[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Can life improve for the world's poorest?
An elderly woman beggar in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Will the UN's Millennium Development Goals be achieved?

The international community's "promise to the world's poor is being broken, "according to the United Nations.

Five years ago, members of the UN pledged to tackle extreme poverty, disease and inequality by 2015.

This year's Human Development Report says that unless governments act now, those goals will not be met.

What can be done to meet the Millennium Development Goals? Is the gap between rich and poor a fact of life? Which of the MDGs do you think is the most important?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

We discussed the MDGs on our phone-in programme, Talking Point this Sunday, 11 September. Click on the link to watch the programme.

The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

If we do not start creating jobs in developing countries then there will be no end to poverty
Mark, Lusaka, Zambia
How do you expect to see an end to poverty when a country like Zambia has an unemployment rate of 80%? Could any single country in Europe live with such an unemployment rate? If we do not start creating jobs in developing countries, then there will be no end to poverty. In all the aid that is given to Africa, I have never seen one aid organisation even mention the need to create jobs, let alone actually create one outside their own. Job creation requires investment and it is not difficult to calculate how much investment each country requires to create those jobs. The figure runs into billions, but with targets and effort, progress could be made.
Mark, Lusaka, Zambia

All of the UN goals listed are important to me, thus I cannot vote for one without diminishing the importance of others. However, racial and religious tolerance is also of importance - building bridges rather than alienating others.
Lionel A. Smith, Fareham, Hants

It's unfair to pay the poor some meagre subsistence amount and refuse to open markets for things like agriculture and textiles while wealthy European farmers collect fat subsidies at the expense of poor Europeans and Third World farmers alike.
Blake, Hoboken, NJ

Terrorism is increasing in Bangladesh day by day because the poor remain neglected. Recently the World Bank Chief visited Bangladesh but promised no help. President Bush is spending billions of dollars on the war against terrorism. If he could spare a fraction of it for the world's poor, then terrorism would automatically vanish.
Faruq Husain, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Many countries are poor because of the direct result of foreign policy of the developed world. Aid is making the majority of the poor in developing countries poorer. In Cambodia it has started a false economy with inflation which is leaving the poor behind. Spiralling wage and property prices have rendered the country almost unable to compete with business in the region. Aid should be directed at eradicating disease but should not be used to subsidise the state, foreign governments should reduce trade barriers and encourage trade and investment. While aid is big business for the big multinational charities people will continue to get poorer.
M. Stimpson, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The UN's role should be to make education reach the remotest corners of the world
A Sathyamurthy, Coimbatore, India
The key to improve the world's poorest is to give education without which all aid will be like giving alms to a beggar. The UN's role should be to make education reach the remotest corners of the world. This may take time but it is the surest way to remove world's poverty.
A Sathyamurthy, Coimbatore, India

A major part of the problem is human overpopulation in the so-called "Developing World". Until effective population control measures are adopted, then the problems will continue to grow exponentially. Frankly, I can't see any hope, given that virtually all the major religions and many Third World governments reject the very notion of birth control.

What does the old proverb say - "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime". Ever since I can remember we have been throwing money at the poor countries in this world, I remember the original reporting on Ethiopia, the original Live Aid, etc. What difference did that make?
GDW, London, UK

Well for a start we could tear down the ultra-protectionist trade barriers that keep the Third World under our heel. It might cost a few pence more in the shops, but if we stopped paying people to breed we might be able to afford it.
Dave, Ramsgate, England

The UN development goals are empty promises. The UN and most of the international organisations spend more money on their staff and paper work than on actual projects. Poverty and famine can only be eradicated by people who have causes and that is faith-based organisations.
Zerougui A, Washington DC, USA

The rich nations of our planet cannot appease their consciences towards the developing world simply by handing down huge packages of aid every time a natural disaster strikes, or holding expensive summits and much-hyped concerts. The solution lies in a multi-pronged approach to life improvement for the people of these nations. A long-term programme of social change rooted in education, sanitation and health, anti-corruption and self-sufficient economic growth is desperately called for. It is up to the nations with power to address this gross imbalance of civilisation.
Nazaneen C-Hatimi, London, United Kingdom

Browsing through the list of UN goals most important to me, I could not find a single issue which I feel the UN is competent enough to help solve; therefore I was unable to vote. Eradicating world poverty is just a sideshow for UN delegates who are trying to justify their inept, corrupt and meaningless existence. Even more infuriatingly pathetic is that these UN delegates actually believe that their "debate society" jobs achieve any sort of results.

Extreme poverty will always be with us until the extremely poor reduce their birth rate. The well off nations of the world have no obligation to support people who produce huge numbers of offspring without the ability to adequately support them. Poverty cannot be checked until the massive population growth is brought under control.
D Perets, Ohio, USA

All governments need to work with these countries at a diplomatic level if sustainable change is to be made
Mo C, UK
What are we supposed to do? Most of this poverty is the result of corrupt leaders in these countries, or years and years of war, or both. We could go in strong-armed and impose our will on these countries, just as Bush did in Iraq. Clearly that's not an ideal option. Or we can find diplomatic ways of clearing these governments of corruption, which is a long-term exercise. There's no quick fix to this - all governments need to work with these countries at a diplomatic level if sustainable change is to be made.
Mo C, UK

The 'International community' agreed to nothing, politicians did. The problems arise because people do not agree with politicians.
B J Nicholson, Manchester

