UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for a "strong and sustained push" towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight antipoverty goals that UN member states have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.
"More than half-way to 2015, the MDG track record is mixed," Ban told the opening session of a General Assembly thematic debate on development.
Pointing to the "undeniable progress" already made in comparison to the year 2000, Ban said that "three million more children now survive each year; an additional two million people receive treatment for AIDS; and millions more children are in school."
Progress has also been made in particular countries and regions in terms of access to primary education, water and sanitation conditions and disease-fighting, Ban said.
Despite the "real difference," he said. "Yet we are falling short of what I know we can do. Just past the halfway point of the race to achieve the MDGs, many countries remain off track."
Citing the recent rise in food prices and a slowing world economy as the "immediate challenges faced by developing countries," he added that in the long run "progress is gravely threatened by the effects of climate change and other major environmental challenges."
"The world's mixed record on the MDGs and emerging complications like climate change or a global economic slowdown underscores the urgent need for a strong and sustained push towards the Millennium Development Goals," he said.
"The year 2008 should mark a turning point in progress towards the MDGs," Ban said, expressing hope that a special high-level event on the MDGs on 25 September in New York will "send a strong message that governments are ready to rise to the financing for development challenge."