Representatives from international advocacy groups and financial institutions
Wednesday called on rich countries to stop paying US$1 billion per day in
subsidies to their farmers and open their markets to products from poorer countries,
providing the opportunity for impoverished farmers to sell their goods abroad
and earn higher incomes.
Ending subsidies was one of a series of demands voiced by speakers from both
governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at a public meeting in Washington,
D.C. to discuss the implementation of Millennium Development Goals, which aim
to reduce poverty and improve the lives of low-income populations around the world
by the year 2015.
"The time to act is now," said Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, head of the World Bank's
health and social protection division, urging NGOs at the meeting, organized by
the InterAction development alliance, to form partnerships with institutions like
the Bank and United Nations in pressuring rich countries to agree on a fixed timetable
for the elimination of agricultural subsidies. "[Subsidies] cost $1 billion
a day...imagine what we could do with that."
The Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon by 189 members of the United
Nations at a "Millennium Summit" held in September, 2000, are a wide-ranging and
ambitious set of objectives that aspire over the next 15 years to reduce extreme
poverty and hunger, reverse the spread of AIDS and other diseases, assure that
all children complete at least six years of primary schooling, work towards gender
equality, and significantly reduce global rates of child and maternal mortality.
Panelists advised leaders of industrialized nations to uphold their commitment
to the goals, not just by ending agricultural subsidies, but by continuing to
provide funds that support development programs in poorer countries.
The administration of President George W. Bush, in particular, has come under
fire for backing out of donor commitments in recent months, despite the creation
of a Millennium Challenge Account which would increase the amount the U.S. provides
to poor countries by $5 billion per year.
In August, Bush unexpectedly decided to block $5.1 billion in contingency
funding already approved by Congress, including nearly $200 million in emergency
funding for HIV/AIDS programs and almost $200 million more in disaster and
refugee aid for Afghanistan and other humanitarian emergencies. In July, Bush
also withheld $34 million from the UN Population Fund, which conducts reproductive
health work in dozens of developing countries.
The Bush administration has repeatedly voiced concerns that too much aid money
has been squandered in the past and that future disbursements should be tied to
guaranteed levels of transparency and accountability by governments in receiving
Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UN Development Programme, stressed that greater
political will was needed to promote concrete, well-administered programs in poor
countries and to mobilize the resources necessary from rich countries to support
"The real drive to action on the Millennium Development Goals," said Malloch
Brown, "will come from raw political power exercised by civil society and exercised
by voters at the ballot box."
The goals will also serve as a targets for measuring success, according to
Malloch Brown. Data on national progress towards the goals will enable citizens
to hold their governments accountable for spending decisions.
Taking a lead in accountability, the senior advisor for the Millennium Challenge
Account at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced later
on Wednesday that the organization would "begin monitoring and tracking all its
investments through the lens of the Millennium Development Goals," and would open
to public scrutiny all projects and spending.
Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net