Information and stories on Millennium Development Goals

China's Poverty Reduction and the Millennium CampaignThe fight against poverty is a massive undertaking. While China’s poverty reduction has helped the United Nations (U.N.) reach its goals, there is still a ways to go. For real and lasting progress to be made on the task of lifting millions above the poverty line, the global community has no recourse but to rely on the collective efforts and data of the global community. However, by synergizing the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and governmental institutions, the uphill battle of poverty reduction remains fierce but not insurmountable.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration

In September 2000, following a three-day diplomatic marathon of deal-making and goal-setting, the U.N. General Assembly approved the United Nations Millennium Declaration. With this agreement, the U.N. adopted more than 60 goals. These goals included improving the environment, encouraging peace and development, promoting human rights, combating hunger and pursuing global poverty reduction. Following this daring declaration, the United Nations Millennium Campaign was put into effect. More than 180 member states agreed to the campaign as a means of achieving these goals by 2015.

Moving The Goalpost

The U.N. claims to have not merely achieved its goals but achieved them ahead of schedule. However, a closer look will reveal how this celebration may have been premature. Yale professor and development watchdog Thomas Pogge pointed out that following the signing of the original declaration, the U.N. rewrote it to reduce only the proportion of the world’s population living on less than $1 a day. Previously, the U.N. had planned to decrease the overall total number of people living in poverty.

It is estimated that this change reduced the goal by 167 million due to population growth. Also, the campaign shifted the focus of what constitutes “poverty” to be based solely on income levels. The World Bank determines extreme poverty by the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day. Changing the variables made it easier to achieve the goal. Additionally, according to the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty is still more than 4 billion.

With the Millennium Campaign’s goals, moving the finish line and still declaring victory makes it more difficult to establish the current standing of global development and progress. This is especially true when it comes to China’s poverty reduction rate. It also, as an unintended consequence, has the potential to dwindle the severity of the current state of global poverty.

In an attempt to show a more impressive poverty decrease, the Millennium Campaign retroactively included data stretching back to 1990. By doing this, the impressive dip in poverty was mainly due to China’s poverty reduction progress during those 10 years.

China’s Efforts

Also, numeric data aside, one cannot underestimate the role semantics plays in perceived poverty reduction. China’s state-run media has proclaimed, “China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty through more than 30 years of reform and opening-up.” And China declares its intention to “lift” even more out of abject poverty.

Skeptics have pointed to the phrase, “lifted out of poverty,” as a purely Westernized regurgitation. China’s preferred usage of “fupin kaifa” (扶贫开发) translates as “assist the poor and develop.” So, while China’s poverty reduction accomplishments are commendable, the translation conveys a larger achievement than what it actually is. However, China does deserve credit for achieving no small feat in raising millions above the poverty line.

The global community has much to be proud of considering how far the world has come in the work of bettering lives. If the mammoth task of combating poverty and promoting development is going to be successful, the goals needs to acknowledge the truth about the current situation.

– Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

Microfinance poverty reduction
Commercial banks often find themselves unable to provide financial services in rural areas. Poor credit histories, limited manpower, customers illiteracy and accommodation problems of the staff limit commercial bank operation. Microfinance is a simplistic tool to remedy this issue. It is the provision of small loans to the impoverished to help those who otherwise do not have access to traditional banking services to engage in or establish an income-generating activity. Microfinance has been a renowned initiative for poverty reduction as well as economic and social development for over 30 years.

Microfinance Models

The concept for microfinance was propounded by Mohammad Yunus, who subsequently founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh to provide credit facilities to the poor and boost their entrepreneurial potential. Since then, microfinance has taken a range of forms.

These forms include non-governmental organizations, credit unions, cooperatives, associations, community banking, Self Help Groups, ROSCAs, small businesses and village banking models.

The Dark Side of Microfinance

In terms of poverty reduction, two key questions have emerged: first, to what extent has microfinance contributed to creating a long-lasting and permanent difference to help households escape poverty? Second, to what extent do microfinance programs reach the worst off, “chronic poor” and not just the “transient poor.”

The total number of microcredit borrowers has magnified exponentially from less than 20 million in the 1970s to over 211 million in 2013. There are undeniable success stories regarding the transformative effect of microfinance on individuals and households. But until recently, there has been very little research that shows the impact of microfinance in a way that demonstrates causality.

In their book “Finance Against Poverty” (1996), David Hulme and Paul Mosley were first to criticize microfinance. They suggested that microfinance helps those above the poverty line more than those below the poverty line. In some instances, they found that microcredit makes life for those at the base of the pyramid even worse. Some argue microfinance contributes to creating debt traps for the poor whereby they sink into the vicious cycle of repayment of loans, and due to increasing interest rates, they are never able to escape.

