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Global leaders meet at UN over Africa's development
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-03-11 13:52
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted on Monday a meeting that brought together international leaders with the aim to boost the development agenda of Africa, the only continent still not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Speaking to reporters after the second meeting of the MDG Africa Steering Group since last September, Ban struck a note of urgency and appealed for "concrete action" to help the continent achieve the MDGs.

"The fact that we are here together to speak with one voice on the MDGs underscores the urgency we see in taking concrete action to achieve goals in Africa," Ban said.

"We see important reasons to be optimistic," Ban said. "No new promises are needed to make 2008 the year of opportunity for the 'Bottom Billion'," a reference to the 1 billion people living on less than 1 U.S. dollar per day.

"Tremendous gains are possible if the international community translates commitment to deliverables," he said.

He pointed to examples of achievements made, such as Malawi's lowering of child mortality rates, Senegal's accomplishments in enhancing its water and sanitation facilities and Tanzania's improvements in primary education.

"The challenge is now to replicate these successes in more countries," he noted.

The MDG Africa Steering Group was set up last September in an effort to coordinate and redouble international efforts to support the MDGs across the African continent, after data showed that despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa remains off-track to meeting the goals.

Besides the UN chief, participants at the meeting included leaders from the African Development Bank, the African Union (AU),the World Bank, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Islamic Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

During the meeting, the leaders reviewed a first set of draft recommendations from the MDG Africa Working Group, chaired by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and responsible for following through with the steering group's decisions and recommendations.

They identified several key programs that need to be implemented in the near future, including launching an African "Green Revolution" to speed up economic growth and tackle hunger, control infectious diseases, provide comprehensive AIDS treatment and deliver emergency obstetric care to all.

"To finance these programs, African countries need to mobilize domestic resources, and receive the support promised by development partners," he said.

Noting what the UN chief called a "lack of aid predictability," the steering group called on development partners to take measures to increase aid and enhance aid effectiveness.

They also noted "several pressing challenges," especially that of rising food prices which the UN chief said underscore "the pressing need to invest in raising agricultural productivity across Africa" and increase "the need for additional resources to fight malnutrition and hunger."

At least some 500 million U.S. dollars will be required to meet the most urgent needs, Ban said, calling for efforts aimed at "improving access to markets and reducing subsidies for agriculture in rich countries."

"Rapid progress is possible and needed in the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and we call on all participants to take the necessary decisions to move forward," Ban said.

A UN report released in mid-2007 showed that sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the MDGs, which aim to reduce by half the number of people living in extreme poverty, to promote gender equality and to improve the provision of food, water, sanitation, health and education, all by the year 2015.

Although there have been major gains in several areas and the goals remain achievable in most African nations, even the best governed countries on the continent have not been able to make sufficient progress in reducing extreme poverty in its many forms, said the report.

Intensifying its efforts to boost Africa's development, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution last week that designated a high-level meeting in September to take stock of the needs and challenges for the development of Africa.

The high-level event will be held "at the highest possible political level, including the participation of heads of state or government, ministers, special representatives and other representatives, as appropriate," according to the resolution, which was adopted by consensus.

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