U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a $40-billion plan Wednesday to help improve child and maternal health – one of least improved areas out of the eight addressed by the Millennium Development Goals.
Funding from the plan is expected to go toward saving the lives of 16 million women and children over the next five years. Governments, foundations, businesses and non-governmental organizations contributed to the funding, the United Nations reported as this week's high-level MDG2010 Summit was coming to an end.
Notably, however, four times as much money, or $169 billion, is actually needed to save the lives of 16 million women and children, according to Robert Orr, a senior aide to Ban. Orr told reporters that the initial $40 billion in pledges is expected to bring in more funding in the years ahead.
Furthermore, even with the new plan, this year's U.N. Summit was not considered highly productive by aid agencies. Some said they were skeptical of big announcements and will look to see how the pledged funds will actually come in. Others pointed out the lack of clear funding and plans to tackle poverty.
The three-day summit was an "expensive side-show that offered everything to everyone and nothing to no one," complained Joanna Kerr, chief executive of the anti-poverty group ActionAid, to Reuters.
Christian groups had hoped the Sept. 20-22 summit would accelerate progress on the MDGs – eight social development and poverty alleviation goals that governments worldwide committed to fulfilling by 2015.
Established in 2000, the MDGs aim to improve the lives of a billion people living under $1.25 a day by halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, providing universal primary education and reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate, among other goals.
Ahead of this week's U.N. meeting, leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance, the Salvation Army, the Anglican Communion, Micah Challenge and Sojourners sent a letter to the United States, the African Union and the European Union calling for a "clear and strong commitment" to the pledges made to fulfill the MDGs.
"Now is the time to advance bold new plans that ensure we do not fail to meet the Goals, especially those that are most off-track," they stated. "With five years remaining until the deadline for the Goals is reached, now is the time for tenacious leadership."
U.K.-based relief charity Tearfund, in a separate statement, urged world leaders to consider churches as "essential partners" in their plans to meet the Goals.
"We must embrace the opportunities that churches and faith communities bring in working with poor communities at grassroots levels to transform their own lives forever," said Paul Cook, Tearfund's advocacy director.
This year, 140 countries attended the U.N. Summit on the MDGs. In 2000, 189 U.N. member states had agreed to fulfill the MDGs by 2015.