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Monday, February 07, 2005

Global Poverty

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, penned a troubling piece for the Sunday Boston Globe. He leads with a jab aimed directly at foreign policymakers in affluent states:
GLOBAL POVERTY IS the most important foreign policy issue of our time--or, at any rate, it should be. And indeed there are signs that the sheer unrelenting grinding deprivation that keeps 1.1 billion people living on less than $1 a day is capturing the attention of many politicians for whom realpolitik has usually ruled out the interests of the poor.
As part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, affluent states promised to help the global poor reach a wide range of goals by 2015. They meant to halve global poverty and achieve universal primary education, for example. So far, this goal looks more like a pipe dream:
As Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer and a passionate advocate for human development, declared last month at meeting of African finance ministers in South Africa, the world is lagging as much as 100 years behind schedule.
A century!

As they have previously, affluent states promised to give 0.70% of their national income in aid. In reality, the total is only about 0.25% and the US contribution is about 0.14%. The difference between the promised and actual giving is $130 billion per year.

Keep in mind that the Iraq war has cost $200 billion so far.

In 2000, George Bush promised to put $5 billion towards the Millennium Challenge Account. Despite the applause lines last week in the State of the Union address (fighting global AIDS, for example), Bush has broken this promise.

Tony Blair, in contrast, has been out front on this issue. He recently called for the moneyed west to forgive 100% of Africa's $70 billion foreign debt.

Horton argues that one problem the UN faces is Kofi Annan's weakened position. He doesn't say so, but I presume he's talking about the oil-for-food scandal.

So Annan is to blame for leaders of rich states ignoring the world's poor?

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