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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 02:50 GMT 03:50 UK
World 'failing poverty pledges'
By Andrew Walker
BBC correspondent in Washington

Teenagers walk past an elderly woman in Beijing
China is a success story, yet problems still remain
A new international report warns that most developing countries will struggle to meet agreed United Nations targets for tackling problems of poverty.

The joint study by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund says the Millennium Development Goals are unlikely to be met on current trends.

The report calls for urgent action by richer countries to take the lead and address root causes of poverty.

It is to be discussed at ministerial meetings in Washington this weekend.

The report assesses progress towards internationally agreed objectives for reducing poverty.

The Millennium Development Goals include halving the proportion of the population in extreme poverty, ensuring primary education for all children and reductions in child and maternal deaths by 2015.

On current trends, the report warns, most developing countries will fail to meet most of the goals.

It says the rich countries need to show leadership by living up to the promises they made two years ago at a conference on financing for development.

'Fundamental imbalance'

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, called on governments to change their priorities and spend more on aid.

"The numbers are roughly these: $900bn on defence; $300bn to $350bn on agriculture and $50bn to $60bn on aid, of which about half gets there in cash. That is the fundamental imbalance," he said.

"So we can make all the noise we want, but unless we deal with the fundamentals we'll be playing at the fringes."

There are some encouraging points in the report.

The target for reducing extreme poverty by 2015 is likely to be met for the world as a whole, but the reason is strong economic performance in the two most populous countries, India and China.

Africa is likely to fall well short. The report says that prospects on other goals, particularly in relation to health, education and the environment are even bleaker.

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