Dashed hopes and squandered opportunities – Summit commitments on tackling poverty fall seriously short

Published: 23 November 2005

“Leaders have dashed hopes and squandered opportunities, and empty promises cost lives,” said Kumi Naidoo of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

“Leaders have dashed hopes and squandered opportunities, and empty promises cost lives,” said Kumi Naidoo of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

Millions of campaigners around the world have expressed disappointment and dismay at the result of the UN Summit. Instead of taking an historic opportunity to take clear steps in the fight against poverty and insecurity, for the large part, leaders have instead simply reiterated promises already made.

At the Millennium Summit in 2000 leaders made ambitious promises to ‘spare no effort to free our fellow man, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected.’

Five years on the massive gap between promises and actual action remains. Global poverty levels have increased since 2000, as have inequality levels within and between countries. No amount of warm words will cover up the fact that the world leaders have failed the poor and turned a deaf ear to millions of campaigners.

What was needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and what was delivered?

  140 million campaigners demanded this action on poverty: Leaders have agreed to deliver this action on poverty:
Accountability Governments clearly account for their failure to progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, including the first goal due in 2005 - getting girls into school. Governments have manifestly failed to account for lack of progress in reaching the MDGs, including no recognition that the first education goal will not be met.
Aid All developed countries meet their 35 year old promise made at the UN in 1970 to spend 0.7% of their income on aid. No collective agreement on a timetable for when the 0.7% target will be met, instead an aspiration that rich country aid may reach 0.35% of their income by 2010. Half as much as they promised, forty years too late.
Debt Every poor country that needs their debt cancelled in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals should receive it. A recycled G8 proposal to grant partial debt cancellation to just 18 countries.
Trade That the current trade system must stop forcing poor countries to open their markets at any cost and guarantee their right to determine their own trade policies and development priorities. Vague statements of principle that sell trade liberalisation as the only option and provide no guidance on how to achieve trade justice to enable countries to overcome poverty.

The few bright spots in the summit outcome document were chiefly in the areas of women’s rights and agreement that governments have a collective ‘Responsibility to Protect’ citizens against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Governments recognised that gender equality can only be advanced if governments end impunity for violence against women; guarantee women’s rights to labour protections, property ownership, and reproductive health; and involve women in the full spectrum of peace and security efforts.

Governments also made a clear commitment to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010, affirming the commitment made at the Gleneagles G8 in July.

Contact Information

For interviews or more information, please contact:
Ciara Gaynor 646 331 6982 (UN Millennium Campaign)
Nicky Wimble 858 205 8721 (nwimble@oxfam.org.uk)
Kate Norgrove 858 205 8734 (knorgrove@gmfc.org)