Sachs: Rich Nations Hang Tight to Purses
The Money Tree Drying Up
By Thalif Deen
A senior U.N. adviser yesterday blasted Western donors for
reneging on their promises to assist poorer nations, even
as a longstanding proposal for a ‘World Solidarity Fund
to Eradicate Poverty’ was in danger of being rejected
by the summit.
“It will be a great disappointment if the summit does
not come up with new financial commitments to help fight poverty,”
Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
told Terra Viva.
Sachs also pointed out that at the U.N. Millennium Summit
in September 2000, 189 world leaders made specific commitments
and pledged time-limited goals to fight hunger, disease and
environmental degradation by the year 2015. But the promises
have fallen far short of their targets.
If there is a single word to describe WSSD, he said, it would
“We need money -- and lots of money to meet these goals.
But this money,” he said, “is not forthcoming.”
Responding to a question, he also said that WSSD will be
viewed as a meaningless exercise if it does not come up with
increased funding from donors. The international community
needs new commitments, “not a recycling of old commitments”.
And if U.N. conferences are being dismissed as “talking
shops”, he said, donor nations have to take the blame
for it. That description, Sachs added, is a self-fulfilling
prophecy of the rich and the powerful. He said there are people
who are asking: “What is the United Nations doing holding
Sachs, who is also professor of sustainable development at
New York’s prestigious Columbia University, singled
out the United States for special criticism because Washington
was abandoning the global war against poverty and gearing
itself for a potential new war in the Middle East.
The world’s richest country with a 10-trillion-dollar
economy, the United States has already decided it will not
pledge any new financial resources at the summit.
Asked whether the U.S. would put new money on the table at
WSSD, Andrew Nastasios, head of the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), would only list the several U.S. initiatives
with and without private sector participation, specifically
in the fields of housing and water.
“You can sit down and add all these things up,”
he told reporters. “But new financial commitments should
be really made in the field, not at international conferences.”
Since the Millennium Summit, the 133 developing nations of
the Group of 77 have also been pushing for a global fund to
eradicate poverty. The proposal, which has been kicked around
the U.N. system since then, has re-surfaced in the draft plan
of action for WSSD.
According to Article II paragraph 6 (b) of the draft document,
the proposed voluntary fund is aimed at eradicating poverty
and promoting social and human development in developing nations.
Lowell Flanders, senior U.N. advisor tracking WSSD negotiations,
said the proposal is still in “brackets” signifying
lack of consensus. “They have not agreed on that. It
is still being discussed.”
Sachs said the total gross national product (GNP) of rich
nations was about 25 trillion U.S. dollars annually. If a
single penny from each dollar is set aside for the world’s
poor, there could be a 25-billion dollar global fund to fight
poverty and disease in the world’s poorer nations --
and save eight billion lives.
By providing increased financial resources, he said, rich
nations will also be doing more for themselves than for the
poor because they need “to live in a world of stability