In the week running up to the showpiece global development talks at the United Nations in New York, campaigners are warning that actions speak louder than words.
On Monday, world leaders, officials, industry bosses and aid organisations will meet to gauge their progress towards reaching the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a set of targets aimed at helping the world’s poorest people.
With the deadline for meeting the goals in 2015, there are just five years to go. And the pressure is rising. There has been real progress on meeting some of the poverty-reducing goals, but there is still a long way to go, and the recession will make it harder for people to donate cash.
A 26-page agreement outlining the commitment to reaching the targets has been drawn up for world leaders to sign at the three day talks, hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. It says: “We are also deeply concerned about the alarming global levels of maternal and child mortality. We believe that eradication of poverty and hunger as well as combating inequality at all levels, is essential to create a more prosperous and sustainable future for all…”
But the Charity Oxfam this week said the warm words will not feed the hungry or heal the sick. It appealed to the UN to make it an emergency meeting and turn the reams of words into an emergency action plant that really works to fight poverty.
“This document lacks the adrenaline boost to accelerate the MDGs,” said Oxfam’s Emma Seery. “And with only five years left, world leaders coming together in New York must commit to concrete actions that will ensure all people are lifted from poverty in our lifetime.”
Donors don’t have a good track record on making good their well-worded promises, the charity points out. In 2005, world leaders promised to raise overseas aid by $50 billion (about £30bn) by 2010, with half that amount going to Africa. But about 40 per cent of the promised aid increase has not materialised. According to the charity’s calculations, there is a $20 billion shortfall. This works out at about £12bn − enough to put every child in school or stop millions of children dying of malaria.
“If we are to prevent the very real danger that progress on the MDGs will be wiped out, we must see leaders standing firm on their commitments,” said Ms Seery. “Now more than ever is a time for action, not just words.
“Words do not make nutritious meals, and a billion people will go to bed hungry tonight.”