Nick Clegg says rich nations must stick to aid pledges

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Media captionNick Clegg: "We can liberate millions of people from suffering"

Nick Clegg has confirmed that the UK is committed to increasing the money it gives in overseas aid, and called on other rich nations to follow its lead.

The deputy PM told the UN in New York that the UK would raise its spending on aid from 0.5% of annual economic output to 0.7% from 2013.

Improving the lives of the world's poorest would create new potential customers for UK exports, he added.

Mr Clegg also briefly met President Barack Obama at the UN building.

President Obama addressed the UN's General Assembly directly after Mr Clegg, and the BBC's Laura Trevelyan said she understood that the meeting between the two men took place backstage before the deputy prime minister took to the podium.

She said Mr Clegg and President Obama swapped notes on the remarks they intended to make, and discussed the deputy prime minister's upcoming meeting with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Defending the government's commitment to increasing aid "at a time when people at home are making sacrifices in their pay and their pensions", Mr Clegg said it was also a way of targeting both climate change and terrorism.

He said that people in the UK understand that "while we are experiencing hardship on our own shores, it does not compare to the abject pain and destitution of others".

Mr Clegg also announced that the amount of money the UK contributes to the fight against malaria would rise from £150m a year to £500m by 2014.

'Preventable disease'

The Lib Dem leader is attending the summit on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.

Drawn up in 2000, with the aim of being reached by 2015, they outline eight ways in which poverty can be reduced, such as ensuring every child has a primary school place, and tackling malaria and HIV/Aids.

Mr Clegg said that while "money is tight" for many developed nations", they had to stick to the promises they made a decade ago.

Regarding the development goals, he added that the UK would specifically be doubling the money it gives to support pregnant women and new-born babies in poor countries.

"Development starts with powerful and healthy mothers, without whom we will never build strong and healthy societies," he said.

"We now have five years to deliver on the promises we made in the year 2000. Let's get on with it."

It is the first time the Liberal Democrat party leader has represented the UK government at a major gathering of world leaders.

Regarding malaria, he said: "In Africa, a child dies from this disease - this easily preventable disease - every 45 seconds.

"So we will make more money available, and ensure that we get more for our money, with the aim of halving malaria-related deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries."

Mr Clegg's speech came two days after former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was angry at the failure of rich nations to honour their pledges to combat global poverty.

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