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FfD and children

January 1, 2002 · 

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Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP

            EVERY DAY this year, 30,000 children will lose the fight they are waging for life. Seven million children will perish before reaching their first birthday, and over ten million will die before the age of 5. Of those children winning their fight for survival, 113 million have no access to primary education, 60% of them girls. Millions more do not complete the five years of schooling needed to develop the basic literacy and math skills that would last them a lifetime.
This is the face of global poverty today. It is an affront to our basic belief in the equal worth and inherent potential of every human life. It is a challenge to the values at the core of our character.
Ensuring a better future for the world’s children means not only putting the needs of the young and the poor at the centre of social policy, but also at the centre of financial decision-making, economic planning and international diplomatic action.
Our starting point for action is the United Nations development goal to halve the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015, including

1. Reducing by two-thirds infant and child mortality rates;

2. Ensuring that all children complete five years of good quality basic education; and

3. Closing the gender gap between boys and girls at all levels of education.

International Concensus

But simply setting targets is not enough. Too often, the world has set development goals and failed to meet them. That is why we must build an international consensus amongst governments, NGOS, multilateral institutions and the business sector and demand new and concrete commitments from all. We must all be ready to reshape our policies, adjust our expenditure, and refashion our priorities so that the actions of each of us make possible the attainment of the goals set by all of us.

In particular, there are two areas on which action is imperative: health and education.

A child’s health should not be determined by a family’s-or a country’s-wealth. We well know the human and economic costs of poor health and infectious disease in developing countries. In the developing world, 150 million children are underweight, with their mental health and physical development at severe risk. Diseases like malaria and tuberculosis kill millions of children each year; in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, half of all I 5-year-olds are expected to die of Al DS.

Where developing countries have adopted strategies to tackle these problems, they have yielded positive results. And there is more that they can do to reduce disease and despair. Yet there is also a natural limit imposed by their ailing economies. So it is vital that developed countries take action, and take action together.

Unique partnership

In the UK and elsewhere, new tax incentives have been created to accelerate research on diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. In addition, the UK is leading in the development -with the United Nations, other governments, international agencies and foundations-of a unique partnership: a Global Health Fund to mobilise resources for the prevention, management and care of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. The UK is contributing US$200 million to the fund, and globally the total of commitments already exceeds US$1.8 billion.

But it is essential that pharmaceutical companies join us, responding to the challenge we face by developing and delivering affordable treatments for the world’s poor. Quite simply, we cannot save lives and raise hopes without their commitment.

We know that education-and especially girls’ education-is a precondition of both personal and national progress. It is the very best antipoverty strategy, the best economic development programme.

Progress is being made. In the past decade, primary enrolments have increased at twice the rate of the 1980s.But the challenge remains great. Almost half of all African children and one-quarter of those in Southeast Asia are being denied a basic education. Public expenditure per pupil in the 19 least developed countries is less than US$40, compared with US$200 per pupil in developing countries, and US$5,300 in more advanced economies. So again it is vital that developed countries take action together.

Universal primary education

Action must begin with aid. Since 1997, the UK has increased its commitments on education by US$850 million. And this year-in Her Majesty the Queen’s jubilee year-we will create a fund to speed the introduction of universal primary education in the Commonwealth.

But no aid budget, and no one nation, can achieve enough on its own. The cost of meeting our targets is not huge-recent studies estimate that the additional cost of achieving universal primary education could be in the region of US$ I 0 billion a year-and the effect of these additional resources would be dramatic. Developed countries must work together to mobilise additional resources to fill the funding gap that amounts to less than one quarter of one percent of the OECD countries’ combined GDP Similarly, developing countries must reprioritise their own budgets to meet part of the funding gap and ensure long-term sustainability. We must recognise the scale of the challenge we face and, working together, respond on an equal scale.

We know that education is the best antipoverty strategy,- the best economic development programme.

The Millennium Summit in September 2000 brought together more world leaders than ever before, and sought to find common ground must now identify the concrete steps for progress on development. We necessary to finance the achievement of our development goals, recognising that this will require a coherent approach involving a number of elements:

Faster, wider and deeper debt relief so that money paid by the poorest countries for debt today can be money spent on education and health tomorrow;

Increased and untied aid commitments;

Growth through trade, as one of the best means of lifting people up; * Increased flows of FDI and improvements in the environment for private capital, especially in low-income countries;

Community-driven poverty reduction strategies at the heart of economic policy in developing countries;

Increased domestic saving, investment and entrepreneurship in developing counties; improving the access of the poor-particularly women-to land, property and credit markets; and

A stronger voice for developing countries in the international system, by sustained capacity building on an institution-by-institution basis.

Much-needed progress

It is critical that the UN Financing for Development conference to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002, achieves a successful outcome-and makes much needed progress in mobilising the resources that are essential to meeting our shared development goals.

It is a vital test of our progress that a mother in sub-Saharan Africa will give birth without transmitting HIV to her child, and will herself live long enough to nurture the child; that a child in South Asia will have sustenance and shelter; and that a young man or woman will gain the tools and skills and education it will take not only to live, but to thrive, in the 21st century.[END]

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