Africans have failed Africa. I have compassion fatigue in overload. Why do we bother? We keep on funding the poor to live in areas that obviously cannot sustain life for any decent period. We may have to face the unthinkable and just stop trying to interfere. White western politicians and pop stars have had more than enough chances to make everything wonderful - couple that with the billions and billions that the West have pumped in and what have we achieved? Nothing. I want Gordon Brown to concentrate on the UK - not bid for Sainthood at our expense.
Roger, Whitwick England

I think life will not improve in poorer nations, especially in Africa, by mere cancellation of debts and sending food parcels. Life will improve only if rich countries invest in agriculture, like implementing green revolution models which was a great success in India and still is and providing better quality of seeds and improving education.
Sunil Mohan Reddy M, Bangalore, India

Going by the current trends it is difficult to say that the gap will reduce
Aviral Sanghera, Bangalore, India
It is like talking about the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. There will always be a bottom. As the top rises we need to ensure that bottom also rises and the gap should remain the least possible. Going by the current trends it is difficult to say that the gap will reduce. After all how long will the support continue and for how long will dependents depend? They should also make an effort which should be supported wholeheartedly by the privileged.
Aviral Sanghera, Bangalore, India

Throwing aid at these countries is not the answer. However, we should allow them better access to our markets so they can help themselves.
Ian, Bradford, UK

No, we are not failing the world's poor. Our government and charities have spent billions helping but the money and aid never gets to the needy. Why? Because the aid or cash is swallowed up (a) by charity overheads and salaries and (b) because of corruption and racketeering in the countries being helped. The best way to help, is to get farming machinery etc and for our government to take it to the areas that need it themselves.
W P Derbyshire, London, UK

Yes, but only if those of us in the developed industrialized first world nations become more caring, more generous and less greedy. We have the technology to do it, but do we have the will?
James Ullman, San Marcos, CA USA

The gap between rich and poor is a fact of life. Even more poignant that the poor in wealthy counties such as the USA and UK are not much better that those in Third World nations. Child poverty and life expectation beards this out. But I sadly doubt if human nature will ever change; power and wealth will remain in the hands of the few.
Susan Richards, Neath, Wales

Who is man or any government or any organization to say we should all be equal?
Allen T, CA, America
What's with the whole equality issue? In nature nothing is equal so who is man or any government or any organization to say we should all be equal? Is man now somehow greater and wiser than nature?
Allen T, CA, America

Perhaps a good start to narrow the gap between the rich and poor within the so-called Third World would be to tackle the corruption seemingly so endemic in the political arena of these countries? So often we hear of foreign aid money and that collected by charitable organizations in the West ending up in the pockets of the members of the regimes that govern the poor nations.
Colin Cumner, Adelaide, South Australia.

It's a shame that in the twenty first century there is so much poverty. How can there be so many people who have so little and so few people who have so much? The only way to prevent poverty is for every citizen of the world to give a mere 1% of their assets to charities involved in feeding, and assisting the poor. 1% from you and I to the rest of the world is a substantial amount.
Brenda Schmitt

If the poor didn't exist who would be working for the rich? A hundred years from now life won't be any different. The whole issue of development goals is just something for the UN to talk about; that's all they ever do is talk.
Allan, Vancouver, Canada.

World poverty levels have been halved in the last 50 years by globalisation and competition. Claims that we are failing others simply don't stand up to scrutiny. Countries which are still chronically poor are the ones who have refused to reform and open up.
Mark, Hong Kong

One should attempt to find out the root cause of poverty for its efficient eradication. It may not be just the lack of money, it may be lack of opportunities for education, proper job opportunities etc. It is better to teach fishing rather than giving a fish. This should be the motto of all poverty reduction programmes.
K Vijayakumar, Thiruvananthapuram, India

Aid and investment channelled by the so-called First World to underdeveloped nations must be used to improve education and healthcare as priority areas. Let the world build schools and clinics in poor countries, and the misery that we see now will be history in the near future.
Madibeng Kgwete, Pretoria, South Africa

The only proven solution to reducing poverty is democracy, freedom, and capitalism.
Tom Penn, Knoxville, USA

The MDGs can only have meaning only if supported by a serious commitment by all governments
Jacob Malete, Zimbabwe
The MDGs can only have meaning only if supported by a serious commitment by all governments. The developing economies need financial and technological aid while the developed need raw materials. Both worlds need each other and therefore a balance should be struck between the two. Poverty in Africa will mean the inability of Africa to participate in any meaningful economic development. The high debt burden has also affected Africa and the rest of the developing economies. Perhaps debt pardoning should transcend across political boundaries. The developing economies also need to create wealth for its struggling masses and all the other problems will be addressed. Economic development is the corner stone of every aspect of life that we can talk about.
Jacob Malete, Zimbabwe

Education is always top on the list, if we could build schools and set up public programs in poverty stricken countries this will give these people the opportunity to learn skills that will allow them to develop and eventually become a more independent nation. Only if we were not in constant war we would have the funding to help humanitarian efforts.
Mark, Rochester USA

$450B has not solved Africa's problems. It's time to face up to the ugly fact that bad leaders (like Mugabe), and the lack of civil institutions are the real issue.
David, Hong Kong, China

No! The goals will not be met now or anytime soon. Why? The answer is very simple. The people who really care don't have the amount of money it takes to make a substantial difference, and the people who have the money don't really care.
Peter Del Bourgo, Croton-on-Hudson, NY USA

Has anyone actually read the report? It is a record of fantastic progress. Life expectancy in the developing world up two years since 1990. Another 1.2bn people with clean water access. Literacy up from 70-76%. Per capita income up by 1.5% per year since 1990 and 3.4% per year since 2000. People living in extreme poverty reduced from 28% to 21% of the developing world. Child mortality rates have plummeted with 2 million fewer child deaths per year; 500,000 saved through wider immunisation programmes alone. The comments on this page assume crisis but the story is actually of success beyond the dreams of past generations. And incidentally the UN report says specifically that human quality of live and income levels are converging between rich and poor not diverging. Yes there are problems - HIV in Africa, EU and US barriers on free trade in food, and most of all the political problem of wars and instability. But to pretend there is a crisis or that the gap between rich and poor is a fact of life is laughable. Extreme poverty is disappearing and in two generations will essentially be gone. Can we and should we go faster - absolutely. Do we need to change anything fundamental - absolutely not.
John Riddell, United Kingdom

There's no doubt that some developing countries can help themselves
Felipe O Costa, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
There's no doubt that some developing countries can help themselves, countries like Brazil that have enough resources and capacity to narrow the differences between rich and poor. It's only necessary the people fight and choose the right leader to start the shift. However, in other countries, it's necessary for some kind of help to just start it.
Felipe O Costa, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

We need to take care of our own poor before we can tackle the problems of underdeveloped nations. We need to have contact with government leaders in other countries to implement programs with high success rates in other countries. And we need compassion and an emphasis on education.
Jess, San Ramon, CA, USA

My wife and I have been going to Africa for over three years to help the poor farmers rise above their poverty. The most successful effort was the exporting of French beans to the UK, helping farmers to have sufficient funds to also care for the AIDS orphans in their area within their own homes. All this came to a screeching halt when EUREPGAP was introduced. We spent considerable effort getting the farmers trained, but the red tape and corruption have stopped this effort. We tried to get DFID officials in Kenya to help but they were not interested. We have even contacted DFID in London but they were not interested in helping either. Someone in the British government or the grocer industry must care about these farmers.
Robert Roylance, US

Yes, we are failing 500 million Indians who live on less than $3 a day. 260 million of these Indians face risk of starvation by living on less than $1 a day. The EU should lead the way and sign a customs union with India so increased trade can lift up all boats of human aspirations.
Professor Arun Khanna, Indianapolis, USA

I believe literacy and development go hand in hand
Ahmed, St Paul, MN
I believe literacy and development go hand in hand and the focus should be on how these poorest countries can help themselves. They need to learn how to help themselves and become self-sufficient because other countries can only do so much and will never meet the needs of every country in reaching their fullest capacity.
Ahmed, St Paul, MN

As long as people and governments continue to be as selfish as many of the respondents here, the goals will never be met.
Christine Cullen, Surrey, UK

How sad to read that so many people believe that world poverty is just "tough luck" - nothing to do with us, and not our responsibility. It's easy to forget that we can only enjoy a high standard of living because somewhere in the world someone is forced to grow the food, make the stuff, or dig the raw materials for slave wages. I'm no different - I'm glad I live in a wealthy nation but I'm not so ignorant as to believe that other people's poverty is simply an accident of fate or the product of "corrupt" governments.
David, Sunderland, UK

What China and India have in common, and the reason they have been successful in their development, is that they didn't accept the devil's bargain of aid with strings from the World Bank. As long as Africa fails to find and independent solution to its problems, the rich nations of the West will continue to exploit it as a source of cheap cash crops and raw materials.
Anon, Halifax

Poverty is everywhere, even in the USA, UK and France
Mohammed Sheikh, Chlons, France
Poverty is everywhere, even in the USA, UK and France. So, why do you show a poor lady from Asian country? We must be sincere and show the real images of poor people all over the world, it could be Dhaka, Karachi or New Orleans or the ghetto of Harlem. We do not want a political foul cry from so-called rich nations.
Mohammed Sheikh, Chlons, France

Millennium Development Goals can only be achieved in the poor countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America if and only if the Western world are actually sincere in helping the poor countries out especially through the much talked about technological transfer so that there will be the desired shift from all consuming to producing Third World nations.
Obiechehie Ozioma Good, Umuahia, Nigeria

So, I take it from some comments here that there are people who put the cost of their fuel above infant mortality as defined within the Millennium Development Goals. Are there really people who are that morally corrupt?
Simon, Canterbury

Like most other residents of the UK I do not consider myself to be rich and resent the implication that I somehow have a responsibility to help the poor of other countries.
Matt Munro, Bristol, UK

Those who attempt to narrow the gap by making the lives of 'rich' nations less comfortable will always fail
Christy, Newcastle, UK
I'm tired of people moaning about 'failing' the poor. We have no responsibility but to ourselves. Anything else may be a good thing to do, but it isn't an obligation - its charity. The gap will always be a fact of life, and those who attempt to narrow the gap by making the lives of 'rich' nations less comfortable will always fail.
Christy, Newcastle, UK

What do prosperous countries have in common? Democracy, equality, freedom of speech, and capitalism. What do poor countries have in common? The lack of these things. These aren't secrets hoarded by the jealous rich, the techniques of running a successful country are well known. Citizens of poor countries need to look to their own governments first.
Guy Hammond, London, England

We can only help the problem as we have for a very long time, but and the end of the day the only people who can end this are themselves. We need to give them every possible chance to fix their problems we can't do it for them.
Phil, Bristol UK

As selfish as it sounds, shouldn't we deal with our many problems before tackling the world stage? People in the UK are frightened to leave their homes, fuel prices are crippling people in the rural areas trying to get to and from work, let alone businesses. Sort out our issues and once, and only once this is done, then look at the poorer countries.
Ryan, Wales

Throwing money at poor countries will only make things worse
Lucinda, London
There's no way we will meet the Millennium Development Goals, but throwing money at poor countries will only make things worse. Up to 90% of the money given to some poor countries for aid will be siphoned off by corrupt bureurocrats. Fair and equal trade without protectionist subsidies is essential to lifting families out of poverty. There should also be huge penalties on Western Banks that allow corrupt leaders to siphon off funds meant for aid. But unfortunately until good governance can be implemented in the developing countries there is very little developed nations can do to help.
Lucinda, London

Yes, restrictive trade practices may play some part in world poverty, but whilst the UN maintains its politically-correct policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of nations, however awful the plight of their people, there is little hope for much of Africa. Our crime is to stand by and merely watch the Robert Mugabes of this world.
Philip, Great Wakering, U.K.

