Trade Concerns at the Centre of Debate: The General Assembly Addresses the Millennium Development Goals

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Delegates from around the world and especially developing countries stressed the reduction of suffering and poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) during the 2003 debate in the General Assembly. At the Millennium Summit in 2000 in New York, 189 United Nations Member States pledged to achieve by 2015 the following eight MDGs:

* Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, by reducing by half the proportion of people suffering from hunger and/or of those living on less than one dollar a day;

*Achieve universal primary education, by ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling;

*Promote gender equality and empower women, by eliminating gender disparity in all levels of education;

*Reduce child mortality rate by two thirds among children under five;

* Improve maternal health, by reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio;

* Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, by halting and beginning to reverse their incidence and spread;

*Ensure environmental sustainability, by integrating sustainable development principles into country policies, reversing the loss of environmental resources, reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020; and

*Develop a global partnership for development, which includes addressing least developed countries' needs by reducing trade barriers and improving debt relief, and increasing official development assistance from developed countries.

Namibia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hidipo Hamutenya said his Government was fully committed to implementing the Millennium Declaration. His country allocated 23 per cent of its annual budget to education and 15 per cent to health, and had determined that improving the productive competitiveness of its economy was the best way to address poverty. This meant providing knowledge and skills to Namibians, including in information technology, he said.

President Vicente Fox of Mexico pointed out that his country was ahead of its timetable, having achieved one third of the MDGs just two years after their adoption and would probably reach all of them by 2010. Mexico had achieved considerable advances in education, health, poverty reduction and equitable distribution of income.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Baboucarr-Blaise Ismaila Jagne of The Gambia said his country planned to be well ahead of the MDGs for education by 2015, Gross enrollment rates had gone from 44 per cent eight years ago to 90 per cent in 2003, he said, Transition rates from primary to secondary schools had jumped from 12 to 77 per cent, while tertiary level institutions were thriving. A new University of the Gambia had recently opened.

Despite the good news, Minister for Foreign Affairs Kandu Wangchuk of Bhutan pointed out that 33 countries, which account for 26 per cent of world population, were reported to be off the track on more than half of the MDGs. He further noted that of these countries, 23 are in sub-Saharan Africa. …