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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 04:18 GMT
UN summit ends with cash pledge
President Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox
Nearly 60 countries adopted the "Monterrey Consensus"
Leaders from around the world agreed on a plan to combat poverty, as the United Nations development summit in Mexico drew to a close.

The new agenda, adopted by nearly 60 countries, aims to help millions of people out of poverty by increasing aid, reducing debt and encouraging global trade.

The 16-page "Monterrey Consensus" envisages a partnership between rich and poor countries.

But US President George Bush told the conference that poorer nations must first undertake political, economic and legal reforms in order to qualify for Western aid.

Poverty gap

The conference adopted a proposal calling on wealthy countries to help reduce the poverty gap, and for poorer nations to use foreign aid more efficiently.

Asian farmer
The agreement aims to reduce the poverty gap
But critics say the agreement did not go as far as many activists - and even some governments - had urged.

An early proposal, which called for developed nations to devote 0.7% of their gross national product to development aid, figured only as a goal - not a pledge.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had asked for an additional $50bn a year from rich nations to meet the conference's aim of halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015.

But Washington declined to endorse this, saying that free trade and private investment hold the key to development.

Aid tied to reform

Mr Bush was also criticised for making the promise of aid conditional on a commitment to reform.

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An unequal world

In his keynote speech at the conference, he said: "Liberty and law and opportunity are the conditions for development."

Responding to the call for more money, Mr Bush said he opposed the concept of measuring development aid only by the amounts given, rather than the results achieved.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro
Castro blamed poverty on Western countries
French President Jacques Chirac echoed the sentiment, but the Cuban leader Fidel Castro spoke out against placing conditions on aid.

"You can't blame this tragedy on the poor countries. It wasn't they who conquered and looted entire continents for centuries, nor did they establish colonialism, nor did they reintroduce slavery, nor did they create modern imperialism," Mr Castro said. "They were its victims."

President Bush denied putting any pressure on Mexico to demand Mr Castro's early departure from Monterrey.

Cuban officials said he had been asked to go by Mexican President Vicente Fox, because Mr Bush would be uncomfortable in the Communist leader's presence, but this was flatly dismissed by both presidents at a joint news conference.

'Not a weak document'

Gemma Adaba from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions questioned the validity of the Monterrey agreement.

She told the BBC that developed nations needed to demonstrate action not words.

However, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the consensus was "not a weak document, as some have claimed".

"It will be weak if we fail to implement it. But if we live up to the promises it contains, and continue working on it together, it can mark a real turning point in the lives of poor people all over the world," Mr Annan said.

The BBC's David Loyn
"President Bush felt he could try to spread the message of free trade"
US President George Bush
"Pouring money into a failed status quo does little to help the poor"
Barry Coates, World Development Movement
"There is a long way to go before this additional aid is actually delivered"
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