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March 25, 2002

Forum sets goals for fighting global poverty

Kay Torrance is communications coordinator at the Carter Center.

At a high-level forum last month at the Carter Center, leaders and representatives of developing countries and international development organizations called attention to the lack of progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty.

The goals, endorsed by 189 countries at the September 2000 United Nations (UN) Millennium General Assembly in New York, call for extreme poverty to be reduced worldwide by half by 2015 and to provide education, improve health and preserve the environment.

World leaders who convened for the Development Cooperation Forum Feb. 21–22 included President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, UN Development Programme Administrator Mark Malloch Brown and the presidents of Guyana, Mali and Mozambique. They noted that although more than 1 billion people live in abject poverty, there is a lack of political energy in rich countries to help their poorer neighbors.

“The forum called attention to the urgent need to move beyond rhetoric and put into action a plan in which resources are fully committed,” Carter said. “The consensus of nations on how to fight global poverty has never been as strong as it is today.”

Citing the increasing interdependence of developed and underdeveloped countries, the leaders said the wealthiest countries must commit greater financial resources through more aid and debt relief and create greater access to markets. On their part, the underdeveloped countries recognized the need to take bold steps to reduce corruption and use aid more effectively.

“I do think we have a tremendous amount of self-interest in increasing development assistance,” said Rubin, who co-chaired the conference with Carter. “Poverty can foment hopelessness, resentment and anger, which in turn can lead to instability and even terrorism.”

The Carter Center’s Global Development Initiative (GDI), which hosted the forum, will continue to track these issues and work with its four partner countries—Albania, Guyana, Mali and Mozambique—to develop comprehensive National Development Strategies (NDS).

After an invitation from a government, GDI brings together civil leaders, business leaders, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations to contribute to an NDS. This diverse input is crucial to foster long-term democratic progress and sustainable development. Such collaboration is likely to result in better, more appropriate development policies because they are based on the knowledge and experience of those most affected by development problems.

“A National Development Strategy strengthens democracy and respect for human rights by reinforcing democratic institutions and supporting a more participatory, cooperative and democratic culture,” Carter said. “When citizens have a greater stake in formulating the NDS and feel that it is their own, they view their democratic institutions with a greater sense of legitimacy.”