Rich countries reneging on aid promises for poor-UN

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By Louis Charbonneau

The world's wealthiest countries are reneging on promises to boost development aid, threatening U.N. targets for drastically reducing poverty by 2015, according to a new U.N. report released on Thursday.

The report on progress on the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) said there has been improvement in providing debt relief to the world's poorest countries but not when it came to fulfilling trade and development commitments.

Donors will need to increase their development assistance by $18 billion a year between now and 2010 if aid is to reach the level of $50 billion per year as agreed at the 2005 Group of Eight (G8) summit in Gleneagles, the report said.

But even this would only bring development aid up to half the level the United Nations has targeted in its plan to reduce by 50 percent the number of people in the world living on less than $1 a day.

"This report is a wake-up call," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who set up the task force that prepared the report.

"It provides a valuable snapshot of where the global community is on track in fulfilling its commitments, and where we need to strengthen our efforts for the second half of the MDG timetable," he said.

The report confirms what aid agencies and individual U.N. officials have been saying for months — that the world is in danger of failing to meet the U.N. development goals.

Overall, donor countries have increased development aid since 2000, but in both 2006 and 2007 assistance levels declined by 4.7 and 8.4 percent respectively, the report said.

It also described the collapse of the Doha round of global trade negotiations as a "major setback for developing countries seeking to benefit from expanding global trade opportunities in order to reduce poverty."

The Doha round was launched in 2001 to meet the U.N. goal of establishing an "open, equitable, rule-based, predictable and nondiscriminatory multilateral trading and financial system."

The United Nations agreed on the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. In addition to reducing poverty and improving trade conditions, the goals focus on reducing child mortality, fighting diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and other problems that plague the developing world.

World leaders will discuss the U.N. development goals at a special meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.