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Ahead Of MDG Summit, U.N. Secretary-General Calls For Additional Funds, Strategy For Tackling Women’s And Children’s Health Issues

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced that “nearly 140” world leaders are planning to attend next week’s U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit in New York, where they will discuss ways to help countries reach the targets by 2015, the Canadian Press reports (Lederer, 9/13).

“The leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will be joined by business tycoons and political activists in a three-day summit next week to pledge a renewed effort in the fight against poverty and disease,” the Globe and Mail reports. “The summit [which kicks off Monday] is reported be on track to produce $26-billion in promised new funds. But after decades of broken commitments to the poor, much more than rhetoric and promises will be needed this time, critics say. … The draft has failed to impress some anti-poverty activists, who are pushing for more aggressive action” (York, 9/13).

“Of course, the deadline [for the MDGs] is approaching fast, and many countries are falling short, especially in Africa,” Ban said, according to a U.N. transcript of Monday’s press conference. “Inequities are growing within and among countries.  Too often global economic management neglects the poor and vulnerable.  And the money we need — even though it is modest — is not yet there, a problem compounded by the economic crisis. … To achieve the health MDGs in the 49 lowest-income countries alone, we must invest an additional $26 billion in 2011 — by next year — and building to an additional $42 billion in 2015” (9/13).

World Bank Examines Impact Of Global Crises Crisis On MDGs, Pledges Additional Funds

The World Bank on Monday released a report that explored the impacts of the global economic crisis on developing countries progress towards reducing poverty and other MDG targets that noted “[d]eveloping countries were making significant progress in overcoming poverty until the recent food, fuel, and financial crises,” Xinhua reports (9/13).

“As we take stock of the MDGs so far, we see the crises only made things worse, with too many of the world’s people hungry, poor, or vulnerable to poverty, with too few jobs and too little access to services and economic opportunity,” World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick said, according to Environment News Service. “We must therefore redouble efforts to target support to the poor and vulnerable. We need to invest in what works and fix what doesn’t,” he said (9/13).

Also Monday, the World Bank announced plans to “boost aid to some of the world’s poorest countries to improve health and education and to alleviate the crisis brought on by food shortages,” to help countries reach the MDG targets by 2015, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (9/13).

Under the plan, the World Bank will “boost support to agriculture to some $8.3 billion a year, up from $4.1 billion annually before 2008, under its Agriculture Action Plan … increase its zero-interest and grant investment in basic education by an additional $750 million, with a focus on the countries that are not on track to reach the education MDGs by 2015, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa … [and] expand the reach of the Bank’s results-based programs by more than $600 million to scale up essential health and nutrition services and strengthen the underlying health systems which are essential to sustain better health results over the years” in 35 countries, according to a World Bank press release (9/13).

“The new funding, totaling nearly 10 billion dollars, is meant to help overcome what have been termed the food, fuel and financial crises which the Bank says have added to the obstacles faced by developing countries,” Inter Press Service reports in an article that elaborates on the World Bank’s strategy for bolstering agriculture and health funding for developing countries. The article includes comments by Millennium Promise CEO John McArthur, who addresses the significance of the World Bank’s commitment of additional funding to agriculture, and elaborates on the breakdown of the groups who will provide the funds (Berger, 9/13).

U.N. Secretary-General To Announce Global Strategy For Women’s, Children’s Health At MDG Summit

Ban also told journalists Monday that he would outline a global strategy for women’s and children’s health at the summit, Agence France-Presse reports (9/13).

“No area has more potential to set off a ripple effect — a virtuous cycle — across the Goals than women’s health and empowerment,” Ban said, according to Press Trust India/MSN.com (Sharma, 9/13). “And that is why, in the days ahead, I will announce my choice to lead ‘U.N. Women’“ (the new agency tasked with advancing women’s equality and rights to help improve the health of women in developing countries), Ban added, according to the U.N. transcript (9/13).

Experts Analyze MDG Implementation Challenges

In related news, Health-e reports on an analysis of the challenges to date on MDG implementation, published on Monday in Lancet. “The unique interdisciplinary study suggests principles for goal development, including equity and sustainability, after 2015 – the target date for the MDGs,” the news service writes (9/13).

The authors of the Lancet/London International Development Centre report write: “In application of our development principles to health elements of wellbeing, we would envisage future health development goals that are focused on sustainable health systems, built around delivering health objectives across the life course. This objective would involve close linkage with learning, economic, social, and environmental elements necessary to achieving these objectives … We suggest that such goals avoid threshold-based targets and indicators that might increase inequity and instead aim to generate wellbeing for all, while taking a proactive, pro-poor approach. Global cooperation would emphasise supporting countries to achieve goals in more diverse ways than simply donor funding…” (Waage et al., 9/13).

Meanwhile, Nature reports on the overlap between two MDGs – “saving species and lifting people out of poverty.”

“Conservationists often claim that efforts to preserve biodiversity can also benefit the people who rely on natural resources for food and income, and since 2002, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity has linked its conservation plans to poverty alleviation. … Yet despite many small-scale, often anecdotal studies, the evidence for a link is inconclusive. Many studies have simply shown that poverty frequently overlaps with areas that are a high priority for biodiversity conservation.”

The article explores several reports that looked into the relationship between conservation efforts and poverty and includes comments by several conservationists, such as Bill Adams of the University of Cambridge, according to the news service “says that conservation and poverty alleviation are not natural bedfellows, not least because development usually goes hand in hand with greater consumption of natural resources. … Political leaders must be prepared to make tough choices about where to focus efforts to alleviate poverty, even if there are negative impacts on biodiversity, he adds. But that should not stop them from seeking ways to achieve both” (Gilbert, 9/13).