Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 9 News List

It's time for a global New Year's resolution

For every major world problem -- hunger, illiteracy, malnutrition, malaria, AIDS, drought and so on -- there are practical solutions that over time have been proven to be effective and which are perfectly affordable

By Jeffrey Sachs


It is time for New Year's resolutions, and this year's are obvious. When the millennium opened, world leaders pledged to seek peace, the end of poverty, and a cleaner environment. Since then, the world has seen countless acts of violence, terrorism, famine, and environmental degradation. This year, we can begin to change direction.

Knowledge, scientific advance, travel and global communications give us many opportunities to find solutions for the world's great problems. When a new disease called SARS hit China last year, the WHO coordinated the actions of dozens of governments, and the crisis was quickly brought under control, at least for now.

When Bill Gates donated US$1 billion to bring vaccines to poor children, he made it possible to protect tens of millions of young people from preventable diseases. When an agricultural research unit called the World Agroforestry Center discovered that a certain tree could help African farmers grow more food, they introduced a new and valuable approach to overcoming Africa's chronic food crisis.

Unfortunately, such examples of international cooperation are as rare as they are impressive. With our knowledge, science and technology, the horrendous living conditions of the world's poorest people could be dramatically improved. Millions of people could be spared malaria, HIV/AIDS, hunger, and life in slums. The problem is not that we lack good solutions. The problem is that we fail to cooperate globally to put those solutions into practice.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has honored me by making me his special adviser on the Millennium Development Goals and asking me to lead a group of scholars and development experts in identifying practical steps to reach the goals by the target date in 2015. This effort, known as the UN Millennium Project, will issue its report to Secretary-General Annan on Jan. 17, 2005. Our study, Investing in Development: A Practical Plan

to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, will be available for free around the world at

What we learned is easily summarized. For every major problem -- hunger, illiteracy, malnutrition, malaria, AIDS, drought, and so forth -- there are practical solutions that are proven and affordable. These investments, in turn, would strengthen the private sector and economic growth. Yet they require global partnership between the rich and poor countries of the world. Most importantly, the world's richest countries need to do much more to help the poorest countries make use of modern science and technology to solve these great problems.

The US, for example, currently spends around US$450 billion each year on its military, but less than US$15 billion to help the world's poorest countries fight disease, educate their children, and protect the environment. This is a mistake, because military approaches alone cannot make US safe. Only shared prosperity can truly make the planet secure. The US should be investing much more in peaceful economic development.

Germany, Japan, and several other rich countries are also doing much less than they should -- and much less than they promised the poor countries that they would do. In 2002, all donor countries committed to "make concrete efforts" to reach 0.7 percent of national income in development aid to poor countries. Germany, Japan, and the US, among others, remain far below this commitment.

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