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Un especial de Tierramérica: Cumbre Mundial sobre el Desarrollo Sostenible,
Johannesburgo, 26 de agosto - 4 de septiembre 2002
 
   
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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 be “accountability”.

“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 these meetings?”

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 and prosperity”.


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