- Associated Press - Monday, September 20, 2010

UNITED NATIONS | French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday pledged to boost aid to the world’s poorest by 20 percent over the next three years and issued a plea for other developed nations to join him in meeting U.N. anti-poverty targets by 2015.

With Millennium Development Goals, set by the U.N. 10 years ago, lagging and hard hit by the global recession, Mr. Sarkozy implored world leaders not to fall back into “old bad habits” of ignoring global poverty as the world economy begins climbing out of the severe economic downturn.

“We have no right to do less than what we have decided to do,” Mr. Sarkozy told the assembled leaders. He also said the world body should join in creating a small international tax on financial transactions that would go toward ending poverty and meeting other millennium goals.

Mr. Sarkozy said France currently donates 10 billion euros ($13 billion) a year.

“The financial crisis is severe in the rich countries, it creates deficits,” he said, “but its consequences are far worse for the poor countries.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the summit with a call to the assembled presidents, prime ministers and kings to use their power to meet U.N. goals to help the world’s poorest by 2015.

Ten years after world leaders set the most ambitious goals ever to tackle global poverty, they are gathered again to spur action to meet the deadline — which the U.N. says will be difficult, if not impossible, in some cases.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss called the session to order, saying: “We must achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We want to achieve them. And we can achieve them.”

For centuries, the plight of the world’s poor had been ignored but with the turn of the new millennium, leaders pledged to begin tackling poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said peace and full stomachs were key to erasing poverty.

“We share the burden of saving the world from war and hunger. Without peace, poverty will remain. Without food, peace will not prevail,” he said.

World leaders have vowed to reduce extreme poverty by half, ensure that every child has a primary school education, halt and reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic, reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds.

Goals additionally called for cutting by half the number of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation — all by 2015. They also set goals to promote equality for women, protect the environment, increase development aid, and open the global trading and financial system.

“We brought new urgency to an age-old mission,” the secretary-general told the assembled leaders. “And now, we have real results. New thinking and path-breaking public-private partnerships. Dramatic increases in school enrollment. Expanded access to clean water. Better control of disease. The spread of technology — from mobile to green.”

But Mr. Ban called the advances “fragile” and declared “the clock is ticking, with much more to do.”

He urged the leaders to deliver the needed resources “above all by exercising political leadership.”

“Despite the obstacles, despite the skepticism, despite the fast-approaching deadline of 2015, the Millennium Development Goals are achievable,” the secretary-general said.

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