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WHY THE POOR REMAIN POOR
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Whether the numerical target of a global goal was achieved is an important but inadequate measure of success, because it does not indicate whether setting the goal made a difference. In many cases enormous progress has been made even though numerical targets have not been reached — as with the international drinking water supply and sanitation decade of the Eighties...during which hardly any developing country achieved universal coverage...

Once set, goals agreed to at the United Nations have been followed up in very different ways. At one extreme have been goals like accelerating economic growth, where there has been little mobilization for implementation by the international community. At the other extreme have been goals like eradicating smallpox, expanding immunizations and reducing child mortality, where the international community — led by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund — have supported country action.

The goals are a major step towards building a true partnership for development, and in defining what is meant by partnership. The agreements that emerged from the 2002 international conference on financing for development and the world summit on sustainable development advanced the consensus on the mutual responsibilities of developing and rich countries.

Developing countries are to focus on improving governance, especially in mobilizing resources, allocating them equitably and ensuring their effective use. Rich countries are to increase concessional financing and debt relief and to foster trade and technology transfers.

The world needs a clear analysis of why global poverty endures, where and what the biggest obstacles are and what needs to be done to tackle them...The international community also needs to set priorities on how to achieve the millennium development goals. These priorities need to be based on objective analysis of the biggest challenges and main obstacles, on evidence of what has worked (and what has not) and on ideas for new actions to accelerate progress.

For this analysis, the UN secretary-general has established the millennium project, a research initiative that brings together nearly 300 experts from academia, civil society, international organizations and the public and private sectors around the world. This project will issue its final report in 2005. This human development report also helps identify global priorities, provides data and analyses new ideas. This report has been prepared in close collaboration with the millennium project, drawing on its work and on other in-house and commissioned research...

The millennium development compact, at the beginning of this report, is its main policy plank. The compact presents a new approach to help countries escape poverty traps and achieve the goals, identifies the responsibilities of stakeholders and builds on the principles of the Monterrey Consensus...which takes a performance rather than an entitlement approach to development cooperation.

The core message of the millennium development compact...is that many of the world’s poorest countries and regions face structural impediments that have made it very difficult to achieve sustained economic growth. Thus it is no accident that they are the poorest.

Sustained growth requires that countries first attain basic thresholds on a number of fronts: sound economic governance, basic health care and education, core infrastructure, access to foreign markets. If a country falls short on one or more of these thresholds because of structural conditions — rampant disease, or a location far from world markets, or especially fragile soils and low food production, or high susceptibility to natural disasters — it tends to fall into a poverty trap, making sustained economic growth unlikely.

Because these countries face high hurdles and have limited resources, they cannot achieve the thresholds for growth on their own: they require external assistance. Even in countries otherwise doing well, structural impediments can contribute to pockets of entrenched poverty. China’s remote inland regions, for instance, face much longer distances to ports, much poorer infrastructure and much tougher biophysical conditions than the country’s coastal regions, which are enjoying the fastest sustained economic growth in human history. Reducing poverty in such highly populated countries as China, Brazil and India requires focusing on how to allocate resources to reduce poverty and inequalities.

But this challenge is very different from the one facing the top and high priority countries, which are typically stuck in poverty traps and have insufficient resources to meet the needs of average citizens — let alone the poorest. Resources are insufficient largely due to a lack of economic growth.

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