Nick Clegg to represent UK at United Nations

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today fly to the United Nations to step up British pressure for rich countries to deliver on their aid promises to the developing world.

The UK is one of the few donor states to have lived up to its commitments under the Millennium Development Goals on issues like eradicating extreme poverty and cutting infant mortality, and aid agencies are worried that a failure of political will in other rich countries may mean the UN missing its 2015 deadline for delivering the ambitious targets.

Yesterday, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell urged the 140-plus presidents, prime ministers and monarchs assembled in New York to redouble their efforts to tackle poverty.

The Millennium goals, agreed by 192 UN member states a decade ago, include the eradication of extreme poverty; universal primary education; promotion of gender equality; cutting child mortality by two-thirds; combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; environmental sustainability; and a new global partnership for development.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the summit that the process delivered "real results", but warned: "The clock is ticking, with much more to do."

He insisted the Goals were still "achievable" by 2015 and called on world leaders not to use the global economic crisis as an excuse to cut aid budgets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy responded immediately with a 20% boost to France's 10 billion US dollar annual contribution over the next three years.

"We have no right to do less than what we have decided to do," said Mr Sarkozy, who also proposed a small international tax on financial transactions to fund development.

Mr Clegg is expected to throw Britain's weight behind Mr Ban's call in his speech to the three-day summit tomorrow - his first appearance representing the UK at a major international gathering.

Yesterday, Mr Mitchell told summit delegates: "Britain is leading the way in helping the world's poorest people, with a firm commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI (gross national income) on aid from 2013.

"The UN Secretary General has praised Britain's 'visionary leadership' on this.

"Now is the time for other countries to step up and keep their promises too. We will push for that - and I will push for all aid to be more transparent and more accountable."

The UK is pushing for a meaningful outcome from the summit and wants all governments to agree an action agenda setting out the steps to meet the MDGs by 2015, said Mr Mitchell.

He called for collective international action to reduce maternal and baby deaths and to fight the spread of diseases such as malaria, as well as agreement to work together on addressing conflicts which are getting in the way of progress.

Former prime minister Tony Blair described the Millennium Development Goals as "arguably the clearest expression of globally-shared moral values since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and called on people of all religious faiths to put pressure on politicians to deliver on them.

"While in government, I was privileged to be involved in drawing up these goals, but had no illusions about the challenge they posed," said Mr Blair in a statement issued through his Faith Foundation.

"We are two-thirds of the way towards the Millennium Development Goals deadline of 2015. Although we have come a long way, there is still far to go.

"Faith communities have an important role to play in ensuring that governments meet their targets and honour the commitments made in 2000."

Paul Cook, advocacy director of Christian aid charity Tearfund, said the church must be a "key player" in delivering the Millennium goals.

"As people of faith, it's important that we act with integrity and that we keep our promises," he said.

"We call upon our world leaders to do the same, and to deliver a concrete action plan for the next five years that will have clear milestones and targets to show in a tangible way how we expect to reduce global poverty by 2015."

Marie Staunton, chief executive of children's charity Plan UK, said: "More needs to be done to ensure the Millennium Development Goals deliver for everyone, including the world's poorest and most disenfranchised girls, who bear the brunt of extreme poverty.

"The most off-track Goal is that on maternal mortality. It's the mother of all failures, because pregnancy and childbirth kill more adolescent girls than anything else."

Gordon Brown said he was "angry" at the failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Speaking in New York, the former prime minister told the BBC he was particularly concerned by the lack of progress in ensuring every child has access to primary education.

He said: "I'm angry because we made commitments that we would meet these Millennium Development Goals.

"I think rich countries have not done enough to honour the promises that we made."

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