UNITED NATIONS, Aptil 3 (AP)--In a challenge to world leaders, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Monday for an all-out effort to lift more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty by 2015.
He said that by that date all children everywhere should be able to complete primary school, the HIV/AIDS epidemic should be halted, and the percentage of people without access to safe water should be cut in half.
In a 58-page report on the challenges facing the world and the United Nations in the 21st century, Annan cited gross disparities of wealth, the growth of internal conflicts where human rights are routinely violated, and the rapid plundering of the environment.
With the world being transformed by a global economy and instant communications, Annan said, "the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people, instead of leaving billions of them behind in squalor."
The report is addressed to leaders of the 188 U.N. member states who have been invited to a Millennium Summit from September 6 to 8 to take a fresh look at the world at the turn of the century and the role of the United Nations 55 years after it was founded.
U.N. officials said they expect somewhere between 130 and 150 heads of state and government to attend, which could make it the largest-ever gathering of world leaders. The officials are hoping the summit will result in practical actions, including adoption of a host of targets suggested in Annan's report.
"All these things are achievable if we have the will to achieve them," Annan said.
Calling extreme poverty "an affront to our common humanity," the secretary-general decried that nearly half the world's 6 billion people are now living on less than $2 a day, and about 1.2 billion are struggling on less than $1 a day--including 500 million in south Asia and 300 million in Africa.
With the population expected to increase to 8 billion by 2025 and almost all of that growth in developing countries, he warned that "unless we redouble and concert our efforts, poverty and inequality may get worse still."
Annan called on world leaders to cut the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in half by 2015, which will lift more than 1 billion people out of it.
Stressing that richer nations have an obligation to the less fortunate, Annan urged that they grant free access to their markets for goods produced in poor countries and consider canceling all debts of the poorest nations.
He announced four new U.N. initiatives: to provide 10,000 hospitals and clinics in developing countries with access to up-to-date medical information; to have high-tech volunteers give computer training to groups in developing countries; to provide mobile and satellite telephones for relief workers in disaster areas; and to explore new approaches to the problem of youth unemployment.
Noting that most conflicts are in poor, badly governed countries with sharp inequalities between ethnic or religious groups, Annan said the best way to prevent them is to promote economic development, human rights, and representative government.
He called for greater efforts at conflict prevention and at enforcing human rights laws, and he urged the Security Council to consider "smarter" sanctions that are better targeted.
He also repeated his call for member states to consider armed intervention as a way to stop organized mass murder and major human rights abuses, overriding national sovereignty if necessary. "Armed intervention must always remain the option of last resort, but in the face of mass murder it is an option that cannot be relinquished," he said.
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