concrete, dedicated and responsible behaviour should not start in 2012, under a post-Kyoto framework, but now.  Indeed, by today’s action or inaction, the world community would establish a certain pattern of behaviour that would have the biggest effect on the post-Kyoto arrangement. 

A number of speakers highlighted the particularly dire situation facing small island developing States.  AHMED KHALEEL, Permanent Representative of the Maldives, said that, while his country was on track to achieve nearly all of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Goal 7 -– ensuring environmental sustainability -- remained the only Goal over which it had no control.  The Maldives, like all small island States and low-lying coastal areas, faced some of the most serious consequences of environmental degradation.  Noting that rising sea levels and other climate-induced catastrophes posed a direct challenge to human security to millions of people around the world, he called for a comprehensive rights-based approach to sustainable and just development.

Other speakers returned to the interlinkages between poverty reduction schemes and sustainable development initiatives.  Quoting the Maori saying “care for the land, care for the people, go forward”, PHIL GOFF, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade, said that people, development and the environment were inseparable and interdependent.  To make progress on both fronts, FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said a third industrial revolution was called for to transform old fossil-fuel-based economies into low-carbon societies marked by high energy efficiency.

RAIS YATIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, said policy failure, lack of national capacities and inadequate national systems were to blame for inabilities in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  However, the developed world had not engaged the developing world in a helpful way, he said.  Adopting a “hector and lecture” posture, it had failed to establish an incentive-based approach to encourage sustainable development in the developing world.  Greater assistance from the developed world was required.  DANILO TÜRK, President of Slovenia, added that, while it was clear that the developed countries had to do more, those calls had to be given specific meaning.  To this end, fulfilling the Bali Road Map depended on the Poznań conference later this year as well as its “finale” at the Copenhagen climate change conferences.  Unfortunately, he said, the outcome was far from guaranteed. 

In closing, Mr. THOMPSON said the Millennium Development Goals would never be realized if environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources continued unabated.  Efforts had to be intensified and translated into real and concrete action on the ground.  To do so, all stakeholders -- including the private sector -– had to be engaged.  Addressing the challenges that had been highlighted during the discussion would require massive scaling up of aid to developing countries, even, he stressed, in the face of global financial uncertainty.  Warning that “time is not on our side”, he emphasized the need to take decisive action to prevent irreparable damage to the planet.

Ms. HALONEN emphasized that Goal 7 was a precondition to attaining all of the other Millennium Development Goals.  It was, she said, a “bridge to the future”; to build that bridge, urgent action was needed, particularly in the run-up to Copenhagen.  Unfortunately, it was clear that the timetable was even more limited for especially fragile areas such as islands and the Arctic region and their needs deserved particular attention.  Poverty reduction and climate change mitigation were interlinked phenomena that had to be addressed in tandem.  While it was clear that consumption and production patterns in both developed and developing countries had to be changed, the patterns of industrialized nations were not sustainable.  Moving forward, the rules of the game should be made equitable across global institutions, including the United Nations.

Also participating in the discussion were Heads of State and Government, ministers and senior officials from Serbia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Bhutan, Republic of Congo, Iceland, Tunisia, Costa Rica, China, Tuvalu, Sweden and Uzbekistan.

Representatives of the Council of Foundations, Deloitte South Africa, Caritas Internationalis and Oxfam also spoke.

Closing Remarks

Secretary-General BAN, presenting a summary of the high-level event, said today had been an inspiring day, as well as a sobering reminder that the culture of indifference could not continue.  The world was ready to intensify efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Member States had talked about their national efforts, which must be matched by the promised international support.

Concerns had been heard about the global financial crisis, he said.  “Faced with this and other ongoing crises, we have to work together in the spirit of solidarity and partnership.”  The encouraging response to the proposal to convene a formal summit to review implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was heartening.  The call for effective monitoring of the commitments made in Millennium Goal 8, in particular, should be honoured.  The United Nations would intensify its own efforts in advocacy, support for national strategies, forging and strengthening partnerships, mobilizing global action, and increasing accountability.

He said some $1.6 billion had been pledged to foster food security, $3 billion to launch the Malaria Action Plan, and almost half a billion dollars in new pledges for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  Two billion dollars had been committed on the Millennium Goals relating to child mortality and maternal health, and the Global Campaign for Health aimed to mobilize an extra $30 billion by 2015.  Commitments and pledges had also been made to support national health plans, access to clean water and sanitation, and education.  Overall, new contributions and commitments to the Millennium Development Goals could amount to around $16 billion or more.

Warmly welcoming the attention given to climate change, he noted announcements of some $750 million in new pledges to address it, adding that strong commitments had also been made to slow deforestation.  Several partnerships on climate change had been given due impetus.  Initiatives to empower women all over the world, such as the Champion Torch Campaign, with its 100 substantial commitments, were also welcome.  Investments being made to make information and communications technology universally available were commendable.

“Today, we have strengthened the global partnership for development,” he said.  “I have also seen a new spirit of south-south cooperation.  Developing countries, big and small, are making significant contributions towards attainment of the Millennium Goals.  Yet, we must do more.”  The initiatives and commitments made were welcome, but additional efforts were required to fill remaining gaps.  “We should rededicate ourselves to reaching an ambitious, pro-poor outcome to the Doha Development Round.  We must also seize the opportunity provided by the upcoming review of implementation of the Monterrey Consensus in Doha.”

General Assembly President D’ESCOTO said the only way to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poor was by creating a sound and just international economic system.  There should be a shift to a global, person-oriented society in which science and technology, international law, human rights and ethics were political instruments to advance the common good and the situation of the most vulnerable.  That was the purpose of the United Nations.

For that reason, he said, he fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to hold a Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010, as an opportunity to galvanize the required efforts and actions, in the final five years before the 2015 deadline.  The time was approaching for the start of a consultation process to develop a resolution on the objectives and modalities of the proposed 2010 summit, so the Assembly could act on it as soon as possible.

He said that, as President of the Assembly, he was deeply committed to strengthening the development role of the United Nations, and asked participants in today’s event for their full cooperation in that global effort.  In addition, the President and the Secretary-General would jointly convene an informal thematic debate at the end of 2008 or early 2009, on “Strengthening Global Health:  the Health MDGs and Beyond”, as well as other efforts to make progress in the global health arena, including a high-level debate in June 2009.  As those initiatives would complement the work of the Economic and Social Council, the Assembly would work closely with that body’s President to ensure that next year’s Annual Ministerial Review led to meaningful outcomes.

Great strides had been made over the course of the day, he concluded, urging the assembled participants to now act with renewed energy and conviction.  “We must go forward in partnership, for what we can achieve together is far greater than what any country or organization can accomplish alone.  This is the very essence of the United Nations and global solidarity.”

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.