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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

Broken Aid Promises Dim Hopes for Millennium Development Goals

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations, 26 October, ( At a major international conference on financing for development in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, more than 100 world leaders pledged to help eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development.

But most of the promises, predicated largely on significant increases in development aid to the world's poorest nations, have remained unfulfilled.

Five years after the pledges -- dubbed the "Monterrey Consensus" -- the results have been mixed.

Addressing a high-level meeting on financing for development, described as a follow-up to the Monterrey conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted that many developing nations, including many low-income countries, have experienced stronger economic growth.

Since 2002, he said, levels of official development assistance (ODA), including new commitments, have risen.

"But the sustained increase required to meet the targets has not materialized," he told the two-day meeting which concluded Wednesday.

"Concerted action to close this funding gap is essential if we are to alleviate extreme poverty, fight diseases and achieve the other development targets," he warned.

A new U.N. study, which takes stock of the successes and failures of the Monterrey Consensus, points out that ODA "continues to remain crucial" for financing the internationally-agreed development goals, including the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in extreme poverty and hunger; universal primary education; promotion of gender equality; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a North-South global partnership for development.

The study, released last week, estimates that about 150 billion dollars in aid are needed annually to reach the MDGs by their targeted date of 2015.

According to the latest figures, ODA from the world's major donors fell 5.1 percent in 2006 compared to 2005: from a record high of 106.6 billion dollars in 2005 to 103.9 billion dollars in 2006.

The high figure for 2005, described as the largest ever, was primarily due to debt relief operations for Iraq and Nigeria.

But the U.N. study clearly says that "most debt relief included as ODA, especially for Iraq and Nigeria in 2005, did not really represent additional resources for development."

"The inclusion of the write-off payment arrears, which vary from country to country, means that in practice, ODA resources actually available for development have been smaller than indicated by aid statistics. In addition, aid statistics usually include emergency and technical assistance."

According to the U.N.'s annual "World Economic and Social Survey", the top 20 recipients received more than half of net bilateral ODA, and less than 50 percent of aid recipients received 90 percent of all aid from Western donors.

"There are many poor low-income countries that receive very little aid and a few that have experienced surges in aid flows," the study said.

In the early 1970s, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) as ODA from donor nations to the world's poorer nations.

But so far only five donor countries -- Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg -- have met this elusive target.

Robert Pollock, a U.N. special adviser in the office of the General Assembly president, said some European countries had pledged to reach the target by 2015, others by 2013.

But so far, the United States is the only country that has refused to set a deadline to meet its ODA target.

Oscar de Rojas, director of the Financing for Development Office in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs told reporters Monday that besides development aid, there were also other important factors, including trade, debt relief and private capital flows.

"What good was development assistance," he asked, "if no open markets existed for selling products?"

Srgjan Kerim, president of the General Assembly, told delegates there were really six areas that embody the Monterrey Consensus agreed to by both rich and poor nations.

These include: domestic resource mobilisation; private capital flows; international trade; ODA; external debt; and the reform of international financial institutions.

"The Monterrey Consensus has remained at the heart of the U.N. development debate," he pointed out.

Yoke Ling of the Malaysia-based Third World Network, one of the most active non-governmental organisations (NGOs) closely tracking development-related issues, said that in recent months, various U.N. negotiations have been hard and protracted along North-South lines -- from climate change and biodiversity to operationalising the revitalised U.N.'s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In each process, she told IPS, "Major developed countries seek to backtrack from earlier commitments, including legally binding obligations."

The Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), launched by ECOSOC in early July to strengthen its role in international development cooperation, including its oversight of member states' implementation of international development commitments, is welcome.

On financing for development, she added, developing countries want the DCF to urge developed countries to honour their commitments to earmark 0.7 percent of their GNI as ODA "as soon as possible and to encourage the establishment of more innovative mechanisms for financing."

Prolonged negotiations at the July ECOSOC High Level Segment resulted in a ministerial declaration calling for developed country commitments to achieve the 0.7 percent target for ODA by 2015 and at least 0.5 percent by 2010.

The targets set for the so-called least developed countries, the poorest of the world's poor, were 0.15 percent to 0.20 percent.

"But the reality is that overall ODA continues to decline and there is no sign otherwise. While developing countries are concertedly pressing, developed countries continue to resist," Ling said.

Asked if a proposed follow up conference in Qatar next year will yield any positive results, she said: "Whether Qatar will really result in concrete developed country commitments, let alone significant action, seems unlikely."

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -

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