Ideas to Action:

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Remarks Given to the UN Roundtable on Poverty and Hunger

September 29, 2008

Download the speech (PDF, 1MB)

At the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, CGD president Nancy Birdsall addressed heads of state, foreign ministers, and other leaders in New York City on September 25, 2008, at the UN’s High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The event focused on a review of progress toward the goals mid-way to the MDG target date of 2015.

UN Conference Room 4

Birdsall led a roundtable discussion on poverty and hunger chaired by the Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika. Her remarks focused the eighth Millenium Development Goal, which concerns rich countries’ commitments to help developing countries reach the seven other goals. Birdsall urged rich countries to help put teeth in Goal 8 by restating their commitments in concrete, measurable terms and by agreeing to annually report on their progress toward their commitments, just as poor countries are made to account for theirs.

From Birdsall’s remarks:

“How ironic that the United Nations carefully assesses and reports on the progress of developing countries against the MDGs, but has no measures or indicators and no periodic official reports on the progress of the rich countries against their commitments to those goals!

"At the moment the only concrete measure of rich country commitment is the proportion of GDP dedicated to aid. Yet the quality of aid is on average so poor—because it is tied, fragmented, uncoordinated and unaligned with developing country programs and budgets, and almost entirely input-based instead of outcome-oriented—that the quantity from any one donor is a poor measure of even that donor’s own real contribution. And of course aid itself is only one measure of a rich country’s overall commitment to development and the war on poverty.”