Trillions of dollars needed for UN anti-poverty plan

2015-08-04 12:16

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United Nations - The price tag for a bold global new anti-poverty agenda comes to between $3.5 and $5tn annually over the next 15 years, part of a United Nations' "to-do list" for the world.

The UN's 193 member states agreed on a draft plan for the sustainable development goals at the weekend and world leaders are set to endorse them at a summit in New York from September 25 to 27.

The 17 goals and 169 targets to end poverty, ensure healthy lives, promote education and combat climate change are even more sweeping than the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire at the end of this year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the new agenda as "a to-do list for people and the planet", but warned that implementing it would be a challenge.

"We are resolved to free the human race within this generation from the tyranny of poverty," Ban said in a statement.

Kenyan Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who shepherded negotiations along with Irish Ambassador David Donoghue, acknowledged that the funding required to achieve the goals was "astronomical".

Trillions of dollars would need to be spent by member states and international organisations for each country reach its goals.

"But let's understand what it is that we are trying to do here. We are engaged in an agenda that seeks to address economic, social and environmental transformation," Kamau told a news conference at UN headquarters.

The United Nations is hoping that businesses will step up along with national governments to redirect their development aid toward achieving the new global goals.

"There is no reason that we cannot see remarkable transformation in the next 15 years," said Kamau.

The goals are non-binding, but Donoghue said failing to meet them would create "a degree of political embarrassment or discomfort" for governments who flout such agreed objectives as gender equality.

Too ambitious?

Launched in 2012, the negotiations on the new agenda were to build on the success of the MDGs which have helped reduce poverty rates while setting education and health targets, in particular for infant mortality.

But the new goals have come under criticism for being ill-defined in some instances and far too broad in scope, undermining prospects for achieving measurable success.

Bill and Melinda Gates, who head a mega-billion-dollar foundation, have complained that the new goals stray too far away from the UN's previous focus on health and education.

"Yes, they are ambitious," said Donoghue, but he added: "There is a much greater sense of a collective purpose this time around."

The agenda revolves around the five Ps – people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership – and encompasses such hard-to-measure objectives as promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.

Contrary to the MDGs, the new global goals apply to both developing and developed countries and negotiations were opened up to governments and civil society, not only to UN experts.

Negotiations ran into hurdles over references to climate change that are part of separate UN-led talks leading to the Paris conference in December, but the document does call for urgent action to combat global warming.

There was also resistance to language on women's reproductive rights, good governance and on ensuring accountability to meet the global goals.

The United Nations is planning to roll out some 300 indicators to measure progress by countries towards achieving the new goals and provide data on how governments are working to improve the lives of their citizens.

The UN General Assembly is due to formally adopt the document in the coming weeks and Pope Francis will deliver an address to the United Nations on September 25 as world leaders prepare to endorse the anti-poverty agenda.

Read more on:    ban ki-moon  |  un
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