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Millennium goals still possible, says analyst -

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Millennium goals still possible, says analyst

The World Today - Thursday, 25 September , 2008 12:20:00

Reporter: Lisa Millar

ELEANOR HALL: As well as discussing the financial crisis world leaders are in New York this week to
meet business executives and international aid groups to work out how to breathe some life back
into the UN millennium development goals.

The eight goals - which governments around the world committed to in 2000 - are intended to reduce
poverty and there are specific targets to be reached by 2015.

But soaring energy and food prices and now the global financial crisis are raising doubts about
whether they can be achieved.

And one analyst is now offering a controversial solution, as Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLAR: Eight years ago this week world leaders met in New York - brainstorming their way
towards helping the world's poorest people.

They came up with eight broad ideas that were known as the Millennium Development Goals, targeting
poverty, education and equality.

Dr Matthew Clarke is from Deakin University.

MATTHEW CLARKE: Progress has been quite strong across the globe as a whole, but of course there
have been certain countries that haven't achieved those millennium goals and many countries won't
achieve them at all, even with seven years left to go.

LISA MILLAR: Almost half a billion fewer people live in extreme poverty today than in 1990.

World Vision's Tim Costello told Radio National breakfast that half way towards 2015, a difference
is being made.

TIM COSTELLO: The number of child deaths has dropped; for the first time it's down under 30,000 a
day. So two decades ago 60,000 kids died each day. Last year it was 30, or two years ago sorry it
was 30,000 kids. Now it's 25,000 kids.

LISA MILLAR: Tim O'Connor from Catholic aid agency Caritas offers this assessment:

TIM O'CONNOR: Much achieved but a lot more to do.

LISA MILLAR: The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao as well as
U2 lead singer Bono will be at the summit to be held overnight Australian time.

They've already been told many of the millennium development goals are off track, that 75-million
children are still without a classroom and don't have any teachers and that every year half a
million women in developing countries die in childbirth.

With the clock now racing towards 2015 there was expected to be great urgency at this week's
meeting but the global financial crisis has threatened to overshadow it, much to Tim Costello's
disappointment.

TIM COSTELLO: We have to do both. We have to stabilise the financial system and we have to keep our
promises to the poor.

LISA MILLAR: And he says it's imperative for Australia to be at the forefront of the discussion.

TIM COSTELLO: Sixty per cent of the world's poor are actually in the Asian region. The continent of
Africa attracts our attention but in sheer numbers it's actually our region.

Tim O'Connor from Caritas:

TIM O'CONNOR: We're coming second behind Africa in our least likeliness to actually reach the
millennium development goals and this is a huge concern. Australia does carry a fairly, a big
responsibility in the Pacific. We're committing about a billion dollars this year.

And that's one of the things we've really asked the Prime Minister this week to take up at the
summit, at the UN, is to get more international commitment from Europe, from America and from the
rich countries.

LISA MILLAR: Dr Matthew Clarke offers another way forward for countries unable to meet the goals -
simply change them.

MATTHEW CLARKE: Some of the millennium development goals may need to be tailored to individual
countries' circumstances. And so some countries may need to reduce the target levels because they
simply will not achieve those global targets and other countries may actually need to add
additional targets as well to their millennium development goals that are very specific to their
own needs.

LISA MILLAR: Dr Clarke, reducing the target levels for some countries would seem like a bit of a
copout surely?

MATTHEW CLARKE: It's not a copout because the circumstances of countries are very different and the
starting point for those countries are very different as well. For example if we looked at Papua
New Guinea, it's very unlikely that they're going to achieve all the millennium development goals
because of their unique circumstances.

And so it would be much more realistic to reset some of those targets and commit to those new
targets and pull all energies and focus on those. Because if Papua New Guinea for example or any
other country that we might think of fails to achieve the millennium development goals or looks
like they're going to fail to achieve the millennium development goals, there's the possibility and
a very strong chance that aid will stop flowing to those countries as they'll be seen as a failure.

And that would be disastrous for all those poor people in those countries who through no fault of
their own are going to have aid flow stopped.

So we need to be realistic as well as setting targets that are ambitious, but we need to be
realistic in those targets as well and if that means tailoring targets to a lower level then it's
important that we do that.

LISA MILLAR: The UN will tonight try to rally support and re-energise countries, assuring them that
the targets they set eight years ago are still worthy of striving for.