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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 14:06 GMT
World 'going too slow on poverty'
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

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The world is doing much too little to live up to its promises on eradicating poverty, an influential economic group says in an analysis of progress so far.

The World Economic Forum says efforts towards achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals are faltering badly.

The goals set targets for realising a better world in several areas including hunger, peace and health, many by 2015.

But the forum says the world is doing scarcely a third of what is needed to fulfil the goals, agreed by 189 states.

Ambitious aims

The forum is an independent body which says it exists to "provide a collaborative framework for world leaders to address global issues, and to promote entrepreneurship in the global public interest".

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It is holding its annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos from 21 to 25 January.

The millennium goals, agreed at a United Nations summit in 2000, set an agenda for tackling some of the most urgent global problems.

Two are undated commitments on improving human rights and strengthening peace and security.

The others commit UN members, by 2015, to:

  • ensure universal primary education and gender parity in primary and secondary schooling
  • prevent a dangerous human influence on climate, conserve biodiversity, and halve the proportions of those without water and sanitation
  • begin to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids and malaria, and cut by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate and by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio
  • halve the number of people suffering from hunger and the proportion living in poverty.
The forum's Global Governance Initiative spent a year analysing the world's progress towards the goals, and rated achievements on a scale of one to 10.

Peace and security scored three: the forum says the positive news was that no new civil wars broke out in 2003, though the world failed to prevent war in Iraq.

The poverty score was four, with domestic policies and private efforts praised for improving the lives of millions, despite lack of progress globally.

Hopeful signs

Hunger rated only three, with the comment that "vast swathes of humanity will face increasing hunger unless international trade policies are changed".

Education also achieved three, because despite "impressive" recent progress towards universal primary provision and gender parity, at least 96 countries are off-target.

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Health earns four, with "many new and promising initiatives" on HIV/Aids and other scourges.

Environment was "largely bleak", with "little evidence" the world was even thinking seriously about climate change, biodiversity and safe drinking water. It scored three.

Human rights, "very mixed", also rated three. The forum criticises the treatment of migrants and of those held on suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

Making the connections

It says: "The international prohibition against torture has been perceived to soften since... 11 September 2001, with numerous countries undermining civil liberties in the name of national security."

Sadako Ogata, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, said: "The attempt to link the security sector with the development agenda is particularly significant.

"Focusing on the security and development nexus will go a long way in pushing the global agenda for the benefit of all who suffer daily threats and poverty."

Richard Samans, the forum's managing director, said: "The international community is simply not trying hard enough. The report shines an independent spotlight on the large gap between our aspirations and our actions."

Experts estimate that the amount of development aid given by rich countries to the poor would need to double, from $50bn per year to $100bn per year, to meet the millennium goals.

The US, which gives the least aid as a proportion of GDP of any major country, has recently announced an increase in its aid budget by $5bn per year.

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