Poverty on Track to be Halved by 2015 Despite Financial Crisis, says U.N.

The goal to halve the number of the world's people living in extreme poverty by 2015 is on track to be accomplished, despite setbacks from the economic crisis, a report from the United Nations revealed.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, released on Wednesday, revealed that the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 46 percent in 1990 to 27 in 2005 – led by progress in China and South and South Eastern Asia. If the trend continues, the number of impoverished people in 2015, when the MDG's are scheduled to be completed, is expected to drop to 15 percent.

"The world possesses the resources and knowledge to ensure that even the poorest countries, and others held back by disease, geographic isolation or civil strife, can be empowered to achieve the MDGs," says the report, which was compiled by a score of U.N. agencies along with the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the World Trade Organization, the International Trade Center, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Despite the progress, however, the MDG Report also indicated that the fight against poverty was severely impacted by the global economic crisis.

The report noted that the ability for the poor to feed their families was hit consecutively by skyrocketing food prices in 2008 and falling incomes in 2009. The MDG Report further noted that the number of malnourished people, already growing since the beginning of the decade, may have grown at a faster pace after 2008.

"It is clear that improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises," the report says.

The release of the report comes as the world's most powerful leaders are gathering in Canada for G8 and G20 meetings.

Leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Germany and Russia begin their meeting today to discuss issues such as economic recovery after the financial crisis, global development, and security.

Leaders from the faith community have called on summit delegates to ensure that they will be able to meet their promises.

"In a spirit of positive collaboration, acknowledging that both political leaders and faith leaders carry tremendous responsibility for setting the parameters for our common life, we will monitor the decisions our government leaders take, including decisions made at the 2010 political leaders' summits in Canada," a statement drafted by participants at the World Religions Summit states.

An accountability report released by G8 leaders ahead of the meeting revealed that the countries are $18 billion behind on their five-year, $50 billion pledges made in 2005.

"In some areas, the G8 can point to considerable success; in others, it has further to go to fully deliver on its promises," their report said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that meeting the Millennium Development Goals are "everyone's business," and that falling short of them would "multiply the dangers of our world – from instability to epidemic diseases to environmental degradation."

"But achieving the goals will put us on a fast track to a world that is more stable, more just, and more secure," he says.

Adopted in 2001, the Millennium Development Goals represent "human needs and basic rights that every individual around the world should be able to enjoy," the United Nations says.

Along with poverty, the eight MDG's seek to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce the child mortality rate, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and other deadly disease, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.

A major review of the MDG's and the progress made towards them will take place in September of this year.

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