The UN teamed up on Thursday with technology giants Google and Cisco Systems to launch a new Web site that will provide data and a bird's eye view of global efforts to fight poverty and meet UN development goals.
The site will track efforts by countries around the globe to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015, which world leaders approved at a UN summit in 2000, by providing the latest statistics on health, education, malnutrition, women's equality and other measures that contribute to poverty.
On one portion of the site, a Web surfer can also use Google Earth's map and satellite imagery to fly anywhere on the planet and explore from above the places where work is being done.
The UN goals include reducing extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary school education, reducing child mortality by two-thirds, halting and starting to reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic and cutting in half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Thursday's launch "crucial" because for the first time all information on the UN goals, known as the MDGs, will be available in one place "for all who seek it, with a few simple clicks of the mouse."
Ban lamented that almost 1 billion people still live on less than US$1 a day; that millions of children die every year before their fifth birthday from causes associated with malnutrition; that infectious diseases including AIDS and malaria "are taking their worst toll on countries that can least afford it;" and that millions of people are living in slums.
"Clearly, we are facing a development emergency -- and we need emergency action," he said.
"For the first time in history, the world has at its disposal the means to cut poverty in half in the span of a generation," Ban said.
"But ultimately, achieving the MDGs is a matter of political will. There is no silver bullet, but the resources, knowledge and tools for achieving the goals do exist," he said.
The new MDG Monitor is one of those tools because it will harness the power of the Internet to provide information for policymakers and development experts who can then learn from each other's successes and setbacks, and it will increase public access and attention to achieving the UN goals, Ban said.