An unprecedented consequence of microfinancing is the increase in organ trafficking, especially in Bangladesh. When borrowers are unable to repay their debt, traffickers pressure them into selling their organs. In most cases, these borrowers are uneducated about the implications of their actions. In other cases, debtors go as far as to take their own lives.

The Silver Lining

However, despite its shortcomings, microfinance has hardly been a failure in the case of poverty reduction. Rather than seeing it as a poverty panacea, microfinancing is more aptly a means of expanding opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of microfinancing is empowerment. Empowerment is at the center of human progress. Microfinance is helping the world reach the first Millennium Development Goal: eradicating poverty and hunger. It is also helping reach the MGD 3 to promote gender equality and empower women.

For example, Self Help Groups are a popular microfinance model in India, particularly among rural women. These groups provide a platform to act on a variety of social issues such as health, nutrition, domestic violence, etc. During the pandemic, the SHGs were incredibly useful in distributing masks and sanitizer to meet shortages and running community kitchens.

Financial Diaries of people living on $2 or less per day have shown that microcredit helps many families make critical purchases that they could not otherwise afford during times of scarcity.

No single aspect of development, be it microfinance, health or education, can work towards poverty reduction. The amalgamation of all different facets, when targeted to the poor at the grassroots level, is a powerful tool in the fight against poverty and puts the world on the path to an egalitarian society.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions
The United Nations recognizes the success of The Millennium Development Goals in decreasing the world’s extreme poverty in half. With the intention of contributing to that success, the UN has developed a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to ensure the prosperity of poor countries and secure environmental protection in these regions through the implementation of sustainable solutions.The SDGs were scheduled to begin being implemented on January 1, 2016, and continue over the next 15 years.

The first item on the list is ending poverty. The UN points out that accomplishing such a challenging goal requires strategies that foster economic growth as well as address core issues such as health, social protection and employment.

What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry is a way of looking at design through engineering that occurs in nature. The idea is to mimic the way organisms have been adapting and surviving on this earth. These natural adaptations provide a guide to life on earth in the long haul.

Biomimicry can be used in favor of disenfranchised populations living in harsh climates. Finding water in deserts, for example, can be quite a difficult task. Biomimicry might be used to disclose a solution to this problem through observation of a Namibian Beetle which lives in the desert of southern Africa and collects water from fogs. This particular beetle has special structures on its wings scales that condense water out of the air. This beetle’s wing design is ten times more efficient at collecting eater than the fog-catching nets humans have used in the past.

New technologies developed out of Biomimicry provide more opportunities for green economies to flourish. Green economies are those in which all economic activities, such as exporting goods and services, occur with little environmental impacts. This would provide more opportunities for developing countries and improve global trade which, in turn, allows developing countries to acquire more technology.

The Global Design Challenge

The Biomimicry Institue inspired innovators from all over the globe to use biomimicry and apply nature-inspired designs as sustainable solutions to urgent global issues. The groups who made it to the final round presented their projects at the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge in 2015.

  1. Hexagro (Milan, Italy): The Hexagro team designed a “groundless” growing system made of recycled and biodegradable materials. The hexagon-shaped structure mimics the geometric pattern found in nature produces 342 lettuce plants per two square meters whereas ground farming produces only 80 lettuce plants in the same conditions. The project includes an automatic irrigation system that prevents plants from being dried out or overfed. The system will soon be connected to a digital application.
  2. Holonic Integrated Produce Swarm (South Africa): HIPS is a peer to peer networking app. It mimics the way flocks of birds and other well-coordinated groups of animals function. The app facilitates small scale intensive food production to be coordinated. A swarm of food producers allows people to share resources and conduct local transactions. The app connects these local swarms to create regional ones in order to establish a produce hub. It also records surplus produce for sale and helps members do the distribution logistics. Finally, the app provides a medium fair exchange value and provides incentives to food producers to employ the best practices.
  3. Biopatch  (Valparaiso, Chile): This project won first place in the design challenge for their soil restoration solution. Its design mimics the Yareta plant. This plant is known as a “nurse” plant that thrives in cold and windy conditions and provides shelter and nutrients to other species. Biopatch mimics the plant’s protective mechanisms to shield seedlings from the wind and ultraviolet radiation while enhancing the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients. This design is biodegradable and low cost. After a year’s operation, the plants that have grown under its protection become independent and capable of maintaining the restored soil on its own.

