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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leaders Vow To Tackle Poverty on World Scale

COPENHAGEN -- World leaders early Monday adopted a sweeping declaration to fight poverty, and while lacking in firm commitments it was welcomed as a blueprint for reducing global misery.


The declaration at the world's first poverty summit, approved by consensus, came after a week of tough negotiations among 190 nations and hundreds of aid groups divided over how to bring relief to the 1.2 billion poor around the globe.


"The cry of millions of infants worldwide whose lives are threatened by hunger should be enough to consolidate our resolve," said Malta's prime minister, Edward Fenech-Adami.


In one of the last of more than 100 speeches by world leaders, ending after midnight Sunday, Brazil's education minister said the 80-page document was "designed to guide national strategies and programs" in the coming years.


In many speeches at the summit, poor countries accused richer ones of shirking their duties but also agreed that reforms were needed in their own backyards to boost production and fight corruption.


The 10-point declaration, while non-binding, urges richer nations to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product on foreign aid and to cancel the debt of poor countries.


It says donor countries should earmark 20 percent of their aid specifically for basic social programs, while the recipient should spend 20 percent of its national budget on such programs.


The document urges improving health care, sanitation and food production, as well as literacy -- especially among women -- as a means to lower the birthrate.


"The final declaration isn't that ideal but it's reasonable," said the UN summit's host, Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rassmussen.


He noted the declaration calls for a United Nations General Assembly meeting in 2000 to evaluate its success. "It is our duty to ensure that this be done," he said.


The gathering was in part aimed at heading off new development-linked disasters such as the bloodbaths and starvation from the collapse of Somalia and Rwanda.


In both those cases, competition over scarce resources helped fuel ethnic and political rivalries.


Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumuratunga noted that in her country, past programs that failed to address the needs of the country's Tamil minority were partly to blame for Sri Lanka's 11-year civil war.


"We in Sri Lanka today are compelled to face the devastating effects of shortsighted economic and social policies of the past," she said.


"The marginalization of one racial community has resulted in a murderous civil war."


European Union chief Jacques Santer said Third World development is a global issue because of economic interdependence and the concern about floods of refugees that could be triggered by hardship.


But richer nations, dealing with their own budget deficits and skeptical about past aid, were not rushing to offer more money.


Only Denmark and Austria used the summit to announce debt cancellation.