It is not up to the so called 'rich counties' to sort out world poverty. The obscenity is the gap between the rich and poor in the affected countries. For example India with its cast system. Just drive around Bombay and you will see obscene ostentatious wealth in one area while just down the road there are whole families living in cardboard boxes. You have to sort out the countries political and social systems, no easy task, before throwing western tax payers money at them. The fact is that most countries where there is poverty have a very wealthy elite and it is they who should lead the way before asking for UN aid.
John, France

Charity is necessary in the short term but it only sustains poverty in the long run. Civil government and economic freedom are the bedrock of prosperity and the UN is not qualified to provide these things, which must come from the people themselves.
Martin Smith

I think that education should be the first and foremost goal for the UN, not for the remuneration value of education, but as a process to civility. I also agree with the policy of spending less money on armaments and technology, as well as on the military, and focussing instead on relief efforts to solve the problem of world poverty.

Our governments are protecting their own long term interests
Rich, UK
If individuals in the worlds poorest nations had the opportunity to learn new skills, and labour/trade sanctions were lifted then most, if not all, of these countries could lift themselves out of poverty. The downside to this would mean the 'Free' Western world would become relatively poorer as the wealth of other countries increased. Maybe this is the real reason why no long lasting solutions are proposed. Our governments are protecting their own long term interests.
Rich, UK

Let us be sincere to ourselves, most of the United Nation's policies are not truly geared towards improving the living condition of poor nations. Most of its policies are established to protect the interest of developed worlds and its economy, and at the same time to maintain political and economic control upon poor countries. So improving the living standards of poor countries depends on their leaders. They should forget about the UN.
Baba Nasiru, Borno State, Nigeria

Despite my wish is to see the UN achieve its goals, I have a feeling that the gap between rich and poor will remain as a fact of life until there is a real will on behalf of the wealthy countries to see it change. It is strange that still many of the wealthiest in our society are allowed to make their money from exploiting the poorest.
Roy Sheward, Walsall

One step that might help in reducing poverty is that if we ordinary persons of the Western World would start, as an economic principle and on a voluntary basis, to "pay the tithes". That is, whenever you buy something "out of luxury", give 10% of its value to the NGOs or similar organizations. If you buy an ice cream, give 10% of its value to the Red Cross, if you buy a bar of chocolate give 10% of its value to Save the Children, if you buy a chain of gold give 10% of its value to Unicef or to WWF and so on. This would be one step to help reduce poverty but also other steps are needed.
Eva Lindholm, Stockholm. Sweden

All of the UN goals could be achieved if some attention was paid to the issue of gender equality
CM, Southampton
KL, Gravesend (below) said "Why do the women in these countries bring 50 kids each into the world when they can't even feed themselves?" The answer is that it is not their choice. Many women do not have access to contraception - or if they do, there are only condoms, which depend on their men agreeing to use them. Women and girls are not educated because in the poorest families they can only 'afford' to send one child to school - and it will be the son. Extreme poverty, maternal health, child mortality - in fact all of the UN goals - could be achieved if some attention was paid to the issue of gender equality.
CM, Southampton

Education is fundamental to eradicating extreme poverty, disease, gender inequality, etc. Give people the power of knowledge, the tools to better understand their world, supported by easily executed aid (build a school, buy books - no questions asked). Education is the cornerstone.
Audrey Pecot, USA

The corruption issue, which touches even the highest levels, in organisations and well meaning agencies, needs to be resolved. If the UN food programme can be so easily compromised then what really happens at more basic root levels in Africa? ...Already the famine predicted for South Africa is being pointed more to drought than it is to the poor seed stock bought with subsided revenue by African governments. We westerners are still reacting to problems after they happen and not acting on cause before it happens.
Denis, Studio Sweden Angelholm

Ask yourself this question: Why do super rich people come from developing countries? Do you have the answer? It's because if you give $100 to the country in aid, less than 1 cent gets to the people that require the aid, the rest is used to grease the wheels in getting the aid to where it is needed.
Gary, Cairo, Egypt

The only real chance we have of making a significant impact... is to cancel the debt
Russell, Midlands, UK
The obvious lack of interest shown in relation to the poorest people on earth during the G8 was utterly disgusting. Although some financial aid was promised, it is not nearly enough. The only real chance we have of making a significant impact on the situation in many parts of Africa is to cancel the debt, however the unfortunate truth remains, this is highly unlikely.
Russell, Midlands, UK

Poverty in Middle East generates extremists and terrorists because of desperation, ignorance, oppression and the injustice the poor feel, as well as diseases and high death and sickness rates. The terrorists start brainwashing the poor, twisting the Qu'ran, giving them money, solving their problems. Then they say, "if you want to stay in the earthly heaven you have to obey us or you will be kicked out to go back to poverty and endless sufferings." Exactly the same policy as the Hashasheen in Iran some centuries ago. Hence, fighting poverty is sticking a dagger in the heart of Terrorism.
Ossama Hassan, Cairo, Egypt

While the symptoms of poverty may be universal, the cause is not. Instead of pouring billions upon billions of dollars into a money pit, why don't we send our blessedly educated to go find out what has caused poverty to perpetuate in the first place. From there, we can root it out permanently, rather than blindly slapping band aids on undiagnosed wounds.

