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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Working to end global poverty
Salil Shetty
How dangerous is it getting for aid agencies?

As the United Nations starts coming to terms with the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters, questions are being raised about the dangers facing aid workers.

Salil Shetty is the outgoing Chief Executive of the charity Action Aid. He is about to take up the post of Director of the United Nation's Millennium Campaign to fight poverty. He talks to Tim Sebastian.

The United Nations is insisting that work in Baghdad will continue despite the bombing, although other international institutions are in the process of removing their staff.

The world knew that is was a very uncomfortable situation in Iraq
Salil Shetty

Tim Sebastian asks Mr Shetty if the UN is now seen as a soft target for terrorists. He also asks if the bombing could have been predicted.

Mr Shetty says that while he could not actually see the Baghdad bombing coming, "The world knew that is was a very uncomfortable situation in Iraq...the basic needs of the people there are not being met and the tension has been growing."

He says Action Aid has, "from the start, been pushing for a full UN mandate" and describes the deaths as "a loss to the whole human rights community".

The attacks have been condemned from leaders across the world. Mr Shetty agrees, but says it is important to look at the underlying causes. He describes the bombing as "a culmination of a series of attacks at different installations."

Eradicating poverty

Salil Shetty will soon take up the position of Director of the United Nations Development Programme.

He is undertaking the mammoth task of working to eradicate poverty. At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, 147 world leaders agreed to eight specific goals to reduce global poverty.

The UN has played a very important role in pushing human rights
Salil Shetty

The Millennium Development Goals, as they became known, consist of targets for poverty reduction, social development and environmental regeneration to be met by 2015.

However, three years on many countries are struggling to meet these goals and some regions are economically worse off now than before the goals were set.

Poverty and conflict

Many of the countries that signed up to meet the development goals are notorious for human rights abuses and are involved in regional conflicts.

Tim Sebastian asks if the United Nations expectations were too high and why more governments are not being held accountable for the decline of their countries.

Mr Shetty denies that the United Nations turns a blind eye to the human rights abuses of some member states and stresses that, "The UN has played a very important role in pushing human rights."

He acknowledges, however, that "democracy cannot be pushed".

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 03:30 GMT, 08:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 18:30 GMT and 22:30 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 03:30 and 23:30


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