Vienna, 15 October 2003 - 17 October is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. On this day the United Nations focuses attention on the situation of over 1 billion people in the world who have to live on less than one euro a day, who suffer from hunger or die as a result of avoidable diseases. The international community has set itself eight concrete goals for the fight against global poverty, which are aimed at bringing about a clear improvement in the situation by 2015. "Austria is supporting these aims through increased funding for its development cooperation programme and through concrete development projects in partner countries", explains Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner. An information campaign is also being launched to raise the Austrian people's awareness of the Millennium Development Goals over the next few years.
Poverty has global consequences
Over one billion people currently live in extreme poverty, i.e. on an income of less than one euro per day. More than 700 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. 120 million children receive no primary education. More than one billion people have no access to clean drinking water. Over 2 billion people lack sanitation facilities. The consequences are fatal: 80% of all diseases in developing countries are caused by contaminated drinking water, meaning that over two million people die of avoidable diseases every year.
Eight goals for a fairer world
In view of this situation the United Nations set itself eight fundamental development goals at its Millennium Summit in 2000. The proportion of people living on less than one euro a day and those who suffer from hunger is to be halved by 2015. All children are to receive a full primary education. The mortality rate among children under five is to be reduced by two thirds. Women, who are particularly affected by global poverty, are to be empowered through improved educational and employment opportunities. The maternal mortality ratio is to be reduced by three quarters. Further major goals are to halt the spread of AIDS and malaria and improve the living conditions of 100 million slum dwellers. At least half of the people without water and sanitation are to gain access to clean drinking water and safe sewage disposal facilities by 2015. Last but not least, the industrialized nations are called upon to make an active contribution to global development, as Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner explains: "The aim is to create a global partnership between industrialized and developing nations at all levels." Important targets in this context are to facilitate trade for the least developed countries, to deal with the debt problems of poor developing countries, to make the benefits of new technologies and essential drugs available to the developing countries, and to provide more money for development assistance.
Manifold contribution by Austria
Austria is making a manifold contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, firstly by raising her aid budget and secondly through concrete project-based activities. In the words of Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner: "In 2004 our funds for bilateral development cooperation will be increased by 30 million euros, thus reaching their highest level ever. By 2006 our spending on development cooperation will be incremented on a step-by-step basis to 0.33% of the gross national product."
The money will be invested in targeted programmes aimed at eradicating poverty in 20 partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 13 of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, where economic stagnation, violent armed conflicts and the disastrous effects of the AIDS pandemic have made life particularly hard for the local populations. Here the Austrian Development Cooperation is providing concrete assistance in the form of projects focussing on water supply and sanitation, rural development, securing the food supply and the provision of basic healthcare. "The international Millennium Development Goals act as guidelines for the Austrian Development Cooperation. All of our projects aim to assist as directly as possible in improving the situation of the poorest of the poor", explains the Foreign Minister. Concrete examples highlighted by Ferrero-Waldner include the construction of a water supply system for 35 small towns in south-west Uganda, a programme to secure the food supply and improve living conditions for small-scale farmers in Ethiopia and the construction of an energy supply system in Bhutan using water power and solar technology.
Development cooperation works!
In view of the depressing global poverty statistics, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is appealing to people to look at the positive facts as well as the negative ones. In the last few years - not least thanks to the international development cooperation - there have been many improvements that should not be overlooked. For instance, life expectancy, per capita income and access to primary school education have risen in many countries, including Uganda and Senegal. Ferrero-Waldner: "Development cooperation works. This is a fact that we should always bear in mind - while simultaneously redoubling our efforts to make the world a fairer place. We can only fulfil the eight Millennium Development Goals if the developing countries and the industrialized nations assume joint responsibility for improving the lives of the poor." To support this aim, November will see the launch of an information campaign by the Austrian Development Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the media to raise public awareness of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Contact for further information: Austrian Development Cooperation - Information Desk, Bettina Gusenbauer, Tel. 01/524 43 00-46, bettina.gusenbauer(at)trimedia.at