The root causes of world poverty run deep and eradicating it is a mammoth task. Iran blames the West.
The United Nations is reviewing its Millennium Development Goals, created in 2000 which aim to reduce poverty and hunger, and improve health standards worldwide. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has insisted the goals can be achieved.
As world leaders took their turn this week to speak at the event, the BBC reports several identified a prime culprit: the West.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan were among those addressing the summit.
Mr Ahmadinejad delivered a critique of global capitalism. He denounced capitalism and global business for keeping millions of people stuck in poverty.
The BBC reports he did not mention the United States or any other country by name, but blamed "the countless suffering of humanity" on "liberal capitalism and trans-national corporations".
He called for fundamental reform of the international economic and political systems to allow "just and fair governance based on a divine mindset".
Mr Mugabe told the summit that the "recent economic and financial crisis wreaked havoc on our previously confident march towards 2015".
He said that despite the global slowdown and what he described as "illegal sanctions" imposed on the country, Zimbabwe had made progress towards meeting some of the goals.
Much to do, says Ban
In his opening speech on Monday, Mr Ban said the global economic downturn was no reason to abandon the targets and that they "should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor".
He said the goals had had a "transformative impact" but that there was much more to do if they were to be met by the 2015 deadline.
Late on Monday, the European Union pledged 1 billion euros ($US1.3 billion) towards the goals.
France and Spain have both repeated calls for the introduction of a global tax on financial transactions, as a way of raising the funds to finance the goals.
"We have no right to shelter behind the economic crisis as supposed grounds for doing less," said President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"While all developed countries are in deficit, we must find new sources of financing for the struggle against poverty, for education and for the ending of the planet's big pandemics."