Leaders 'scarcely trying' to tackle Third World issues

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World leaders are making woeful progress in their 15-year mission to tackle poverty, hunger, disease, war and terrorism, according to a damning report released last night.

Attempts to drive up standards of education, protect the environment and ensure basic human rights around the globe have also fallen flat, it says.

At the United Nations Millennium summit in September 2000, heads of government agreed a detailed plan to tackle the problems that have paralysed much of the Third World. But in a damning critique last night, the World Economic Forum (WEF), a Geneva-based foundation, said governments were too often "scarcely trying" to match their words with action.

Forty experts rated the world's progress towards its goal by issuing a report card showing a score out of 10 in seven categories ranging from poverty to human rights. They handed out a score of three or four in each area, indicating that the world was making barely a third of the effort needed to hit the UN's "modest" targets.

Among its grimmest discoveries is that the proportion of hungry people is likely to increase in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia by 2015. A "devastating" 800 million people go regularly without food around the world, including a third of pre-school age children in developing nations, the WEF said. More than half the world's countries will fail to provide universal primary education by 2015, following a shortfall in the financial donations required to hit the target.

The HIV/Aids epidemic is "outstripping the bubonic plague of medieval Europe as the most deadly pandemic in history". The first report by the WEF's Global Governance Initiative also warned that there was little evidence that the world was making a "serious effort" to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It did, however, point to more optimistic signs including China's success in dealing with poverty and sharp increases in cash spent on tackling malaria.

On security, no new civil wars broke out and there has been a fall in the numbers of continuing conflicts between and within states, the report said.

The number of terrorist incidents has been tending downward over the past 10 years even though the number of victims rose sharply because of the 11 September attacks on the US. But those remaining security problems are particularly threatening, in particular the growth of international terrorist networks and the risk of nuclear proliferation. Many experts are concerned about the threat to civil liberties posed by governments cracking down on terrorism, the WEF's report said.

Richard Samans, the head of the WEF's Global Institute for Partnership and Governance, said: "Although the 'headline' findings are disappointing, it does at least point the way to how improvements can be made." Mary Robinson, the former president of the Irish Republic and now executive director of theWEF's Ethical Globalization Initiative, said "internationally agreed targets must be considered simultaneously" in order to "achieve human dignity for all."


Peace & Security

Goal: End war, eliminate weapons of mass destruction, act against terrorism.

Progress: War in Iraq; hostilities in Afghanistan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine; efforts against terrorism "not very successful".

Score: 3/10


Goal: Halve number of people whose daily income is less than $1 between 1990 and 2015.

Progress: "Spectacular" success in China, but number in "desperate poverty" increasing in much of Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Score: 4/10


Goal: Halve number of people suffering hunger by 2015.

Progress: 800 million people don't have enough to eat. Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will not hit target.

Score: 3/10


Goal: Ensure all children receive primary schooling; eliminate disparity between boys' and girls' access to education.

Progress: At least 96 countries not on course to hit primary target.

Score: 3/10


Goal: Reverse spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria; reduce by two-thirds under-five mortality rate and deaths in child-birth by three-quarters.

Progress: Predicted 45 million new HIV/AIDS infections by 2010.

Score: 4/10


Goal: Halve numbers with access to clean water and sanitation; stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.

Progress: Global warming continues; Kyoto protocol has not been ratified.

Score: 3/10

Human Rights

Goal: End torture; promote law and order and freedom of information.

Progress: Feared erosion of civil liberties since war on terrorism launched; severe abuse of workers' rights "common.

Score: 3/10