U.N. MDG Summit Draws $16 Billion in Pledges

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals summit this past week was praised by its organizer for resulting in a possible $16 billion boost in new contributions and commitments.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference after the event Thursday that officials must still verify the $16 billion total, but that the "expression of global commitment would be all the more remarkable because it comes against a backdrop of financial crisis."

"I think we all can agree that this year's High-Level Event on the MDGs has exceeded our most optimistic expectations," Ban told reporters. "I thank all who joined in making it possible."

Distribution of the $16 billion would reportedly include $4.5 billion to put 24 million more children in school by 2010 by way of the Education for All campaign; $1.6 billion to bolster food security; $3 billion to launch the Malaria Action Plan; $2 billion for issues related to child mortality and maternal health; almost half a billion dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as well as pledges to support national health plans and access to clean water, sanitation, and education.

While news of the pledges was widely accepted, some development and relief agencies were quick to urge for more to be done with the half-way mark to the MDGs' 2015 deadline having passed just recently.

"New money is welcome but is limited unless we tackle the root causes of poverty," expressed Joanne Green of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, the official overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, in a statement. "Aid plays an important role but it won't solve world poverty and the MDGs themselves are the absolute minimum we should achieve by 2015."

Since 189 U.N. member states and at least 23 international organizations adopted the MDGs in 2001, progress towards reaching the eight international development goals by the year 2015 has reportedly been uneven. While some countries have achieved many of the targets, others are not on track to realize any.

Prior to the MDG review summit, prominent evangelical leaders had publicly called on the U.S. government and presidential candidates to support stronger commitment to poverty reduction in the world.

Leaders included megachurch pastor Joel Hunter of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla.; Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Association; and the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Thursday's summit, which was held alongside the General Assembly's annual meeting, featured three roundtable discussions on poverty and hunger, education and health, and environmental sustainability.

U.N. general secretary Ban has proposed to hold a MDG review summit in 2010 – an idea that has been met with favorable responses.

On Thursday, the U.N. chief said his first hope is to "raise and galvanize political will and mobilize more resources, until we will be able to claim that we hit the target of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015."

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