The recent three-day world summit at the UN could barely agree on “modest reforms”, but major issues of poverty, development and security remained largely unaddressed, writes Mohd. Zeyaul Haque

At the largest-ever gathering of world leaders (more than 150) at the UN last week that coincided with the 60th anniversary of the world body a 35-page document was endorsed that left crucial issues of poverty and security largely unaddressed. However, the leaders agreed on a peace commission to help countries emerge from war and facilitate transition to peace and reconstruction.

The document, among its major achievements, has provision for prevention of genocides like in Rwanda or Bosnia Herzegovina. There is also provision for setting up a Human Rights Council. Earlier, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hailed a protocol on UN intervention in genocide and reaffirmation of commitment to reduce poverty.

The summit had its critics, too. Venezuela called the summit document grotesque and illegal, while Cuba said it was an “unforgivable sham”. Canada and Indonesia were also openly dissatisfied. “Terrorism” is a major issue for important powers today, but an internationally accepted definition remained as elusive as ever. Canada registered its “profound disappointment” at the Human Rights Council not being purposeful enough.

The agenda to reshape the world body to enable it to meet challenges of the 21st century needs far more work and some consensus on things like expansion of the Security Council permanent membership left a lot for work later. It is clear that new permanent members of the Security Council will have to do without veto power even though in future Africa could get representation and countries like India and Japan get a seat each at the high table.

The plan to reform the UN Human Rights Commission was referred to the General Assembly, which began the next day and took up some of the issues left out at the summit. The document also covers democracy, disaster response and sustainable development. Anti-poverty campaigner and musician Sir Bob Geldof called it a scandal because it had not given enough thought to Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which formed the basic reason for the summit.

Each developing country was asked to adopt by 2006 and begin to implement a national development strategy to meet the MDG by 2015, which include reducing poverty by 50 percent. Less developed countries and regions have fallen behind on MDG, but nothing substantial was achieved at the summit on this score.

Indifference of the donor community has been greatly responsible for many countries falling behind on water and sanitation, which are linked to MDG. According to the UN, 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water while 2.6 billion do not have adequate sanitation. According to the Wateraid, this part of the MDG would be met only in 2026, instead of 2015. This means 10 million extra child deaths from water-borne diseases.

What is more distressing is that Africa would be meeting these goals in 2105 (90 years behind schedule), which means 100 million more child deaths in that continent. All this shows that there is a need for greater focus on these issues as well as greater generosity from the donor countries.g

Go Back