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Focus on poverty, says Cameron

16 November 2012

THIS generation has a unique opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty, the Prime Minister has said.

Mr Cameron was speaking in his capacity as co-chairman of the High Level Panel convened by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to advise him on the global development agenda after 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire.

At the end of three days of discussions in London, Mr Cameron said on Friday that the principal aim of the panel should be "to focus on finishing the job of ending extreme poverty. . . That is something politicians have been talking about for a while, but, for the first time, I believe this generation really has the opportunity to do it."

He emphasised the importance of focusing on "the 'golden thread' of the conditions that help move people and countries from poverty to wealth: the absence of conflict and corruption, the presence of the rule of law, property rights, strong institutions".

The chief executive of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, said on Thursday of last week that achieving the eradication of extreme poverty required "a commitment to reaching the very poorest children, often discriminated against because they are girls or because of caste".

A report, Born Equal, published by the charity on Wednesday of last week, stated that 70 per cent of the world's poorest people lived in middle-income countries, and argued that "tackling inequality is one of the most effective ways to accelerate progress towards eradicating global poverty."

Christian Aid echoed concerns about inequality, citing research that found that the proportion of malnourished children under five was 76.1 per cent higher in the Quilombola community of Brazil than in the population at large. Its briefing for the High Level Panel meeting also called on the post-2015 global development framework to be "underpinned by sustainability". The UN Rio+20 summit held in June ( News, 29 June) agreed a plan to set global sustainable development goals, which may be combined with those that emerge from the High Level Panel.

On Thursday of last week, the Church of England's international affairs adviser, Dr Charles Reed, said that the Panel must ensure that the voices of those directly affected by poverty were heard and valued. "If we are to learn anything from the way MDGs were negotiated, it is that, if the post-MDG development agenda is to command widespread legitimacy, it cannot be defined by a group of experts and technocrats working behind closed doors in a way that leaves unchallenged a model of development centred on the concerns of donors."

Last week's meeting in London was the first of three. Subsequent meetings in Liberia and Indonesia will focus on national development and global partnerships.

Monitoring of progress towards achieving the MDGs, set in 2000, shows patchy results. For example, the target to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water was met in 2010, and girls have reached parity with boys in primary-school enrolment, but the target to reduce child mortality by two-thirds is unlikely to be met.

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