Africa worst at meeting anti-poverty goals


Ethiopia and Cape Verde are the only African countries on target to meet UN anti-poverty goals because poor nations have not received support promised by richer ones, a UN development chief told Reuters.

UN Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty were agreed at a United Nations summit in 2000 and set African and other poor countries targets to raise living standards by 2015.

Africa has made least progress in meeting those goals, UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark said, and only $3 billion of the $25 billion that G8 nations pledged for Africa by 2010 in 2005 had so far reached countries it was earmarked for.

“Many countries in Africa are falling behind target to achieve the goals,” said Clark. “But this is mainly because they did not get the support they require from the international community, whether that is in policy or funding.”

Clark, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, is on her first foreign tour as the programme’s head and has visited Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

“I’ve made my very first focus Africa,” she said in an interview. “This is the region where progress on the millennium development goals has been the least.” However,

the United Nations Development Programme’s $5 billion budget for this year will not be targeted by donors looking to save money during the global economic crisis, Clark said.

“Africa contributed least to the coming of the crisis but it has ended up getting the worst impact of it,” said Clark, adding that a reduction in export earnings, remittances and foreign direct investment had hit the continent hard.

Africa was thought to be largely insulated against the worst effects of the global economic crisis but has recently seen healthy growth projections slashed due to the crisis.

Clark also said that agriculture still represented the continent’s best hope to pull itself from poverty.

“If there is one thing that has to come into focus now in poverty reduction, it is agriculture,” she said. “And I don’t just mean investment in commercial agriculture. We need to see smallholder farmers getting a fair price for their produce too.”

Clark echoed calls from Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who represented Africa at April’s G20 summit of rich nations, that rich nations should not cut foreign aid during the crisis and must stop attaching economic policy conditions to it.

Rich countries should also provide finance to poorer countries to help them avoid increasing carbon emissions as they developed, she said.

The United Nations contributes about 21% of the world’s roughly $100 billion annual development aid.