Why have China and India been so successful? They should be examined and their policies duplicated in Africa.
Steve Mac, Boston ,MA, USA

The timetable, I think, was a bit too ambitious
Oscar, Kampala, Uganda
I think the MDG will not be achieved at the set time. The timetable, I think, was a bit too ambitious. Moreover, most African countries are not making significant progress because of bad leadership coupled with an already bad situations of extreme poverty, diseases, wars, illiteracy, and low technological development. We should pull up our shocks and do a bit more. There is hope, though.
Oscar, Kampala, Uganda

The question should be: Is the UN failing the worlds poor - & the answer has to be yes. The UN, whose membership is mainly made up of dodgy non-democratic Governments, must be completely overhauled. A New United "Democratic" Nations is urgently needed, where minimum entry requirement is free & fair elections in the member country. Until that happens, vested interests of the African & Middle East dictatorships will set the agenda at the UN, with scant regards for the poor of the world.
Ian Michie, Whitwick, England

Removing poverty for the poor is much more complex than people assume. It's a range of measures that has to be taken. Ethiopia is, however, certainly not better off after all the food aid since 1985. Food is not the solution, it is a change of government policies (or maybe government itself) but also on an individual level. Ethiopia has a very limited diet, compared to other East African countries. Blaming your government (as many do in Ethiopia) is not all; people should also take measures into their own hands, pick up their life and make sure to leave dependency behind.
Robert Man, Awassa, Ethiopia

The UN is rapidly becoming a leftist/socialist organisation. You can almost hear the charge 'it is the fault of the rich that the poor are poor' in their statements. By all means we should give assistance to the poor and needy, but being told that I am not paying enough irritates me.
Andy, Cheshire, England

China's development is a blueprint for the poor countries of the world
Gerod Wattier, Carnation, WA, USA
China's development is a blueprint for the poor countries of the world. China had extreme poverty and an exploding population. Any increase in wealth was diluted by the population growth. They instituted a forced one child policy to stop the population growth and adopted capitalism to spur economic development. Now they have a stable population and a increasing standard of living. Much of which was aided by the very globalisation many here demonize.
Gerod Wattier, Carnation, WA, USA

It's not "because we are rich" that we "are to blame" for the poverty of the world. The way in which that wealth was achieved makes us responsible for its consequences, and the boons our lives contain make it incumbent on us to act to remedy the sufferings of others. Would you refuse to help a homeless person because you personally didn't take their home away?
Tony, London, UK

The gap between the rich and poor does not have to be a fact of life. If people were to demand of their governments that they stop spending obscene sums of money on killing technology and start focusing efforts on fair trade and sustainable development, we could bring the basic requirements of a dignified existence to many people who are now victims of starvation and war.
Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Mexico

Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Mexico- more appropriately, perhaps, the governments of the third world should stop buying killing technology. If the US wants to spend a billion dollars a plane on stealth bombers then that's the US taxpayers problem. If the president of Niger buys a bulk load of AK47's rather than food then that's his peoples' problem. The third world should do all it can to help its own people before expecting us to help out.
Peter, Notts, UK

Mr Annan's UN has been shown to be corrupt top to bottom. He takes responsibility but does not resign. Still he wants 7% of our GPD for more lavish spending. Well I was born at night, but not LAST NIGHT!
Jerald Ronish, Seattle, USA

Political change, economic development, and social reform is required
Travis, USA
Blaming wealthier nations is simple minded. I cannot see simply sending food and money as being a lasting answer to poverty. Political change, economic development, and social reform is required. Unfortunately, as has been seen in global response to Iraq and Afghanistan, most are unwilling to take any real action to get things done.
Travis, USA

It is obvious that the notion of statehood imposed on Asia, Africa and the Middle East in the colonist period and reinforced by the UN is at part to blame as to why some "countries" will never move on. Also the current "aid" regime of pumping foreign aid and resources into countries seems to do more to support regimes that create poverty than it does to relieve the poor.
Leon Quiding, New Zealand

Over the last 50 years the "rich" world has pumped billions of dollars into aid programs for the poor, and we still have the same problem. History has shown us that capitalism is the only way proven to bring people out of poverty. It is so effective that even the Chinese Communist Party has adopted it! To make it really work effectively is not easy however, and requires non-corrupt, transparent democracies that protect individual property rights. There will always be differences in income and wealth levels, but this formula is proven to work best!
Matt Johnson, Guam USA

The reality gap between rich and poor, in this Millennium, can be reduced by the governments of the poorest countries implementing a policy of population control. Their programs for development will never be met, because more people are born than die, and there will be always shortages in services and wealth for the majority of world population, provoking poverty and despair.
Jose Nigrin, Guatemala

These UN MDGs remind me of the failed "5 yr plans" of all those collapsed communist governments
Matt Johnson, Guam, USA
These UN MDGs remind me of the failed "5 yr plans" of all those collapsed communist governments. Democracy and capitalism is the only way to lift people out of poverty. How can countries like Japan and South Korea which are resource poor become so prosperous, especially after being virtually annihilated in wars just half a century ago? Just look across the 48th parallel and you will see what causes poverty - corrupt dictatorships. While the South Koreans are enjoying the bounty of capitalism, the poor North Koreans are surviving by eating grass and tree bark. Until we put an end to these corrupt governments, we will always have extreme poverty. Isn't it obvious??
Matt Johnson, Guam, USA

