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U.N.-NGO Meeting Concludes With Participants Calling On World Leaders To Do More For MDGs

A group of more than 350 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concluded a U.N. forum in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday with a call for world leaders to step up their commitments to achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Australian Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald reports (Rose, 9/1).

“In a wide-ranging declaration adopted at the end of the three-day meeting … participants stressed that achieving the MDGs, which world leaders have pledged to do by 2015, ‘is a moral imperative,'” U.N. News Centre writes. Though the declaration acknowledges some progress towards the MDG targets, it states that “remaining challenges [to achieving the goals] included: 1 billion people without access to food; 2.6 billion who lack access to improved sanitation; eight out of 10 without access to safe drinking water who live in rural areas; nearly 9 million children who die before the age of five; and at least 340,000 women who die each year of pregnancy-related causes” (9/1).

“This is not the time to question the validity of the MDGs themselves, but rather a time to roll up our sleeves and do what is necessary to attain them, and beyond that, to look at the question of ensuring that they are sustainable after 2015,” Kiyo Akasaka, under-secretary-general for communications and public information, said during the closing ceremony of the conference, according to a U.N. press release (9/1).

“The NGOs appealed in the declaration for all governments, agencies, corporations and individuals to deliver on their human rights obligations to more than a billion people living in poverty, by committing the finances and political will necessary to achieve the Goals,” U.N. News Centre continues.

“Towards improving global health, the text compelled all governments and health actors to respect the rights of communities while also maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of their work by leveraging community knowledge and support. It also highlighted the central role that individuals, families and communities must play in fostering global health,” according to the news service (9/1).

Akasaka “received the declaration and said it would inform the debate as world leaders meet to discuss progress towards the MDGs at a summit in New York, September 20-22,” AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports  (9/1).

Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand International reports on the criticism expressed by New Zealand’s Head of Family Planning Sumi Subramaniam who said the conference largely overlooked issues relating to sexual and reproductive health, despite the challenges many countries continue to face in their attempts to reach the MDG target for maternal health.

“It’s kind of mysterious because the one comment that is not incorporated in the final outcome document [from the conference] is that around maternal health. Whereas it’s well recognised that at least 340,000 women die each year because of pregnancy related causes. There’s nine action points that have been given, not a single one of those action points specifically targets maternal health,” Subramaniam said, according to the news service (9/2).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.