by Stefania Bianchi
(IPS) -- Development groups have slammed the UN summit outcome document agreed in New York Tuesday as failing to rescue key commitments on poverty and the Millennium Development Goals.
Originally billed the 'UN Millennium +5 summit,' the earlier objective of this week's gathering of world leaders in New York was to agree a new comprehensive framework to eradicate poverty.
Shortly before the summit a 'core group' of ambassadors from more than 30 countries met to finalize a draft package of reforms for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after weeks of wrangling. A meeting of the full, 191-member UN General Assembly endorsed it Wednesday morning.
The agreement was intended to spur the world community into a new era of collective security and aggressive action on global poverty and environmental protection. Instead, negotiators had to gut many of the commitments laid out earlier by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in order to reach a deal.
The 35-page document provides for UN operations reforms, commitments by the richer nations to aid underdeveloped countries, the establishment of a new human rights council, and the creation of a peace-building commission to help stabilize countries emerging from armed civil conflict.
But plans to include disarmament and non-proliferation in the draft document were dropped during negotiations, and reform of the 15-member UN Security Council was deferred for later discussion.
Annan called the omissions of non-proliferation and disarmament a "real disgrace," but said he hoped world leaders would take up these issues up at the summit.
Many civil society groups say the text falls short on development. They are describing the summit as a failure the day it began (Wednesday).
The international development agency ActionAid says that although the document affirms the existing MDGs that set timetables to reduce poverty and urges countries to make concrete efforts to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of their gross national product for foreign aid, it does not commit countries that have not made progress into taking action.
It says that while some leaders will try to claim victory after the summit, the document is largely a summary of commitments agreed earlier.
"The heart of the document -- the actions needed to implement the commitments -- is missing. A genuine opportunity to set an agenda for the 21st century has been thrown away," ActionAid said in a statement Wednesday. "This summit has produced a half-baked plan that the world's poor will find difficult to stomach. Success has been redefined as the mere inclusion of text on the goals. For a summit that was originally devis0.ed to review international progress on the goals, this is both unacceptable and bizarre," Patrick Watt, senior policy officer at ActionAid told IPS Wednesday. "In New York's fashion week, the nations' leaders are parading on the UN catwalk, claiming a fresh design to fight poverty. But, to millions of people in the developing world, they are wearing the emperor's new clothes," ActionAid policy director Louise Hilditch told IPS.
Christiane Overkamp, secretary-general of the Cooperation Internationale pour le Developpement et la Solidarite (CIDSE), an alliance of European and North American Catholic development organizations, said the world's "faceless" decision-makers had failed to keep their word. "Instead they have just rearranged their shop-window of past promises."
Overkamp fears that as a result of the watered-down document, the summit will not take any path-breaking decisions.
"This grave failure is not only a defeat of all our campaigning efforts, it is a tragedy for our generation. It will mean that the world does not have the political will to prevent the human tragedy of millions having to needlessly fight for the basic means of human survival," she said.
The aid agency Oxfam accused several countries of undermining the deal, but cautiously welcomed the news that world leaders at the summit were poised to endorse a historic measure to help prevent future genocides.
"Although the UN summit has so far agreed little on poverty reduction and nothing on small arms, important and significant progress has been made on the 'responsibility to protect' civilians from genocide and similar atrocities," Oxfam said Wednesday.
"Amid the overall disappointment about the summit so far, we must find time to celebrate the one historic achievement," said Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam in New York.
Luis Morago, head of Oxfam in Brussels, urged European leaders to look at some of the weaker commitments covering poverty reduction and arms control, and to convince their partners to go further.
"In past months, one of the champions was the European Union. The push by Europe, Canada and others made a huge difference to get this agreement signed in New York. It's that type of political drive that the civil society expects its leaders to have, as the EU used all its muscles to convince others to move in the right direction," he said.
September 14, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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