As he continues to take part in this weekend's summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) industrialized and developing economies, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today emphasized the importance of stepping up efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) during a private meeting with the top officials of two European Union institutions.

The Secretary-General met with President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, on the margins of the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada.

He said he was encouraged by the commitment of support for the MDGs, including the role of overseas development aid, but stressed that greater investment must be made if the eight goals for reducing extreme poverty and hunger, improving health and education, empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability, are to be achieved by 2015.

In addition to the MDGs, the leaders discussed Afghanistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Gaza.

During a working dinner yesterday, Mr. Ban urged the participating world leaders to help the poor and vulnerable make ends meet, despite rising budget deficits and severe fiscal problems in some of their countries.

“Under any circumstances we must not balance budgets on the backs of the world's poorest people,” Mr. Ban said.

He urged Governments to not depend on consumption alone to recover from the global downturn, but to invest instead in three areas of high return which he identified as agriculture, green recovery and health systems.

“Let us be determined to turn these three areas of high-return investments into a reality,” Mr. Ban said, calling on the G-20 leaders to make clear their intentions today in the final communiqué of the summit.

The discussions this weekend have been building on the three previous G20 summits held in Washington, London and Pittsburg since the global economy downturned in 2008.

Mr. Ban has been pushing world leaders to keep the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable around the world on their agendas, as national economic priorities have become the focus.

To that end, Mr. Ban is convening a high-level summit at the UN Headquarters in New York in September to press countries to accelerate efforts to try to achieve the MDGs.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa /