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At the eve of the session of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, dedicated to the issues of development cooperation, Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, who will chair that session, made the following declaration on the issue of the end of poverty:
"Raising this question is more than relevant, a few months from the beginning of the United Nations Summit in September, which is to take stock of the progress achieved in the area of development since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000.
At present, we are far from reaching the goals set 5 years ago, and this particularly applies to Africa. Indeed, with the Millennium Development Goals, the world has committed to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa 46% of the population still fights for survival with less than 1 dollar of daily income, while child and maternal mortality rates remain very high, and diseases such as HIV/AIDS kill thousands every day.
Other figures on education, gender equality or sustainable development are hardly more encouraging and examples could be multiplied. Reducing poverty is also an imperative to establishing and preserving international security in the years to come.
Nonetheless, the mere reference to figures shouldn’t obliterate the fact that behind each number there is a living person with his/her destiny. It is this person’s future that we should have in mind when striving to achieve our common goal of poverty eradication.
Today the fight against poverty cannot be won on rhetoric alone. Concrete action is needed. Yet, confronted with the latest findings, some could be tempted to suggest – and rightly so- that it is not a matter of action, but of reaction.
How to articulate this reaction or response? That is the question that the European Union and the international community are bound to answer without delay.
To end poverty it is, with no doubt, necessary to improve the effectiveness of aid and, in this respect, I commend the results of the Paris Forum that constitute an important step forward on the aid harmonization agenda.
To end poverty it is, with no doubt, necessary for all actors involved to improve governance and to fight corruption
To end poverty, it is with no doubt, necessary to ensure that the Doha Trade Round becomes a true development round and that the Hong Kong ministerial conference of December this year has a successful outcome in this sense.
But to end poverty, it is above all necessary to increase, and even double, the amount of Official Development Aid (ODA). I challenge the arguments of those who claim that improved good governance of all and improved quality of aid would exempt us from increasing its volume. I also challenge the arguments of those who uphold that, in order to meet our goal to end poverty, reform and/or further liberalization of world trade will be enough.
The issue is not 'Aid Effectiveness or Aid Volume?.' The answer is 'Aid Effectiveness and Aid Volume.'
The issue is not 'Trade or Aid?.' The answer is 'Trade and Aid.'
Without a twofold increase of official aid volumes, we shall fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals or, in the best case scenario, meet them by 2049 or 2064. Such targets, considered against the background of the existing development needs, are in themselves truly exasperating.
The European Council of last December 16th has confirmed the support of the European Union for the Millennium Development Goals and the necessity of progress towards their achievement, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The European Union already provides, on its own account, more than 55% of all global ODA. Four of its Member countries have already attained a level of ODA of 0.7% and above of their Gross National Income (GNI). Six other Member States are on track to meet this target before 2015.
At the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the Union and its Member States committed to an average ODA level of 0.39% of GNI by 2006. We are on track to fulfill this commitment. At the end of May, the Council of Ministers of the EU shall decide on the recent proposals of the European Commission that consist in setting a new average ODA target of 0.56% in 2010 before meeting the 0.7% target in 2015. Specific targets have been proposed for the ten new Member States. Thus, at medium term, the EU and its Member States shall be capable of increasing the amount of their development aid by some 20 billion Euros yearly.
Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, has stated to be particularly encouraged by the efforts of the EU towards setting ambitious goals in the field of ODA.
The stage has been set. The development actors are expected to deliver. The poorest people can no longer rely on vague or vain promises. They need commitments leading to concrete action. Can we rise to the occasion? We shall know the answer on May 24th, when the Development Ministers of the European Union will have to decide on the minimum ODA criteria in view of the 2010 target.
It is simply an issue of international solidarity.
If this expression of international solidarity is still to bear a meaning, it is right now, and not tomorrow, that the EU has to take action and take its part of responsibility in the fight against poverty in the years to come.
These are the issues at stake, these are the challenges that we face. The end of poverty is the price of our success.
Only together can we face the challenges of the future. Let’s do it together then. Let’s enter without delay in the era that marks the end of poverty.
Let the end of poverty become a reality!"
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