Africa: At Alpbach, UN Chief Urges Greater Action to Meet Anti-Poverty, Sustainability Goals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged participants at the European Forum Alpbach to boost action towards achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to shape a shared vision for a universal sustainable development agenda.

"Our shared challenge is to conquer the persistent problems of old - poverty, hunger, disease and hatred - while building a new landscape of peace, prosperity and dignity for all," Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs to the closing session of the forum.

"Collectively, we need to grasp this historic opportunity to transform our economies and societies, and put our planet on a sustainable course before it is too late," he urged participants gathered in the Austrian town of Alpbach.

Held annually, the forum brings together academics, students, and decision makers from all areas to discuss and brainstorm new ideas and solutions to European and global problems, according to the event website.

In his message, Mr. Ban said that despite skepticism, the MDGs have focused international attention and successfully reached some targets, such as halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and improving access to drinking water.

"But there is much unfinished business," he cautioned, citing 19,000 children under the age of five who die daily from preventable diseases; 2.5 billion without access to sanitation; stalled progress in getting children in school; threats to environmental sustainability; and gaps in gender empowerment.

He also highlighted the importance of shaping an "ambitious, inspiring and universal" global agenda on poverty eradication and sustainable development to follow up on the MDGs once their deadline eclipses at the end of 2015.

This is particularly relevant given the global time of austerity, Mr. Ban noted, but urged governments to "lift the lives of the world's most vulnerable" to reflect people's priorities and not military needs.

The UN is amidst its 1,000 days of action to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

The MDGs and the post-2015 agenda will be discussed at the high-level opening of the new General Assembly year at the UN headquarters in New York next month.

Mr. Ban was originally scheduled to participate in the forum, but cut short his official visit to Austria to focus on the latest developments related to Syria and the UN chemical weapons inspection team.

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