Citizens of rich nations need to learn to look beyond their domestic walls at what extreme poverty is doing to countless millions around the world. We live in such luxury with hardly a thought about where our next meal will come from.
Craig, Seattle, USA

Unless the UN reforms itself, there will be doubts as to the achievements of millennium goals
Vijay K Vijayaratnam
The UN is under attack for mismanagement, with personal responsibility taken by the sec general himself with regard to the oil for food programme. Unless the UN reforms itself, there will be doubts as to the achievements of millennium goals and as mentioned previously elsewhere, the aim must be revised realistically to 2025
Vijay K Vijayaratnam

The planet Earth is run by the rich; the world economy is controlled by the rich; and the process of economic globalisation is in the hands of the rich. The International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank have been established by the rich. In fact, the United Nations is a worthless organisation without the contributions of the rich. Consequently, whenever the rich genuinely decide to help the poor, only then poverty could be made history. Otherwise, justice will never prevail and the rich will get richer whereas the poor will get poorer and will keep dying from hunger.
Abdul Malik Niazi, London, United Kingdom

Rhetoric on poverty is all well and good, but it's just not something you can switch off like a light switch. Overpopulation is a definite issue that needs addressing. Any attempts at reducing poverty will be like a drop in the ocean until that's done. Poor countries need to look to industrialisation and economic development to increase their own self sufficiency. Then they can begin to help themselves rather than relying on whatever the richer nations can spare. The downside to this approach? Well, it takes a long time. But it's the only approach that actually works, and that's the important thing.
John, Leeds, UK

The most important MDG to reach is the one related to primary education
Faseeha Khan, Manchester, UK
I grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh where poverty is, unfortunately, a fact of life. The reason why the MDG of halving poverty will not be met is because economically more developed countries (EMDCs) don't want poorer countries to develop and become richer. The most important MDG to reach is the one related to primary education. You can give people medicine to cure them, but if they can't read the directions or expiration dates of these drugs they could overdose on them. Education gives people the tools to move up in the world. It allows them to get better jobs because they have more skills, which in turn allows them to earn more money. This means when they have children, they will go to better schools, get better jobs and earn more money, and so on. This, however, is not an overnight process - it will take two or three generations to really see any change.
Faseeha Khan, Manchester, UK

KL of Gravesend (below) says, "It is not our responsibility to feed and shelter the world." and asks how women in those countries can be so "irresponsible" as to keep having babies they can't feed. When 5% of the world's population uses 35% of the world's energy and resources, when [at least partly] reliable birth control exists, but prudish legislators in rich countries vote to cut funding to share this technology, whose responsibility is it when more than half the world lives in poverty that individual initiative can overcome in only a minute number of cases?
Trish, Vancouver USA

The theories are very good and laudable but for the last 50 years nothing has changed - except perhaps more people have joined the poverty trap. None of this will change without political upheaval in those countries worst affected and sadly those you want to help have the smallest voice. Blaming the wealthier nations, multinationals, greed, etc may make you feel righteous but it won't put food in the mouth of one person whose suffering.
Keith, US

I'm afraid there are a lot of the ethics on which the Communist ideology was founded in these comments. I am a big believer in charity and helping the world's poor people, but the idea that we are to blame for poverty because we are rich is simply absurd.
Neil, Skye, Scotland, UK

To Neil, Skye, Scotland, UK: A quick history lesson ... the world's number one commodity by far for centuries (before oil) was slaves. Where do you think they came from and who do you think got rich because of it? It wouldn't happen to be any country you reside in now would it? Poverty exists for a reason, including lack of resources, education and infrastructure, but these are also symptoms. More often than not it's because someone's made or is still making money out of it. Improving the lot of the world's poor is a wonderful ideal but a cursory glance at our spiritual evolution as a species thus far and it seems highly unlikely.
David, Singapore

Protectionism kills
David Moran, Aberdeen
The best way to improve life for the poorest would be to remove all tariffs and protectionism by developed countries. The one thing the poorest have is their labour - if they can use this they can work their way out of poverty. Protectionism kills.
David Moran, Aberdeen, UK

If you want to tackle global poverty, you need to look at the issue of gender inequality first. Arguably, all the issues the UN is seeking to address in its report stem from the same problem: the systemic flaws of patriarchy.
SB, Vancouver, Canada

The UN will not be successful unless the United States shape up and start giving as much as they take. Globalization efforts in the US have only forced a larger gap between the rich and the poor. Now that countries have stepped up to help the US in it's time of need, it's time for the US to recognize the problems in Africa and other impoverished areas of the world.
Christopher Borycheski, Toronto, Canada

The UN has it all wrong. Population growth rates are driving poverty increases. If more is not done in the area of planned parenthood and voluntary sterilization then poverty will continue to increase. Poor people are breeding more poor people, faster then economic growth can pull them out.
Ah Long, Hong Kong

There is nothing to say that hasn't been said. China will be the developing world's hero in forcing changes in international trade policy. The west is not aware but the Chinese are already here. It is possible that China will be to Africa what the USA and the UK were to the Middle East.
Anon, Casablanca,

Let's get the basic rights sorted first and not judge those who are in a worse situation than us
Martin Parkes, Hemel Hempstead
I do feel said when I read messages from those who think they can sit in judgement over the poor. It's quite simple; all should have the right of food, shelter, education, employment and religion. Let's get the basic rights sorted first and not judge those who are in a worse situation than us, because their dignity is as much their right as ours.
Martin Parkes, Hemel Hempstead

It is not our responsibility to feed and shelter the world. They should take responsibility for themselves, why do the women in these countries bring 50 kids each into the world when they can't even feed themselves? Charity begins at home - sort out our many problems before dealing with other countries.
KL, Gravesend

I'm fed up with people sitting in their armchairs blaming poverty on third world people 'choosing' to have too many children. Because third world countries are poor they have no social security systems, therefore the only way for people to survive when elderly is to be supported by their sons (daughters support their parents-in-law). Yet, because infant mortality rates are so high (e.g. 28% of kids die before their 5th birthday in Sierra Leone), people know that they must have at least 2 sons, which makes families likely to have at least 3 or 4 children. The myth that third world people are responsible for their own poverty is disgusting and the only reason it's popular is because people like to 'justify' their own choice not to help other humans condemned to a life of extreme poverty just because of where they are born.

