KWAME HOLMAN: The nearly 50 world leaders at this week's United Nations-sponsored summit in Mexico knew the dimensions of tackling global poverty. Today, nearly half the world's population-- 2.8 billion people-- lives on less than two dollars a day.
The UN has set a goal of cutting world poverty in half by the year 2015, and the summit was to focus on getting there. Since the September 11 attacks, many leaders, including World Bank President James Wolfensohn, have said poverty can provide a breeding ground for terrorism.
Wolfensohn advocated doubling developmental aid worldwide. The world's richest nations give about $50 billion a year to help developing countries, but the European Union and others have criticized the U.S. for not doing its fair share.
Currently, Washington's contribution is about $11 billion of the $50 billion, roughly 0.1% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. European Union countries give three times as much of their combined GDP. But overall, western nations fall short of the UN's contribution target of 0.7% of GDP. Speaking at the Monterrey Conference this morning, President Bush officially announced that he's prepared to increase American aid by $10 billion over the next three years.
The President, too, suggested a link between economic distress and terrorism.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Many here today have devoted their lives to the fight against global poverty, and you know the stakes. We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror. We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity. We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it. And we fight against poverty with a growing conviction that major progress is within our reach. Yet this progress will require change.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Mr. Bush said nations receiving help must meet conditions.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We must tie greater aid to political and legal and economic reforms, and by insisting on reform, we do the work of compassion. The United States will lead by example.
KWAME HOLMAN: The President also would transform about half the loans the U.S. makes to developing countries into cash grants. Many development aid agencies applauded the U.S. commitment, but some experts have doubts about the effectiveness of such help.
NJOKI NJOROGE NJEHU, Director, 50 Years is Enough: What we are getting coming out of the Monterrey process is new money that gets put in the old framework, in the same old framework. We have been talking about it as putting new wine in old wine skins, and that doesn't end up addressing the fundamental problems around poverty.
KWAME HOLMAN: Back in Monterrey, President Bush and his counterparts resolve to use aid more efficiently to bring down poverty in developing nations.