US President Barack Obama called for greater urgency in the fight against the world’s social ills as a UN poverty summit ended late on Wednesday with tens of billions of dollars of pledges but lingering pessimism about the impact.
Obama unveiled a new “big hearted” but “hard headed” US aid policy to push the poorest countries toward prosperity. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a US$40 billion drive to save the lives of millions of women and children. Britain, China and Japan also promised more help.
However, many leaders still accused wealthy nations of failing to keep their promises to provide assistance. Aid groups said millions would still die unnecessarily in the final five years of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) initiative launched in 2000.
Obama and the UN chief highlighted advances made to reduce poverty and disease, spread education and increase opportunities for women since the Millennium summit in 2000 set eight key development targets.
But the US leader said progress “has not come nearly fast enough.”
“Not for the hundreds of thousands of women who lose their lives every year simply giving birth. Not for the millions of children who die from the agony of malnutrition,” Obama said.
“We must do better,” Obama told the assembled leaders.
Obama said the US would now concentrate on countries that invest in their future and boost democracy, good governance and free trade.
The UN chief said governments, philanthropists and private groups pledged US$40 billion in initiatives to boost the health of women and children.
Ban estimated that his Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health would save 16 million lives by 2015.
Of the eight key development targets set a decade ago, cutting deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth and those of children younger than five have seen the least progress.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised US$5 billion over five years to help meet the UN’s health goals and US$3.5 billion for attempts to meet the target of establishing universal primary education.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed that his country’s aid would reach 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2013. He called on other countries to follow suit.
Among the final speakers before the summit close was Melinda Gates, whose husband Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, is plowing much of his fortune into the fight against disease.
Ban acknowledged the “gaps” left in the final five years of the MDG campaign.
“But this week, we also heard a catalogue of progress: In reducing poverty, expanding primary education, fighting killer diseases, ensuring clean water,” he said.
Doubts were expressed inside and outside the summit chamber though.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said rich nations were behind many of the obstacles stopping nations becoming more prosperous.
“While developing countries continue their heroic struggle to advance in an increasingly difficult economic environment, many of our development partners have replaced their firm and measurable commitments of assistance with platitudes and empty rhetoric,” he told the summit.
Aid groups expressed strong doubts about the summit outcome.
ActionAid chief executive Joanna Kerr called the UN summit “an expensive side-show.”
“UN summits will continue failing to deliver so long as leaders keep making empty promises on too many issues,” she said.
Oxfam spokesman Ray Offenheiser welcomed the new US foreign aid policy, saying it would help developing countries.
“But let’s not forget — in the time that President Obama stood at the podium to deliver his UN address, 30 women died in childbirth, and 66 children will have died from Malaria,” Offenheiser said.
“Those numbers will repeat every hour upon hour until the president’s words are turned into action,” he said.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,