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ASEAN ANALYSIS  23 September 2010

Talking in New York

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   23 September 2010

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With the arrival of cooler weather not only schools have opened in the United States but the United Nations has also opened its doors to the world’s nations to review their progress at the UN Summit covering two-thirds of the execution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Millenium Development Goals are eight anti-poverty objectives that were agreed to at the UN in 2000 and there are five years left to achieve them. The goals are aimed at reducing poverty and hunger, increasing access to education, boosting maternal health and combating disease.

Critics knock the summit for being long on pronouncements but short on concrete details. It was unclear, for instance, how much of the US$40 billion hailed by the Secretary-General as fresh resources to improve maternal and child health was actually new funding. Oxfam estimated that nearly half the cash had already been pledged and said that wealthy countries were simply “putting old promises … in a shiny new UN wrapper,” according to a spokesperson. The summit concludes September 23.

The reports submitted by Asean countries are mixed. Brunei said it simply did not have the human resources to achieve its ”natural environment” targets.

Vietnam was proud to trumpet its success story. Due to its economic progress Vietnam has raised its standard of living and was thought to be a country, along with Ghana, that could achieve the remainder of its Millenium Development Goals.

At international meetings it is not uncommon for country leaders to open up a bit more when outside the spotlight in their own countries and Asean leaders will have the opportunity at the Asean summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

On tap at that meeting will be the Spratlys Islands dispute in the South China Sea encompassing the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and China. Also of interest will be the results, if any, that could come out of a meeting of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia over the Preah Vehear border dispute that has troubled the two neighboring Asean members.

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