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MDG Summit Gets Under Way; Zoellick Addresses Assembly

Julia Ross's picture

Following months of preparation, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) officially kicks off this morning in New York. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper and security tighter than usual in Manhattan’s Midtown East area, but the 140+ country delegations gathered here are focusing on how to accelerate progress on the goals to meet the 2015 deadline.

At today’s U.N. General Assembly plenary session, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick called for a redoubling of global efforts to achieve the MDGs, which he said were “central to the World Bank Group’s mission and our everyday work.”

Zoellick noted several new Bank investments to “close the gap” on the goals in five years’ time. These include an increase of $600 million toward results-based health programs, and an additional $750 million for basic education.

Moreover, he said the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries—the International Development Association (IDA)—is delivering significant results across sectors, in alignment with the MDGs.

“Since 2000, IDA funding has helped save 13 million lives,” he said. “IDA has immunized 311 million children; provided access to water and sanitation for 177 million people; helped more than 47 million people access health services; provided nutrition supplements to 99 million children; and educated 13 million girls.”

Robert B Zoellick speaking at a panel discussion on the MDGs hosted by Chancellor Merkel.  Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg (center).
Robert B Zoellick (right) speaking at a panel discussion on the MDGs hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left).  Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg (center).
 

World Bank staff attending the Summit this week will share many of these successes in side events covering everything from scaling up Africa’s infrastructure to conflict prevention to building partnerships to fight child undernutrition.

There’s no shortage of critical issues competing for attention. MDG 5, which focuses on improving maternal health, got a head start yesterday at the Bank co-sponsored “Women Deliver” brunch.

“People are realizing that it pays to invest in women,” Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told attendees. “The world’s $12 billion annual price tag to achieve MDG 5 is a bargain as it saves the world at least $15 billion annually.”

On the civil society front, over the weekend, a series of “Stand Up Against Poverty” rallies took place worldwide, enlisting citizens, celebrities, activists, musicians and journalists to push for renewed commitment to the MDGs. Okonjo-Iweala spoke at the New York event; the Bank’s Youthink bloggers attended events in Washington, D.C. and London.

In Egypt, religious leaders gave sermons calling for an end to poverty in more than 50,000 mosques; in Paris, citizens and civil society groups organized a “flash mob” in front of the Eiffel Tower.

And so the week begins. As the action unfolds and momentum builds over the next few days, we’ll be featuring Bank staff blog posts in this space. We’ll also be live-Tweeting several events and posting Facebook updates. Join the conversation wherever you’re most comfortable.