The three aforementioned designs offer agricultural development and greater access to food. Other designs included devices that provide freshwater resources and nutrient sources that come from insects. All of these designs not only increase the amount of food available to those in need but guaranteed the freshness and nutritious qualities of the food offered.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a “call for action.” In order to fulfill the UN’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2020, it is necessary to help poor countries develop resilience and adopt sustainable strategies as they move out of poverty. With such solutions, the environment is protected and is sure to provide for future generations. Sustainable solutions offer an entirely new outlook on designs that could eradicate poverty. As new editions of the Global Design Challenge, more environmentally-friendly solutions for global poverty are developed each year.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in AzerbaijanHunger in Azerbaijan has been widespread for the last three decades. The country is located to the south of Russia, to the west of the Caspian Sea and to the east of Armenia. Saida Verdiyeva, a mother of two, lives in Toganali, a village in northwest Azerbaijan. Verdiyeva fears that social-distancing measures, which her government established in response to COVID-19, will make it impossible for her to feed herself and her two children.

In October 1991, two months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared its independence from the soviet block. The subsequent years of economic turmoil in her country led to widespread poverty and hunger in Azerbaijan.

Degeneration of Azerbaijan’s Economy Between 1991-1994

By 1995, Azerbaijan had endured a critical socio-economic crisis. According to the IMF, Azerbaijan’s Gross Domestic Product, industrial production, agricultural production, real average monthly wages, household consumption- virtually every meaningful factor of the country’s economy- plummeted between 1991 and 1994. It wasn’t until the end of 1994 that the government took some control over the economic crisis. In 1995, state-led programs were successful in addressing issues of economic degeneration and adverse living standards.

Azerbaijan’s Economy and Global Hunger Index

In 1995, after four years of economic crisis, Azerbaijan had a Global Hunger Index score of 28.30. Consistent with the relatively steady economic improvement between 1995 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score reached a value of 14.60 in 1996. It remained close to this benchmark in 1997. However, between 1997 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score increased from 14.89 to 27.50.

For about two years, the numbers show a direct relationship between Azerbaijan’s GHI score and its economy. However, the macroeconomic solutions implemented by the government at the time were deficient in addressing the specific needs of certain regions and populations. In all likelihood, Verdiyeva was among those Azerbaijani whose local problems were not fixed.

Hunger and Poverty in Toganali

Hunger in Azerbaijan, as elsewhere, is linked to poverty, and poverty is often a result of unemployment. Before COVID-19, Verdiyeva worked as a dishwasher for large events. Due to social-distancing measures, there have not been many large events in or around Toganali. As a result, Verdiyeva has struggled to find work.

Many countries around the world are scrambling to prevent hunger crises caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. However, nations that had already implemented relevant social policies and established the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure to handle hunger crises will now have a more nuanced ability to cope.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development in Azerbaijan

In 2015, all United Nations Member States agreed to pursue domestic policies in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The priorities of the SDGs are to end global poverty and ensure environmental protection. In addition, the SDGs aim to create conditions whereby all people can enjoy peace and prosperity. These objectives are to be fulfilled by 2030.

Among 166 other countries, Azerbaijan ranked 54th in its commitment to the SDGs. Much of Azerbaijan’s success in this regard is owed to the diligence in creating bureaucratic mechanisms to track vulnerable populations and organize data on age, gender and location of such groups.

The SDGs’ principle of “leaving no one behind” involves a preliminary method of accumulating a body of information about vulnerable demographic groups. The implication is that being seen is a prerequisite for being helped.

Verdiyeva and her two children are among those Azerbaijani who will benefit from their country’s commitment to the SDGs and its principle of “leaving no one behind.” In 2013, only 24% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in preschool education in Azerbaijan. By 2017, 75% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in a school where they have access to daily meals.

Likewise, the hourly earnings of female employees and unemployment rates improved from 2010 to 2017. Comprehensive domestic policies, like the SDGs, are institutional methods of ending hunger in Azerbaijan. COVID-19 is an obstacle to reaching this end goal. However, the Azerbaijani government made valiant efforts, especially from 2015 to 2020, to ensure healthier living conditions for its vulnerable populations through the next decade.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health and Poverty
Although mental health and poverty are two things that one might not always group together, there is a serious link between people living below the poverty line and mental health disorders. According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA report, around 9.8 million people living in the United States had mental health disorders in 2015, and 25 percent of those people were living below the poverty line.