Extreme poverty is not caused by the West it is caused by over population and gender inequality - The UN need to stop interfering in poor nations and tidy up their own countries -take America for instance.
VJay, London

It is a pity that despite the progress made in the area of science and engineering, mankind has actually regressed in the area of social development. Present day's society has become very heartless forgetting the poor whose living conditions are only getting worse. The world would be a better place even if we spend a fraction of what is spent on war on combating poverty and disease. The onus is on the developed countries and not the UN alone. I do not see things improve unless the G8 step in to tackle the problem.
Girish Ramesh, Mountain View, CA,USA

Whereas it is now patently clear that African rulers are THE cause of their people's economic misery, the United Nations, for the most part, has a policy of indulging these tyrants and kleptocrats. How can these countries ever achieve economic development - never mind the MDGs - with such odds stacked against them? The UN, in my view, has been part of the problem, and no amount of "goals" or "targets" or "initiatives" (and there have been countless initiatives coming from the UN of late) will make a difference. Or perhaps it is true, after all, that aid workers generally have an interest in perpetuating global poverty.
UE, UK/Nigeria

The West is not prepared to become effectively poorer in order to redress the global balance
Clara, Edinburgh, Scotland
If we want all the people in the world to escape poverty we have to give up our status as rich and comfortable countries. If it weren't for absurdly low wages and uneconomic prices paid for raw materials imported from poor countries we would not be well off. If everyone in the UK got up tomorrow and had to pay equivalent market prices for coffee, cotton, chocolate, to what it would cost to produce the goods in a developed country we would have to cut back severely on our consumerism. The West is not prepared to become effectively poorer in order to redress the global balance.
Clara, Edinburgh, Scotland

When 90 percent of the world wealth is controlled less than 10 percent of the population, the poor do not have a chance. Greed is human and the wealthy have lots of greed. It has been said that "the poor are more generous than the wealthy because they have walked in the shoes."
Paul, Gainesville, FL, USA

I'm afraid that it's part of human nature to build one's wealth on the back off the poor. Just have a look at history. Today's wealthiest continents, America and Europe have become rich on the human and natural resources of other continents. And the growing riches of countries like China is also because of exploitation of the poorest. It's a law of nature, no high without low, no rich without poor.
leen, Ghent, Belgium

How do these agencies think that they'll be able to eradicate poverty and inequality by 2015, if they don't have a strong field presence in the developing and third world countries? Most of these countries are ridden with corrupt bureaucracies which won't change themselves just because some organization has a goal to meet. These initiatives are sincere and show good intent, but are impossible to accomplish.
Vishal Bijlani, Pittsburgh USA

It is the global companies who ensure that the poor stay poor to fuel profits
Amy, UK
Governments can't do anything because they are powerless to do so. They can only give money to sustain, rather than improve, the situation. It is the global companies who ensure that the poor stay poor to fuel profits. Governments don't have the power to insist that global corporations accept moral responsibility for the environmental and development cost of trade. Only when consumer thinking makes socially irresponsible business practices unprofitable will any real change come about.
Amy, UK

I think the world's poorest nations are failing themselves. Liberia was independent throughout the Scramble for Africa, but is still ruinously poor. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc, were British colonies but have strong economies. A similar comparison can be seen with Ghana and Malaysia: they both became independent in 1957 with very similar income levels, but have enormously different incomes today.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK

450 million people in 18 countries are living in poverty. Poverty is living on less then $1 per day, so it would take $164,250 billion to raise these people out of poverty. If you give $164bn to the governments of these countries you will see a big increase in the wealth of the middle and upper income class and among government officials but very little reduction in poverty. If you give the money directly to those in need, you will dramatically increase the demand for products and services among the poor and this will in turn increase economical development as businesses rush in to meet the new demand. A large number of small businesses will emerge among the poor class. This will significantly increase the number of low level jobs available and will cause the greatest movement of people from the poor class to the middle class. In the following year, there probably will be half as many people needing assistance to avoid living in poverty. Maybe only $80bn would be needed. In the following year maybe only $40bn.

The point is that with direct aid you solve the problem of poverty immediately and the cost to keep people out of poverty significantly decreases as time goes by.
A. Camarata, Vienna, Austria

How can you pick the most important MDG? They are all absolutely necessary, and many of them interlinked
Jay, London, UK
How can you pick the most important MDG? They are all absolutely necessary, and many of them interlinked. For example combating disease, primary education and environmental protection are all key to future economic development. Good governance and improvements in the distribution of wealth in developing countries is very important too. We must do all we can to help, including giving more aid and lowering trade barriers, but poor countries also need to do more to help themselves.
Jay, London, UK

Poverty is always presented as an unfortunate, incidental outcome of economic expansion and globalisation, whereas in fact it is central to the success of the rich. This is how they got rich, by paying less than the fair rate. If the richer countries were to pay real living wages and full commodity prices that reflected the cost of production, and were to free developing countries of the oppressive terms imposed on them by outfits like the World Bank and the IMF, we should soon see a narrowing of the great gulf between haves and have-nots.
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK

