* Progress on meeting U.N. poverty goals by 2015 uneven
* France, Spain, Greece urge tax to raise poverty funding
* Bhutan proposes making happiness a development goal
(Adds details from speeches, quotes, background)
By Lesley Wroughton and Helen Popper
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 20 U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon pressed debt-ridden donor countries on Monday not
to cut aid to the poor despite their budgetary woes.
"We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor,"
Ban told 140 leaders at the start of a three-day summit to
review progress in meeting U.N. poverty goals by 2015.
During their speeches, leaders pledged to step up efforts
to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- agreed 10
years ago. But, as expected, they offered little in the way of
new resources to help the world's poorest countries.
The United Nations agrees the world will meet the goals to
halve global poverty and hunger by 2015 but is behind on other
goals which cover improving child education, child mortality
and maternal health; combating diseases including AIDS, and
promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability.
Rising incomes in emerging economic powers like China is
the main reason for progress in tackling poverty there, while
population growth has set back efforts in Africa and India.
Highlights from the U.N. summit: [nN20260490]
Factbox on the Millennium Development Goals[nN20260425]
Also see Reuters Alertnet blog:
Clinton Global Initiative meetings [nN20544973]
The World Bank said it would increase spending on education
by $750 million over the next five years. [nN20274673]
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose
government cut development aid in the face of a fiscal crisis
and high unemployment, said countries were grappling with
difficult decisions as they try to revive economic growth.
He urged the world to consider other ways to fund programs
that tackle poverty, hunger and climate changes.
"We need to make more effort to look for alternative
financing sources ... that aren't as vulnerable as the budgets
of developed countries when faced with crises like the one
we're seeing today," he said.
Both he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for
some form of financial tax to raise money to combat poverty, an
idea already rejected by the International Monetary Fund and
many Group of 20 major developed and developing nations.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Greece's severe
fiscal crisis, which prompted an IMF bailout, showed no country
was immune to job losses, pandemics or the "vagaries of the
"Our recent experience has given us real insight into how
one small country's problems can ricochet around the world," he
said, urging donors to explore other ways to raise development
funds, including through a financial tax or green bonds.
ACTIONS TO MAKE AID EFFECTIVE
Amid the high-minded talk about poverty and budgets,
Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley proposed the addition of
happiness as the ninth MDG goal.
"Since happiness is the ultimate desire of every citizen it
must be the purpose of development to create enabling
conditions for happiness," he said.
Donors demanded more work to ensure aid is not wasted on
programs that do not help the poor. Anti-poverty campaigners
said donors should be held accountable for the aid they have
promised and failed to deliver.
British International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell
called for a plan to track progress in meeting the poverty
goals over the remaining five years of the MDGs.
He argued for more transparency, better donor coordination
and a special focus on helping women and infants.
"We want a proper agenda for action over each of the next
five years, not a load of blah-blah and big sums of money being
thrown about, although big sums of money are important," he
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chief
Rajiv Shah told Reuters the United States would press for a new
development approach that highlighted economic growth,
accountability and tackling corruption.
With U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 2 focusing on the
economy and job losses, Washington is pressed to show Americans
that their tax dollars are being put to good use. [nN19239202]
Vietnam and Bolivia said poverty could not be beaten as
long as some countries continued to benefit from skewed
international economic and trading systems.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said aid would not
work unless countries were allowed to design their own
anti-poverty programs tailored to local conditions.
"Of course we need more money. More money matters. But aid
money will not deliver concrete results unless we pay more
attention to the essential idea of local ownership."
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn, Patrick Worsnip,
Arshad Mohammed and Edith Honan; editing by Cynthia Osterman
and Christopher Wilson)