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Recession should not hold back development goals, warns Ban

Millions of people need to be lifted out of poverty regardless of the global recession, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged world leaders yesterday.

"We should not balance budgets on the back of the poor," Ban said as he opened a summit to review the progress on UN Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, in New York.

Work to meet the goals is badly behind schedule. But Ban said "despite the obstacles, despite the scepticism, despite the fast-approaching deadline of 2015, the MDGs are achievable."

Reducing extreme poverty and hunger top the MDGs. Others include developing a global partnership for development, providing primary schooling for all children, halting the spread of HIV/Aids and reducing child and maternal mortality. It looks like the target to halve poverty and hunger by 2015 will be met, according to the United Nations, but the world is badly lagging behind on the other goals.

Ban told the 140 presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers attending the three-day summit that meeting the goals "is an achievement we can be proud of.

At the summit, world leaders pledged to meet the goals agreed a decade ago - by 2015 but would not promise any extra cash for the world's poorest countries.

Spain’s government cut aid amid a financial crisis and massive unemployment, and its Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said other countries too were struggling with difficult decisions as they try to revive economic growth.

Mr Zapatero said the world should try and come up with alternative ways to fund programs that tackle poverty, hunger and climate changes.

"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," he added, suggesting a tax on financial transactions.

The World Bank said that it would increase spending on education by $750 million over the next five years, although aid groups said this was not enough.

Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell called for ways to monitor progress towards meeting the poverty goals during the last five years of the MDGs.

"We want a proper agenda for action over each of the next five years, not a load of blah-blah and big sums of money being thrown about, although big sums of money are important," he told reporters.

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