Despite rising food and energy prices and slowing economic growth worldwide, aid to developing nations has been on the decline, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the New York Times reports. The report found that aid decreased by 8.4% in 2007, following a 4.7% decrease in 2006 (Macfarquhar, New York Times, 9/4). Aid had increased steadily between 1997 and 2005 (AP/USA Today, 9/4). In addition, although the Group of Eight industrialized nations in 2005 pledged to increase aid to Africa by 2010, only $4 billion has been delivered to the continent, according to the report (New York Times, 9/4).

The report -- the first detailed account of commitments to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which include curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases -- found that aid from donor countries averaged 0.28% of their national incomes. As of last year, the only countries that had met pledges to raise that figure to 0.7% were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (Morris, Financial Times, 9/4).

Ban said that the report "sounds a strong alarm," adding that the "main message is that while there has been progress on several counts, delivery on commitments made by member states has been deficient and has fallen behind schedule. We are already in the second half of our contest against poverty. We are running out of time." Lead author Rob Vos of the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs said that over the last two years, "we see ... that development assistance has been going down by all the major donors -- the United States, Japan, but also the European Union." Vos added, "On average, the European Union gives more in relative terms vis-a-vis their national income than the other principal donors, the United States and Japan. But we can say to all of them that they have to step up their efforts to meet the commitments they've made" (AP/USA Today, 9/4).

According to the report, the distribution of medicine to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB has improved, but the supply of affordable drugs remains inadequate. In addition, although debt relief has been provided to 33 out of 41 eligible countries, 52 countries in 2006 spent more money paying off debts than on public health, and 10 allocated more money to debt payments than education (New York Times, 9/4).

Ban said that in order to meet the 2010 targets, commitments for official development assistance from industrialized nations would have to increase by $18 billion annually, including $7.3 billion to Africa. He added that the U.N. plans to host a meeting of world leaders on Sept. 25 "to step up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals" (AFP/The Nation, 9/4).

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