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8026: Poorest Nations 2 (mention of Haiti) (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By CONSTANT BRAND
BRUSSELS, May 23 (AP) -- In the wake of a weeklong United Nations
anti-poverty conference, international aid organizations question if a
lofty plan to help the poorest of the poor will actually make a difference.
The conference endorsed a plan -- adopted by world leaders last year --
to halve global poverty by 2015.
"We are nowhere near attaining that," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian
Aid, a British-based charity that operates in 60 developing countries.
Like other groups, Christian Aid questions how the U.N. conference has
helped the world's 49 "least developed" countries, or those with a per
capita income of under $900 a year. The countries lack sufficient
investment in health, nutrition and education despite receiving $8 billion
in aid from international donors in 2001 alone.
The record speaks for itself -- the number of the world's poorest
nations under the U.N. criteria has grown from 25 to 49 since 1971.
Of the poorest countries, 34 are in Africa, nine in Asia, five in the
Pacific and only one, Haiti, in the Western Hemisphere. The countries share
a past -- and sometimes a present -- of conflict and corruption. Some also
face drought or epidemics of AIDS or other diseases. Despite the billions
given these countries, U.N. officials say the amount of aid has dropped by
45 percent since 1990.
Today, more than 630 million people, roughly the populations of the 15
European Union nations plus the United States, live on less than a dollar a
Delegates at the U.N. conference, which ended last Sunday, issued a
60-page "action plan" to halve this number by 2015.
It commits rich countries to provide more aid and debt relief for the 49
poorest of the poor, boost trade and investments, set up trust funds to
improve food safety, and ensure duty- and quota-free access to their goods.
Additionally, the conference called for a $10 billion global fund to
fight AIDS and other diseases.
But David Earnshaw from Oxfam International, which is active in aid
programs in more than 100 countries, said the so-called action plan mostly
resurrects past formulas for fighting poverty.
"There is very little that is new," he said. "Almost everything
announced last week was there long before."
Significantly, he added, no targets have been attached to such promises
as greater market access for poor nations or cancellation of their debts.
Several participants worried that the session -- the third of its kind
since 1981 -- would only end up repeating the practice of offering various
commitments without implementing them.
"We are justified to be skeptical," said Mats Karlsson, vice president
of the World Bank. "Everything is in the implementation."
Criticism also focused on the fear that the U.N. conference would only
add to reports and studies already widely available without actually
tackling the issues that plague poor countries, such as corruption and
human rights violations.
Rubens Ricupero, head of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development --
the event's organizer -- defended the anti-poverty action program as a step
"It is a beginning," he said. "We were looking for realistic if not
Added Rwandan Finance Minister Donald Kaberuka, "We have to be
realistic. ... We are talking about incremental steps that add up."