Debt relief on track, but lack of funds imperil Millennium Development Goals

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

CAIRO: “Governments around the world need to step up efforts to improve access to education, health and basic sanitation, as well as stimulating employment creation, agricultural development and providing more social protection to vulnerable groups in order to reach the goals, said Rob Vos, chief economist of the United Nations’ secretariat.

The United Nations released a report tracking the progress of its Millennium Development Goals, which world leaders will discuss later this month in New York.

The report, titled “Delivering on the Global Partnership for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals and created by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was called “a wake-up call. It follows the progress of the MDG commitments on aid, trade and debt, as well as progress on access to vital medicines and technology.

“The main concerns in these areas are for the African continent, where a lot of progress has been made in recent years, but also where the needs are the largest.

Debt relief has seen the most successful progress of the Untied Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, as 33 out of 41 heavily indebted countries have canceled more than 90 percent of their external debt.

Despite the progress made towards debt relief, there is still plenty that needs to be done, said Vos, adding that “there are still eight eligible countries that have not yet received external debt relief.

Vos also said that debt problems are not easily solved, explaining that “even after debt relief, many of the poor countries are still at moderate to high risk of debt distress, either because following debt relief they have borrowed heavily abroad again or because governments still struggle with large amounts of domestic debt.

The UN has regularly released reports on its achievements since the September 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit.

The 2008 report cites other key improvements regarding access to essential medicines and technology.

“Access to medicines has improved especially owing to special initiatives regarding drugs for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, Vos said.

However, the report also states that the availability of these medicines in developing countries is “far from adequate, with great variations in prices that makes them unattainable to the poor.

Only one-third of the needs for medicines were met in the public sector with an average cost of 250 percent more than international reference prices.

Developing nations are making steady strides towards technological advancements, as the report has revealed, with 77 percent of the population now able to receive a mobile telephone signal, a significant rise over 46 percent in 2001.

“It is crucial for most of the poorest countries to obtain access to adequate official development assistance, especially now that global economic conditions are worsening, said Vos.

On the downside, more than 30 percent of people in the developing world still live without electricity, which has widened the gap between developed and developing nations.

The major obstacle to meeting the Millennium Development Goals has been a lack of donors. Many countries had promised to increase the flow of official development assistance (ODA) by $50 billion per year, but the delivery of that promise has fallen through.

The flow would now have to be increased by a further $18 billion per year between 2008 and 2010 for the project to meet its aims.

The report described the recent breakdown of the Doha Development Round, the current trade-negotiations round of the World Trade Organization – which aims to lower trade barriers around the world – in July as a “major setback.

“Improved access to developed country markets is critical to gain more from international trade. This is why it is so disappointing that the Doha Round negotiations could not be completed with the expected developmental content, Vos said.

With a focus on the future, the report outlines an action plan to achieve the goals by 2015.

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