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World leaders continued to press for greater action in the five remaining years to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the second day of a General Assembly summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Dozens of speakers – including Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – took to the podium in the General Assembly hall today to stress the need to accelerate progress towards reaching the eight anti-poverty Goals before their 2015 deadline.

At the start of the three-day gathering yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged heads of State and government to provide the necessary investment, aid and political will to end extreme poverty.

“There is no global project more worthwhile,” he said. “Let us send a strong message of hope. Let us keep the promise.”

The Assembly's high-level debate seeks to identify what else needs to be done to reach the Goals – which include slashing poverty, combating disease, fighting hunger, protecting the environment and boosting education – in the next five years.

“Real results” have been made since the MDGs were devised in 2000, Mr. Ban noted yesterday, including a dramatic increase in school enrolment rates, expanded access to clean water and greater control of diseases.

“We have more development success stories than ever before. The transformative impact of the MDGs is undeniable. This is an achievement we can proud of. But we must protect these advances, many of which are still fragile. And the clock is ticking, with much more to do.”

Two interactive round-table sessions were held on the sidelines of today's debate.

This morning, Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani co-chaired a discussion on promoting sustainable development that explored how to most cost-effectively increase the availability of safe drinking water and improve the lives of slum dwellers.

In another session co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Slovenian President Danilo Türk, participants discussed emerging issues – including climate change, the global economic crisis, food security and armed violence – that could hamper the achievement of the MDGs.

The high-level debate will wrap up tomorrow, and it is expected that participants will adopt an outcome document reaffirming their commitment to cooperating for the good of economic and social advancement.