Caritas Launches Campaign to Save Millennium Development Goals

A confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service groups is launching a new campaign to put pressure on governments to live up to their anti-poverty promises.

With only five years left before the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, Caritas Internationalis aims to mobilize people around the world through its "Voices Against Poverty" campaign.

The effort comes weeks ahead of the high-level MDG2010 Summit that will gather 150 world leaders at the U.N. headquarters in New York. At the three-day meeting, set to begin Sept. 20, the leaders will assess progress toward the MDGs and recommit to their pledges.

Representatives from the private sector and civil society are also expected to attend the gathering, which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "will be a crucially important opportunity to redouble our efforts to meet the Goals."

In a report earlier this year, Ban noted that a number of countries have achieved "major successes" in pursuing the eight goals through combating extreme poverty and hunger, improving school enrollment and child health, expanding access to clean water and access to HIV treatment and controlling malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

"This has happened in some of the poorest countries, demonstrating that the Millennium Development Goals are indeed achievable with the right policies, adequate levels of investment, and international support," he reported.

But Ban also noted that the progress has been uneven and, without additional efforts, several of the MDGS – agreed by the 189 U.N. member states in 2000 – are likely to be missed in many countries.

"We must not fail the billions who look to the international community to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration for a better world," Ban exhorted to world leaders. "Let us meet in September to keep the promise."

In announcing its new campaign, Caritas said just five rich countries need to meet the long-promised target of giving 0.7 percent of national income in development aid. Furthermore, the group said aid needs to double to $100 billion a year - and be more efficient, effective and fair.

"Caritas is working towards zero poverty. The Millennium Development Goals are an important milestone towards achieving that ambition," commented Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight.

"We hope that our supporters both continue and expand promotion of the MDG campaign," she added. "Falling short is not an option. Every voice counts."

According to organizers of the upcoming summit, world leaders this month are expected to undertake a comprehensive review of successes, best practices and lessons learned, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities, "leading to concrete strategies for action."

"The MDGs are achievable," they say, "but there is clearly an urgent to address challenges, acknowledge failures and come together to overcome the obstacles to their achievement."

"This will require the embrace of pioneering ideas and political will on the part of governments and their development partners," they add.

As decided nearly a decade ago, the MDGs include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing global partnership for development.

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