David Cameron challenged world leaders to achieve the Millennium Development Goals at the UN General Assembly in New York today.
Co-chairing the first meeting of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda, the British Prime Minister said that despite tough economic times, countries cannot lose sight of delivering the existing eight Millennium Development Goals to help the world’s poorest people.
With three years to go before the deadline, the Prime Minister wants to galvanise the international community to do more to tackle the issues that blight millions across the world.
Can’t afford to wait
Addressing the panel, the PM said:
The first thing we must do is send a clear message to everyone who signed up to Millennium Development Goals - that now is the time to step up and honour those promises.
And I know there are some who say we can’t afford to do that right now. They believe we have to focus on ourselves. And if that means breaking promises, then they’re sorry - but it just has to be done. Well I’m sorry, but it doesn’t.
When we make a promise to the poorest people in the world - we should keep it not turn our back on people who are trusting us to help them. More than five thousand infants die every day from preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.
So to those who say we can’t afford to act. I say, we can’t afford to wait.
Read a full transcript of the speech
Watch coverage via the UN webcast
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The scale and speed of poverty reduction since 2000 is unprecedented in human history. British aid saves 3 million people from poverty each year. Over the past two years, the UK Government’s efforts include:
- vaccinating over 12 million children against preventable diseases
- improving the land and property rights of 1.1 million people
- supporting 5.3 million children (2.5 million of them girls) to go to primary school
- enabling 11.9 million people to work their way out of poverty by providing access to financial services
- preventing 2.7 million children and pregnant women from going hungry
- reaching 6 million people with emergency food assistance
- supporting freer and fairer elections in 5 countries
- improving hygiene conditions for 7.4 million people.
While huge progress has been made, less than half of the 142 objectives that underpin the MDGs are on track to meet the 2015 targets. Looking beyond 2015, the Prime Minister will work with fellow co-chairs Indonesia and Liberia to encourage the UN High Level Panel to be ‘bold and ambitious’.
The meeting will be the first time that the co-chairs and panellists have all met together. They are expected to agree the overall ambition of the panel and the process for reaching agreement on a report due to be submitted to the UN Secretary General in mid-2013.
A video conference between the Prime Minister David Cameron, President Sirleaf and President Yudohoyono was held ahead of today’s meeting to discuss the panel’s work. They all agreed the focus should be on eliminating poverty and that they should seek ideas from businesses, civil society and the people living in poverty themselves.
The Prime Minister is also expected to encourage the panel to tackle the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms. This means that post 2015, there needs to be a commitment to tackle the broader issues that underpin the MDGs - trade, investment, corruption, climate change, access to energy, conflict and fragility and the empowerment of women and girls.
The governments of the UK and US are hosting an event titled MDG Countdown 2012 during the United Nations General Assembly, in New York on 26 September.
The event will showcase innovative projects and programmes to highlight how coordinated development work is making a real difference.
Video: Working together towards 2015