UK Politics

Brown angry at slow work to meet UN poverty goals

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Media captionFormer Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "We're not yet doing enough"

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has expressed "anger" at the failure of rich nations to honour pledges to combat global poverty.

The United Nations' eight Millennium Development Goals were set out in 2000 with the aim of being reached by 2015.

Mr Brown is particularly concerned by the lack of progress in ensuring every child has access to primary education.

Speaking in New York, Mr Brown said he wanted to "press, inspire and push" people to see the virtues of education.

Ensuring education for all was an issue of "security, anti-poverty and health", he added.

"I'm angry because we made commitments that we would meet these Millennium Development Goals," he told the BBC at a meeting to review progress towards them.

"I think rich countries have not done enough to honour the promises that we made."

He added that it was "too easy sometimes for the governments to say something else has come up, some other thing has changed our view".

Mr Brown, who was UK chancellor at the time the pledges were made, said the governments of wealthy nations needed to face continuing public pressure to ensure they stuck to their pledges.

Turning his attention to poorer nations, he said their governments "have to put resources into education and not into corruption, to put resources into health and not to waste them on prestige projects".

Mr Brown's comments came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Millennium Development Goals could still be met if enough work was done.

Mr Ban urged world leaders meeting in New York to stick to the task despite the global downturn, insisting they could be achieved by 2015.

However, the UN itself concedes that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet some of the targets.

More than 140 leaders are meeting to review progress, among them UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is flying to New York having addressed the Lib Dem party conference on Monday.

It will be his first appearance representing the UK at a major international gathering since his party formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party in May.

Speaking for the coalition, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was among those in New York arguing that money had to be spent more wisely in such tough economic times.

The Millennium Development Goals aim to tackle global poverty and improve living standards for developing countries. We've taken key indicators, broken down by UN-defined regions as shown here, and set the 2015 target as a baseline to reveal the true picture of how each region is faring.
Developing nations are on track to meet the poverty target largely because of progress in China. But in Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia the proportion of hungry people has increased. Globally, the number of hungry people rose from 842 million in 1990-92 to 1.02 billion people in 2009.
While countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have seen great improvements by abolishing school fees and offering free school lunches, the target is unlikely to be met. The drop-out rate is high, and although there has been some investment in teachers and classrooms, it is not enough.
Gender gaps in education have narrowed, but remain high at university (tertiary) level in some developing countries because of poverty. Employment for women has improved but there are still many more women than men in low-paid jobs. There have been small gains for women in political power.
Child deaths are falling but at the current rate are well short of the two-thirds target. They more than halved in Northern Africa, Asia,Latin America and the Caribbean but remain high in parts of Southern Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa the absolute number of children who have died actually increased.
Although in all regions there are advances in providing pregnant women with antenatal care, the maternal mortality rate is unacceptably high, with progress well short of the decline needed to meet the target. Those at most risk are adolescent girls, yet funding on family planning is falling behind.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has stabilised in most regions, but new infections are rising in some areas and antiretroviral treatment has mushroomed. Global funding has helped control malaria but is still far short of what is needed. On current trends tuberculosis will have been halted and started to reverse.
The world will meet the drinking water target on current trends but half the population of developing regions still lacks basic sanitation. The 2010 target to slow decline in biodiversity has been missed. Improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers has been achieved but their actual numbers are rising.
Levels of aid continue to rise, but major donors are well below target. In terms of volume the USA, France, Germany, UK and Japan are the largest donors. G8 countries have failed to deliver on a promise to double aid to Africa. Debt burdens have been eased for developing countries.
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