Ban Ki-moon says UN millennium goals 'can be met'

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Media captionUN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: "We have much more to do"

The Millennium Development Goals can still be met if enough work is done, the UN secretary general has said.

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

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy said new funds had to be found to meet the goals - suggesting a tax be imposed on financial transactions.

More than 140 leaders are meeting to review progress toward the targets.

Created in 2000, the eight goals aim to reduce poverty and hunger and improve health standards around the world.

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

In his opening speech to delegates, Mr Ban insisted the goals had led to "more development success stories than ever before", and had had a "transformative impact".

But he acknowledged that there was scepticism that the targets could be met, amid a global economic downturn that is putting pressure on aid budgets in rich countries and slowing growth in poorer ones.

He said "the clock is ticking" and there was much more to do if the goals were to be met by the 2015 deadline.

"Being true [to the Millennium Development Goals] means supporting the vulnerable despite the economic crisis," he told the summit.

"We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor. We must not draw back from official developmental assistance, a lifeline of billions for billions."

In response, Mr Sarkozy said France would increase its contribution to the global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria by 20% over the next three years. And he urged other developed countries to do the same.

He said that despite the economic downturn new sources of funding must be found to help the developed countries meet their obligations - such as the imposition of a small tax on financial transactions.

In an interview with the BBC, one of the architects of the goals, development economist Jeffrey Sachs, castigated rich countries for failing to do enough to make sure the goals were met.

He said they had consistently failed to live up to their pledges on aid and dismissed suggestions that economic recession was affecting governments' capability to live up to their promises.

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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"High-income countries have spent trillions of dollars on war and unfortunately they just haven't sufficiently invested in peace yet," Professor Sachs said.

"I think it's not really a question of whether they have the money, it's a question of how they use it."

US President Barack Obama is due to address the summit at the UN's headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are among the other leaders at the meeting.

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