An international team of experts on Monday unveiled a comprehensive strategy to cut extreme poverty in half and improve the lives of at least 1 billion people in developing countries by 2015.

The report, put forward by the U.N. Millennium Project, an independent advisory body to U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, said goals to reduce world poverty can still be achieved, if countries take action immediately.

The plan calls for industrialized nations to double their aid to poor countries, to 0.5 percent of their national incomes–about 50 cents of every hundred dollars. The United States currently allocates less than 0.2 percent of its income to aid.

“We are in a position to end extreme poverty within our generation,” said Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist who directed the three-year U.N. Millennium Project. “Not just cutting poverty in half—if we want to eliminate extreme poverty, we can do that by 2025.”

The 74-page report, “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” was released as the Asian tsunami disaster focused global attention on the need, scale and effectiveness of aid to the world’s poor.

Secretary-General Annan has said the fight against extreme poverty should be the top priority of the world community in 2005.

In 2000, world leaders met at the U.N. and agreed to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. The research by 265 of the world’s leading economists says not only that that this still can be done but also describes in detail how it can be achieved.

“Until now, we did not have a concrete plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” Sachs said. “The experts who contributed to this huge undertaking have shown without a doubt that we can still meet the goals—if we start putting this plan into action right now.”

In absolute dollars, the authors urged wealthy nations to disburse $135 billion in development aid in 2006—an increase over existing commitments of $48 billion and equivalent to about 5 percent of global military spending. By 2015, annual aid levels should reach $195 billion, the repot says.

The project leaders recommended that assistance be targeted immediately to countries already recognized as both needy and able to use aid effectively, starting with “Fast Track” countries already deemed eligible for debt relief.

Meeting the development goals is too big a project for governments alone, the experts concluded. Challenges of growth and job creation, coupled with delivery of services to poor countries, will require a broad partnership involving the public and private sector, the report said.

In October evangelical Christians from around the world gathered in New York City to pledge to hold governments accountable for keeping their commitments to cut poverty in half in the next decade.

The Micah Challenge campaign, named after the biblical prophet, has been endorsed by groups including the Baptist World Alliance.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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