World leaders pledge to end poverty in 15 years

AFP , Friday 25 Sep 2015

UN
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, center, and John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana, celebrate after the passing of a draft resolution during the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 at United Nations headquarters. (Photo:AP)

World leaders on Friday pledged to end extreme poverty in 15 years, launching an ambitious UN development agenda that sets priorities for trillions of dollars in spending.

Pope Francis welcomed the new global goals as an "important sign of hope" in his address to the UN General Assembly and urged leaders to deliver on their promise to transform the world by 2030.

Critics say the goals lack precise definition and point to a history of grand pledges at the UN -- without necessarily following through on them.

"Solemn commitments are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions," the pope said.

The 17 goals and 169 targets aim to end poverty, ensure healthy lives, promote education and combat climate change, at a cost of between $3.5 and $5 trillion per year until 2030.

The new UN agenda will replace the millennium development goals (MDGs) that expire this year, but its objectives are much more ambitious in scope.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the plan as a "to-do list for people and planet" that laid out a "universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world."

"The true test of commitment to agenda 2030 will be implementation," Ban told leaders. "We need action from everyone, everywhere."

Contrary to the MDGs, the new global goals apply to both developing and developed countries and negotiations were opened up to governments and civil society, not only to UN experts.

Billions of dollars in development aid will be redirected to meet the targets but the United Nations also wants to tap into local sources of financing through improved revenue collection.

The global goals call for improved transparency in oil-producing countries to clamp down on corruption and ensure that revenues from natural resources are used to improve the lives of citizens.

International financial institutions such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank will step up with financing support for major infrastructure projects that would have a knock-on effect in combating poverty.

Much attention has focused on ending extreme poverty for 836 million people still struggling on the margins of survival, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

In his address, Ban stressed that the new agenda promises to "leave no one behind," highlighting the need to help the most vulnerable as a priority.

The goals are non-binding, but the three-day summit that opened Friday at UN headquarters will allow leaders to publicly commit to achieving them.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari were to take to the podium to spell out how they plan to meet the development goals.

Launched in 2012, negotiations on the new agenda sought to build on the success of the MDGs, which have helped reduce poverty rates while setting education and health targets, in particular for infant mortality.

But the new goals have come under criticism for being ill-defined in some instances and far too broad in scope, undermining prospects for achieving measurable success.

The United Nations is planning to roll out 300 indicators to measure progress by countries towards achieving the new goals and provide data on how governments are working to improve the lives of their citizens.

It is unlikely that all countries will achieve all of the goals, but aid groups say they will provide benchmarks for governments in every area of development.

Jamie Drummond, executive director for global strategy at the ONE campaign, described the global goals as a "citizen's scorecard, to hold governments accountable for delivery."

"The key missing ingredient is political will," said Drummond. "We have a great history of promise-making at the UN, but the question is whether the promise is ever kept."

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