UN to Donors: Keep Aid Pledges Despite Budget Woes

(From left to right) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Joseph Deiss, president of the 65th session of the General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, president of the 64th session of the General Assembly at the opening of the summit on the Millennium Development Goals in New York. Photo by: Rick Bajornas / UN

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged cash-strapped donor nations to keep their aid pledges despite the economic crisis.

“We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor. We must not draw back from official development assistance – a lifeline of billions, for billions,” Ban said in an address during the first day of the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York, which runs until Wednesday (Sept. 22).

Ban said the MDGs are “achievable” amid skepticism and the fast-approaching deadline of 2015. He called for “smart investments in infrastructure, small farmers, social services… and above all in women and girls.”

The U.N. chief is due to launch Wednesday a global strategy for women’s and children’s health, which he described as “our best chance for a multiplier effect across the goals.”

The World Bank announced it would expand its results-based programs on health by more than USD600 million until 2015. These programs will target 35 countries particularly in East Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, where high fertility, poor child and maternal nutrition, and high rates of child and maternal disease are prevalent, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.

The global lender also pledged to increase its education spending by USD750 million to help nations - particularly in sub-Saharan Africa – that are offtrack in achieving the education MDGs by 2015.

Mobilizing development aid

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called for other ways to finance development.

“We need to make more effort to look for alternative financing sources … that aren’t as vulnerable as the budgets of developed countries when faced with crises like the one we’re seeing today,” Zapatero was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Zapatero and French President Nicolas Sarkozy – who pledged an increase of 1.08 billion euros (USD1.4 billion) in contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - advocated tax on financial transactions to help mobilize aid money.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou also recommended financial tax, carbon tax or green bonds to raise funding for education, health care, green infrastructure and technology programs in poor nations, according to Reuters.

A tax on financial transactions has “largely been rejected” by the International Monetary Fund and some G-20 members, Reuters reports.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, meanwhile, urged advanced economies to keep their aid commitments and open up trade, which he said is “one of the most important ways that advanced countries can help their low-income neighbors, and without budgetary costs.”

“[E]verything hinges on the restoration of balanced, sustainable, global growth. Without this, all other efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will be frustrated,” Strauss-Kahn said during the summit.

Aid-recipient nations, meanwhile, should improve their policies to help address future economic shocks including by mobilizing domestic tax revenue, the IMF chief said.

Aid effectiveness

To maximize the value of aid money, U.K. development chief Andrew Mitchell underscored the need for a strong focus on transparency and accountability.

He called for a global action agenda to help reach the 2015 deadline of attaining the MDGs, as well as collective international action to reduce maternal and child mortality.

Meanwhile, Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley proposed adding happiness as the ninth MDG.

“Since happiness is the ultimate desire of every citizen it must be the purpose of development to create enabling conditions for happiness,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying. “As it is likely that the relevance of eight MDGs will remain beyond 2015, my delegation would like to propose that we include happiness as the ninth MDG.”

Ireland is expected to highlight the urgency of achieving MDG 1, or eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

“I will focus strongly on the importance of eradicating hunger, given our own history of famine and our long-standing role as advocates for the millions of people who suffer its terrible effects,” said Irish Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power, who will address the summit today (Sept. 21).

Ireland and the U.S. will host today a high-level political event on tackling global hunger at the sidelines of the summit.

Devex News – live breaking news coverage of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sept. 20-22 U.N. MDG summit in New York. 

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.