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Poor nations not benefiting from Millennium Development Goals: UN

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Sept. 8

ALTHOUGH the broad global consensus around a set of clear, measurable and time-bound development objectives, widely described as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has generated unprecedented coordinated action across the world, progress has been hardest to come by in the poorest countries, the United Nations (UN) has warned.

The MDGs set targets for progress in eight areas: Poverty and hunger; primary education; women's equality; child mortality; maternal health; disease; environment; and a global partnership for development.

In his report on implementation of the year 2000 MDGs, released in New York, the UN Secretary-General has said that many developing countries are, however, in the process of retooling development programmes and strategies in line with the broad goals with at least 65 countries and five regions or sub-regions having issued reports geared to measuring progress on the MDGs.

The UN report said that primary responsibility for goal 8 - having to do with issues such as trade, aid and debt - lies with the developed countries and progress on this goal, as with the first seven, is "mixed".

On negotiations within the WTO, the developed countries are faulted for a lack of willingness to permit a level playing field for developing countries to utilise their comparative advantages, particularly in agriculture and textiles.

The European Union decision to allow tariff-free imports from least developed countries (LDCs) of "Everything But Arms" and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act of the US are graded as positive steps, but with small results so far. Official development assistance (ODA) has risen substantially since the Millennium Summit in 2000, total ODA was at low ebb in real terms of $52.4 billion. In only two years, by 2003, it had reached an all-time high, in both nominal and real terms, of $68.5 billion (a figure slightly inflated by depreciation of the US dollar and also reflecting extraordinary outlays in Afghanistan and Iraq).

The report, however, notes with concern the hiatus in the ODA, stating that estimates such as those by the High Level Panel on Financing for Development led by the former Mexican President, Mr Ernesto Zedillo, peg the amount of annual ODA necessary to help developing countries achieve the MDGs at roughly $100 billion.

The debt ratio of 37 countries eligible for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative fell from 109 per cent of gross national income (GNI) in 1997 to 86 per cent in 2002.

In other sections of the report, the Secretary General states that the global response to drugs and cross-border crime has been bolstered by the coming into force of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime in September last and its ratification by 82 countries, as well as by the adoption and opening or signature of the UN Convention Against Corruption in December 2003 in Merida, Mexico.

This year's annual report monitoring progress on the MDGs precedes a more comprehensive report from the Secretary General in early 2005 and a General Assembly high-level event on the Millennium Declaration and MDGs scheduled for this month in New York. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is scheduled to take part in the meet.

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