European leaders call for bank tax to fund poverty battle
European leaders stepped up demands for a global financial tax on Monday as they faced mounting calls for money to pay for the Millennium Goals battle to cut extreme poverty.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero said they would press for the new tax at international summits.
The world's wealthy countries face growing pressure at the three day Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit to contribute more to the drive to eradicate poverty and improve child and maternal health.
African nations in particular are calling for more action and the West can expect little sympathy when the likes of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak on Tuesday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the struggling effort to reach eight key development goals by 2015 could still be met if world leaders provide the necessary money and political will.
The aims include cutting the more than one billion people living on less than a dollar a day, reducing by two-thirds the number of children who die before the age of five, seeking fairer trade, and spreading the Internet to the world's poor.
While spectacular progress has been made in some areas, most experts say none of the goals will be reached by the target date. The international financial crisis has cut off badly needed funding.
Sarkozy said: "We have no right to shelter behind the economic crisis as supposed grounds for doing less."
He added: "Finance has globalized, so why should we not ask finance to participate in stabilizing the world by taking a tax on each financial transaction."
Sarkozy vowed to press for a global tax when France is head of the Group of 20 and Group of Eight countries next year.
"While all developed countries are in deficit, we must find new sources of financing for the struggle against poverty, for education and for the ending of the planet's big pandemics."
Sarkozy also said that France would increase its payments to the UN fund on AIDS and malaria by 60 million euros a year to 360 million euros (470 million dollars).
The Spanish prime minister also took up the bank tax campaign. "We must launch a tax on financial transactions to complete the MDGs and my government has promised to defend them and to put them into practice. This will be at all international meetings."
In opening the summit, the UN secretary general said that world leaders must "send a strong message of hope."
Ban said that progress has been made since 2000 in increasing school attendance, expanding access to clean water and controlling deadly diseases.
"We must protect these advances, many of which are still fragile. And the clock is ticking, with much more to do."
"Recovery from the economic crisis should not mean a return to the flawed and unjust path that got us into trouble in the first place."
UN officials estimate that at least 120 billion dollars will have to be found over the next five years to hope to meet the eight goals.
Aid groups, however, say much more will be needed and have expressed doubts about the political will to meet the 2000 goals.
Politicians have also indicated some doubts.
At a meeting on the summit sidelines, Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said: "We're on track not to reach any of the development goals. We need more finance and better strategies. If we are going to mobilize more money we have to make more sure to spend it more wisely."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said at the meeting that not all the targets would be met in all countries by 2015.
Africa made increasingly strident criticism of wealthy nations.
Georges Rebelo Chukoti, Angola's secretary of state for external relations, said "The fight against poverty cannot be won only with the holding of conferences and summits to negotiate more commitments to development.
"Overcoming hunger and poverty requires primarily that we implement the international commitments we have already made."
Nigeria's Health Minister "It is important that our international partners meet their commitments today if we are to accelerate our progress towards meeting the MDGs by 2015."
US President Barack Obama will make the keynote address to the summit on Wednesday, but US officials have warned against expecting significant new sums of money.
© 2010 AFP