How can we deal with poverty, extreme or otherwise, if we don't first have economic development?
Harry Webb, Broadstairs UK

I used to give thousands to foreign aid organisations. The turning point for me was a report on an African farmer who tripled his cotton output by using GM. You might think this would solve all his problems. Wrong, he had 13 children which means that they stand to be only half as well off as him - opportunity squandered. How long can people in poor countries keep blowing it before the penny drops? Primary education is the key - with an emphasis on maths.
Paul, Milton Keynes

The targets are just as much irrelevant nonsense as anything else the UN says
Tom, London
The targets are just as much irrelevant nonsense as anything else the UN says. If the UN were serious about helping the poor they would be promoting free trade, economic liberalisation and human rights and they would also realise that - while the EU is run by socialists who seek global impoverishment through protectionism and the US legislature is in the thrall of greedy and inefficient farmers and textile industries that could not cope with real competition - no amount of platitudes will achieve anything.
Tom, London

There seem to be many entries here that view birth rate as a cause of poverty when in fact it's a symptom. When families get more wealthy they also get better fed, better health care and better education. But instead of this improvement in living standards allowing them to have even more children, within a single generation the birth rate drops dramatically. Look any one of the "tiger" economies of the Far East for an example of this happening. So trying to dismiss poverty in the poorest nations with such a simplistic put down is a major error. The poor only have so many babies because so many die!! Increasing trade and economic growth is the real answer.
John R Smith, UK

Anyone who thinks that the UN is going to cure world poverty is sadly mistaken. My father worked at the UN during the 1990s, and was amazed at the nepotism, politics, waste, and sloth of this massive bureaucracy.
JM, Baltimore, MD

I don't understand what is so difficult about educating children efficiently
J .O., USA
I don't understand what is so difficult about educating children efficiently, and inexpensively. I think part of the problem is the grandiose schemes that the U.N. comes up with. A simple roof, some paper, pencils and a soccer ball are enough to get started. I think solving these huge issues require a new mindset. People who think outside of the box. Sometimes, I feel the United Nations is just a huge scam established to line the pockets of a few politicians.
J .O., USA

It is nonsense to suggest that the world is not capable of eradicating poverty. If we are able to succeed in deep-space exploration, we can succeed in making poverty history. The problem is that it is not in the developed world's interest to do so. How will it benefit them? This is a materialistic world. If there was a financial gain for us to eradicate poverty, it would be done already.
Abdullah, Rochdale, England

This planet has been failing 'the worlds poor' for as long as I can remember. As for the UN's well intentioned if somewhat hopelessly naive goals to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015, the only way that this could even be reduced is to tackle head on the causes of extreme poverty. And that cause mainly lies in the Global Military Industrial Complex. Warfare in many parts of the world has not only led to millions of people being killed or injured, it has left many nations destitute and dependent on outside help from developed countries. I would also like to point out that the other main cause of extreme poverty is what I call free-for-all trade in which local farmers, employees and small companies in poorer nations are unfairly marginalised when it comes to international trade talks usually run and influenced by western governments and their greedy corporate buddies.
Michael, London, UK

We need to come up with an objective definition of prosperity that clearly underlines the difference between real and conditioned needs. The objective should be to feed, clothe, and provide healthcare and education, not build consumer societies all over the world.
Prashant, Toronto, Canada

Until the governance is sorted out any other form of aid will disappear
Ian Brown, Derby, UK
The people of the developed nations have shown a huge willingness to help the poor as is shown by numerous charity projects. However the poor have been let down by their own governments, by our governments and by the UN. India and China are slowly pulling their huge populations out of poverty by education and hard work while most of Africa is heading in the other direction due to civil wars, poor governance and corruption. The UN and the G8 countries in particular have been ineffectual in establishing benign and successful regimes throughout the third world. Until the governance is sorted out any other form of aid will disappear into the cesspit of war and corruption.
Ian Brown, Derby, UK

The most important goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Good nutrition and sufficient food in itself would be a catalyst for achieving the health-related goals (child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria etc). Then later the focus can switch to education and the environment - issues important for a lasting quality of life.
Caroline Baker, London, UK

Tackling poverty is the best agenda for solving the world's problems. Understanding all the issues (education, gender, health, environment, economic) and integrating them in implementation is the key to stopping poverty and achieving the sustainable development.
Dian Yusvita, Yogyakarta Indonesia

Oh lawks, here we go again. More chest beating about the poor suffering masses, but nobody is honest enough to admit that the environmental and economic consequences of empowering another billion consumers would be devastating. Helping out sounds good in principle, but the reality of taking people out of poverty is that it will place greater pressure on already strained resources (e.g. petrochemicals). This is a lose-lose situation. We should stop offering false hopes and have the honesty to put granny on the ice-floe and wave goodbye.
Mike, London, UK

Economic development is the only way for people to improve the quality of their lives
Jonathan Jones, London, UK
Economic development is the only way for people to improve the quality of their lives in a sustainable way. The EU is responsible for 85% of all subsidies and tariffs which stop the developing world from competing. This is the first inequality that needs to be removed.
Jonathan Jones, London, UK

Nowhere in the U.N. goals did I see population growth mentioned. If I had 8 kids I'd be poor too.
Brad Luckhart, Montreal, Canada

The most important of the MDGs are tackling poverty and disease. But it is crystal clear that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. All the countries that pledged to help the world's poor should fulfil their promises. They shouldn't wait until things degenerate into crisis before trying to help. Whatever is done now can save a lot of lives.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA



The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific