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 UN Poor Nations Need More Aid

 
 By: Niko Price

The Washington Post, March 21, 2002

 

 

Monterrey, Mexico Speaking to presidents and prime ministers from six continents, world leaders called on rich nations Thursday to increase aid to the world's poorest, saying the developing world would become a breeding ground for terrorism without more help.

"To speak of development is to speak also of a strong and determined fight against terrorism," said Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, who excused himself from the U.N. summit on poverty to return to Lima after a car bomb in front of the U.S. Embassy killed at least nine people.

"Global security is closely tied to the health of the world economy," Toledo said. "Insecurity and the sinister role that terrorism plays must be confronted."

One after another, international leaders appealed for more development aid to prevent terrorism from expanding around the globe.

World Bank Director-General Mike Moore called poverty a "time bomb lodged against the heart of liberty," while the president of the U.N. general assembly, Han Seung-Soo, said the poorest nations are "the breeding ground for violence and despair."

"In the wake of Sept. 11, we will forcefully demand that development, peace and security are inseparable," Seung-Soo said.

Mexican President Vicente Fox inaugurated the U.N. International Conference on Financing for Development with a call for world leaders gathered in flowing robes and business suits to rethink the nature of development aid.

"For decades, the nations of the world have tried to confront the problem of development and poverty through international cooperation," Fox said. "But so far, the results have been poor, late and disheartening."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that in an increasingly globalized world, rich nations depend on the stability of poor ones more than ever.

"We live in one world, not two," he said. "No one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived."

Cuban President Fidel Castro, dressed in olive drab fatigues and tennis shoes, launched a fierce attack on the international economic system, which he called "a gigantic casino."

"The current world economic order constitutes a system of looting and exploitation," he said.

He denounced the huge gap between li oor countries. It wasn't they who conquered and looted entire continents for centuries, nor did they establish colonialism, nor did they reintroduce slavery, nor did they create modern imperialism," he said. "They were its victims."

President Bush was scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon, but Castro said he would leave shortly after his own speech.

The summit was designed to address goals set out by world leaders at a U.N. Millennium Summit two years ago that pledged to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

It was the first in decades to address direct foreign aid, and organizers said that after a steady decline in development assistance since the end of the Cold War, the mere fact that leaders agreed more aid was needed is a major accomplishment.

"It's a good beginning, but nobody has suggested that's all we need," U.N. spokeswoman Susan Markham said. "The donors have agreed we need to increase aid. The fact that they're even discussing an increase in (overseas development aid) is a breakthrough."

In anticipation of the summit, the United States and Europe each pledged billions of dollars to poor nations last week. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien noted Thursday that his country's last budget allocated an extra $633 million to development aid.

But the United Nations says much more is needed international development aid must double to $100 billion a year to meet the Millennium Summit goals.

The summit conclusions that will be signed on Friday were prepared in advance and cannot be altered. South African President Thabo Mbeki called the document "a declaration of hope to the people of the world."

Finance and foreign ministers from 171 countries arrived earlier in the week to discuss development aid to help the neediest. While all agreed more money was needed, they debated how best to give it.

The United States wants to overhaul the system of loans to the Third World, offering instead direct assistance that poor countries don't need to pay back. European countries worry that without the debt payments coming in, there will be little money left to spend on the poor.

Realizing that the levels of aid are insufficient, donor countries are pressing poor countries to use the money they receive more efficiently.

The United States has begun to put conditions on receiving aid. Bush's latest pledge which will phase in an extra $5 billion a year by 2006 will go only to countries that "walk the hard road" in combatting political and economic instability.

Many aid recipients say that conditioning aid amounts to meddling in their internal politics. Advocates for the poor say some of the neediest live in countries whose governments are corrupt or totalitarian and they shouldn't be punished for the sins of their leaders.

Protesters have staged marches outside the conference site in this modern, industrial city in northern Mexico, but all have been small and mostly peaceful. Larger marches were expected Thursday, a national holiday commemorating the birth of 19th century President Benito Juarez.

Mexico brought 3,500 police and soldiers to Monterrey to keep the peace.


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