UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A United Nations summit on Tuesday urged intensified efforts to meet U.N. goals to drastically reduce poverty and hunger by 2015, saying aid alone would not pull countries out of poverty.
The meeting of 140 leaders from rich and poor countries is reviewing progress towards achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed 10 years ago to cut poverty.
While the world looks likely to halve poverty and hunger five years from now, a United Nations report said countries were behind on other goals that cover improved child education, child mortality and maternal health, combating diseases including AIDS, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment.
The goals have been set back by the global financial and economic crisis, which has forced some rich donors to cut development assistance as they try to trim record budget gaps and focus on job losses at home.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said countries should not rely indefinitely on handouts and had to take charge of their own development and ensure resources are properly used.
She said economic and social progress was “unthinkable” without good governance and human rights.
“The primary responsibility for development lies with the governments of the developing countries,” she told the special U.N. Assembly session. “It is in their hands whether aid can be effective. Therefore, support for good governance is as important as aid itself.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said meeting poverty goals rested with governments although he noted that helping the worst-off countries was only possible through coordinated support by the entire international community.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe blamed “illegal and debilitating” sanctions for widespread poverty in his country.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on state firms and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens of his associates nearly 10 years ago after a violent re-election campaign and often violent commercial farm seizures.
While the formation of a unity government in Zimbabwe has led to improvements in its economy and eased tensions with some donors, the country remains largely an international outcast.
“As a result of these punitive measures and despite our turn-around economic plan, Zimbabwe has been prevented from making a positive difference in the lives of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the destitute among its citizens,” he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the gathering capitalism was on the verge of death and it was time to create a new economic system.
“Now that the discriminatory order of capitalism and the hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and are getting close to their end, all-out participation in upholding justice and prosperous inter-relations is essential,” he said.
“The world is in need of an encompassing and of course just and human order in light of which the rights of all are preserved and peace and security are safeguarded.”
Several speakers said the goals will not be achieved unless more is done to improve the lives of poor women.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, called for more investments in sectors that help women, including agriculture and small-scale enterprises.
“As we renew our resolve in the year 2010 we must recognise the need for inclusive economic growth ... rapid, sustained growth that creates jobs especially for youth and that help the poor and in sectors that help women,” she said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) in financing to help Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries lagging in the MDGs and urged other donors not to use the economic crisis as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities to the poor.
“The international community still has a long way to before the millennium goals are reached,” he said.
“Achieving the Millennium Development Goals is not an option. It is not a luxury. It is both an obligation and an investment. The world cannot thrive on imbalances,” he added.
Additional reporting by Helen Popper; Editing by Jerry Norton