British PM says leaders must be accountable in poverty fight
MONROVIA (AFP) – British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that leaders should be held to account for failures to deliver on plans to reduce poverty, after a top UN development meeting in Liberia.
Cameron was in the capital of the West African nation to co-chair with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a one-day high-level United Nations meeting on ways to update the fight against global poverty after 2015.
“I think it is very important that leaders and politicians are held to account in the future for things that we say need to change,” Cameron told a press conference in the capital Monrovia.
The high-level panel was set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in July 2012, when he appointed 27 members to advise him on a development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The eight anti-poverty goals outlined in 2000 aimed to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.
While certain countries have achieved the goals set down, many — particularly in the most needy areas such as sub-Saharan Africa — have made little progress.
But Cameron praised the MDGs as a “brilliant innovation”.
“They got the world to focus on really important things, tackling issues of poverty, making sure children went to school, tackling hunger, making sure all have proper access to sanitation, tackling killer diseases,” he said.
“They got the world to focus, they held world leaders to account. It is a very important task to be asked to lead the work about what should replace them, how we update them after 2015.”
The panel includes leaders from civil society, private sector and government from across the globe, who will carry out wide consultations on the future of poverty eradication and present a report in May 2013.
It is chaired by Cameron, Liberia’s Sirleaf and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Liberia has made important strides in rebuilding from a devastating civil war which ended a decade ago, but remains one of the world’s most underdeveloped nations.
“This is a country that was completely ravaged by a conflict, war, crimes and guns. Its economy was destroyed, and now it is recovering under the leadership of the president,” Cameron said.
“It is a country that shows that aid can make a difference. It is a country that shows the real agenda of how you lift people from poverty to prosperity,” he added, saying there was a “real focus on eradicating poverty”.
Sirleaf, who made history in 2005 when she became Africa’s first elected female president, is credited with development and ushering in massive investments in iron ore, palm oil and oil exploration.
However, she faces much criticism for nepotism and corruption and her country has massive unemployment of about 80 percent.
Cameron said tackling poverty in the future required looking at its true causes, which he said were not just about money but “ending conflicts, making sure there is no corruption, making sure that people have access to justice, making sure that there is rule of law, these are the central building blocks to move a country from poverty to prosperity”.