MDG Summit participants were off and running yesterday, speaking, blogging, Tweeting and texting from the main U.N. campus and at several marquee side events nearby.
A high-level “Education for All” advocacy session—focused on MDG 2, to achieve universal primary education—got the ball rolling, with Queen Rania of Jordan and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaking out for universal access to quality schooling.
Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also addressed the session, noting that additional Bank financing for education—just announced—would be used to improve access to good quality schools, for girls’ scholarships, and for conditional cash transfers.
In tandem with the event, Bank Education Director Elizabeth King blogged that education advocates must keep the pressure on: “Fifty countries have already achieved universal primary education, but there are still 70 million school-aged children who are out-of-school - more than half are girls.”
Focus on Conflict
The issues of conflict and fragility and their impact on the MDGs were also high on the agenda. A panel hosted by Okonjo-Iweala called for increased attention to peacebuilding in support of the MDGs. No fragile or conflict-affected country has achieved a single MDG, and as a group these countries lag 40 to 60% behind other low- and middle-income countries in MDG achievement.
"Conflict mires the planet's bottom billion people in poverty -- and to them the international community must pay particular attention," said Andrew Mitchell, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development.
A roundtable on development challenges in Central African Republic also looked at opportunities for post-election peace building and advancing the MDGs in a fragile environment.
“The country’s challenges are magnified by the impact of the global economic crisis on the country’s growth and on tax and export revenues,” said the Bank’s Vice-President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili. “Continued reform and support from the international community is necessary to ensure stability and to prevent an unraveling of progress.”
Climate Change Up Front
Finally, Climate Week NYC kicked off here in New York, putting climate change front-and-center before the leaders gathered at the Summit. Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change Andrew Steer attended the opening ceremony, along with other advocates, including George Soros and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In a post for the Bank’s climate change blog, Steer underscored the link between climate change and poverty reduction. “Developing countries will bear three-quarters of the negative impact of changing weather patterns, water shortages, and rising sea levels, and they are the least equipped to deal with them,” he wrote.