Sarkozy says banks must help meet poverty goals
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday called for a global tax on financial transactions at a Millennium Goals summit where the UN chief led pleas for a new drive to cut extreme poverty.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the struggling effort to help the most vulnerable populations could still be met if world leaders provide the necessary money, aid and political will.
About 140 heads of state or government are to speak at the three-day meeting aiming to rejuvenate the campaign to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) first launched at a UN summit in 2000.
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 aims will be reached by the target date of 2015. The international financial crisis has cut off badly needed funding.
Underscoring the pessimistic tone of some observers was a "maternal death clock" set up in Times Square by rights group Amnesty International, marking one death each minute for a woman during childbirth.
Sarkozy said the major powers could not hide behind the international crisis to avoid past commitments.
"We have no right to shelter behind the economic crisis as supposed grounds for doing less," he said.
"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 said. He 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).
In opening the summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that world leaders must "send a strong message of hope."
The UN chief 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." He said world leaders must stay "true to your commitment to end the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty."
"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," he said.
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, which also include combating disease, protecting the environment and boosting education.
Aid groups, however, say much more will be needed and have expressed doubts about the political will of the leaders at the summit to stick to the 2000 goals.
Even politicians have indicated some doubts. At a meeting on the sidelines of the summit, 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 said that not all the targets would be met in all countries by 2015.
"It's not just a question of money, we must also ask: 'What are we going to do with this money.' Only those with good governance can guarantee that the development will go well."
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.
The volatile mix of leaders was highlighted in speeches at the summit.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales said that the "pillage" of natural resources in poorer countries had to be stopped.
He also proposed a bank just for southern nations to break free from dependency on the International Monetary Fund, which he said was dominated by the industrial powers.
© 2010 AFP