Monday, September 17, 2007

New multilateral push aims to cut African poverty

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - With Africa lagging behind in global development goals and rich countries cutting aid, leaders of multilateral financial institutions decided on Friday it was time to mobilize resources to reduce extreme poverty on the continent.

Organized by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, officials gathered from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Union, the African Development Bank, the European Commission, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and a number of U.N. agencies.

"We know that rapid progress is possible, and will work with other world leaders to use all the tools, resources and commitments available to support African countries in halving extreme poverty by 2015," the group said in a statement.

At issue are the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), proposed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and approved by world leaders in 2000. They include cutting extreme poverty in half, ensuring universal primary education, and stemming the AIDS pandemic, all by 2015.

No one country in Africa will meet all the goals and the continent as a whole lags far behind, Ban said. "That is the only region in the world where not even a single country is on track," he told reporters.

Yet World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the news was not all bleak. Some 17 countries, with a third of the continent's population, have averaged about 5.5. percent economic growth over the past decade.

Zoellick said the bank in October would focus its annual report on agriculture, where overall poverty reduction has made more progress than in other sectors.

Eight countries, Zoellick said, have benefited from oil revenues and need help in how to spend them while another third of the African population is emerging from war and struggling to survive. "With the right leadership, the right programs, the right support, you can really be quite successful as Mozambique has been," he said. 

New multilateral push aims to cut African poverty | Reuters