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U.N. General Assembly Opens 65th Session With A Look Ahead To Next Week’s MDG Summit

The U.N. General Assembly opened its 65th session on Tuesday in New York with the incoming Assembly President Joseph Deiss, former Swiss foreign minister, calling for the focus of the upcoming year to be prioritizing efforts to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reaffirming the role of the U.N. in global governance and promoting sustainable development, Xinhua reports (9/15).

“With Heads of State and Government expected in New York on Monday for a high-level meeting on the [Millennium Development] Goals, ‘we do not have the right to fail,’ [Deiss] stressed” in an opening address to the session, according to a U.N. press release. “The Goals, despite the global economic crisis, were within reach and the Assembly’s work in the coming week must result in a genuine plan of action to ensure that the ambitious targets set in 2000 were reached,” the release notes (9/14).

“In particular, we must bridge the gaps in the fight against hunger, child mortality and maternal health,” Deiss said, according to the U.N. News Centre. “This is possible.” Deiss’ statements also focused on how the meeting will address the U.N.’s role in global governance and the increasing awareness of the need for countries to work on sustainable development. The article also includes comments by former General Assembly President Ali Treki, who notes the importance of the upcoming MDG Summit (9/14).

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday defended the draft declaration for the MDG Summit against criticism by some aid agencies that argued the document was “thin on specific” actions or policies for achieving the MDGs.

“You need to be realistic,” Ban said, according to Reuters. “This outcome document is the maximum and best we could expect at this time. … We need to always base our policies and priorities by considering the realities on the ground.” He “called the draft declaration a ‘very concrete, detailed and deliverable plan of action,'” the news service writes.

The article names a few of the 140 world leaders planning to participate in the MDG Summit, including U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “All 192 U.N. member states, as well as international blocs like the European Union, African Union and organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and others are expected to participate in the three-day summit,” Reuters writes (9/14).

Report Documents Financial Gaps In Financing For Childhood Immunizations

“A push to protect millions of children against preventable diseases has hit financial trouble, with private donations for vaccines falling short,” according to a report (.pdf) released Tuesday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the GAVI Alliance, Reuters reports. “‘Significant financial gaps pose a threat to maximizing the potential lives which can be saved with vaccination,’ said the report, launched ahead of [the MDG Summit] where the effect of the global downturn on aid will be in focus” (MacInnis, 9/14).

“The GAVI Alliance, which finances vaccines in the world’s poorest countries, faces a funding challenge of 4.3 billion US dollars over the next six years,” according to the report. “The Measles Initiative, which has supported ministries of health to accomplish phenomenal reductions in measles deaths needs 283 million U.S. dollars from 2010 to 2015. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is on the brink of success in eradicating only the second disease in history, faces a gap of 1.3 billion U.S. dollars from 2010 to 2012” (October 2010).

“GAVI, which distributes nearly $1 billion in assistance a year, received only $7 million from private donations in 2009 … In 2008, it took in $13.5 million in private contributions,” Reuters adds (MacInnis, 9/14).

“There is untapped potential within vaccination and millions more lives could be saved,” the group said in its report, which argued that immunizations represent “a public health ‘best buy'” and could help in the pursuit of the MDG target related to reducing child mortality (October 2010).

In related news, Pharmabiz.com reports on the plans for a meeting next week between officials from GAVI, UNICEF and the Word Health Organization with representatives from Kenya, Nicaragua and Norway during the MDG Summit to discuss global immunization efforts.

“At the roundtable discussion, world leaders in global health and development [will] meet to review the experience of individual nations with combating diseases. It will also delve into the cost-effectiveness of vaccines and other life-saving technologies in Africa, Asia and South America. In addition it would look at the potential impact of strong health systems in propelling the world towards achievement of MDG 4” – the goal aimed at reducing rates of child mortality (9/15).