Both poverty and mental health can bring about the other. For instance, a Gallup poll found that about 15.8 percent of people not living in poverty reported having diagnosed depression, while 31 percent of people living in poverty reported depression. In addition, a McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research study based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics found that a household is likely to experience a 50 to 80 percent increase in food insecurity if the mother has diagnosed depression. While it is not clear whether the depression leads to living in poverty or living in poverty results in depression, the link between the two issues is clearly prevalent. Therefore, it is crucial that others address and treat the mental health of people living in poverty.

Ways to Treat Mental Health

One large issue with impoverished people having mental health disorders is that they often do not have the insurance and money to seek therapy and get medical help. This can be especially harmful to children living in poverty. The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has three main recommendations for low-income families to seek help for mental health disorders, including education and training, establishing relationships with providers and creating multidisciplinary teams.

The best way to help and treat mental health in low-income families and communities is education. By integrating mental health education in schools and free programs that schools offer to families and communities, more people can learn about how to cope with mental health disorders and keep themselves and their families healthy and happy. In addition, integrating mental health services into school health services allows children to seek help for any mental health disorders right at school.

Further, establishing relationships with school health providers and counselors allows children to feel comfortable enough to seek the help that they need, in a safe space that they are used to. Communication between children/families and health care providers also allows the providers to be available more quickly and could result in more effective treatment.

Effects of Improving Mental Health

Poverty can strain a person’s mental health due to stress and instability. Therefore, public mental health has a huge impact on communities and the mental health of the people. People do not widely recognize public health, which is why is it crucial that communities are actively working to prevent mental health problems and to educate the community on how to cope with mental health strains.

Mental health problems and poverty have a serious link and it is vital that people are aware of the strains of poverty and understand their community and who is at risk. Only by monitoring and evaluating impacts of mental health, creating educational programs and addressing both physical and mental health, both mental health and poverty can improve together.

Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

africa water grabWater is an essential but limited resource that is unfairly allocated in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Although one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG7) is to lower the number of people that currently live without sustainable access to safe water by at least half, there is much work to do. The African water grab by international banks and corporations is leaving small African farmers quite vulnerable.

Water Rights

The term “water rights” means the right to extract water from groundwater and other bodies of water. It grants access to desalination projects, water-purification and treatment technologies, irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction. Restrictive permit systems in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe have resulted in 100 million people being left with insufficient water.

Water rights for large commercial operations in Africa are granted primarily by permit laws that were established in colonial times. Small farmers have only customary water rights, which are agreements based on tradition rather than written law. Their operations are often too small to gain permits either because the government does not have the infrastructure to grant so many permits or farmers do not know to get them. Approximately half of sub-Saharan Africa governments use customary rights to water for home use and limited farm irrigation.

Inequitable Water Distribution

Since the end of Apartheid in South Africa, water distribution has remained inequitable despite the legislative efforts of the National Water Act (NWA 36 of 1998) and the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2), which prioritize the allocation of water for socio-economic growth over commercial uses.

In Malawi, 80 percent of the people live in rural areas are dependant upon rain for agriculture success. This leaves the population vulnerable because there are frequent droughts, variations in climate and natural disasters. Recent estimates suggest that foreign investment in Mali’s land jumped by 60 percent between 2009 and 2010. In locations like Mali and Sudan, a new approach is badly needed. Some investors have been given unrestricted access to water. The chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, has called the buy up of farmland a “great water grab.”

Traditional access is efficient until there’s a conflict. In those cases, large-scale water users, with superior entitlements to use water for large-scale irrigation, mining, industry and hydropower generation, are better able to win disputes with the government. Internationally, water rights consolidated in the hands of a few is also a problem.

These new “water barons”—international banks and investors—are buying up the world’s water quickly.  With international and influential agents having extensive rights, and local farmers having questionable rights, the already limited water systems will be further stretched. “Exclusive reliance on national permit systems has, at least on paper, “criminalized” up to 100 million people lacking water permits in the five countries studied,” wrote Barbara van Koppen, the lead author of the report.

A Hybrid Approach

A recent report argued that the consolidation of water rights is hurting the environment and the small farmer, who holds only traditional water rights. The solution, the authors argue, is to support African governments in “decolonizing” water laws through a “hybrid” approach to water-use rights.  They recommend that permit systems be retained but used instead to regulate large-scale water users that have a large impact on small farmers and the environment. The hybrid approach would also extend legitimate rights to customary laws, which have guided investments in water infrastructure as well as water sharing for centuries.

Certain aspects of this hybrid approach are already in use in parts of Africa. Uganda is focusing on providing permits to 20 percent of its large-scale water users. These users require 80 percent of the resources. In Kenya, targeted permitting has been formalized. Water users are categorized from A to D, depending on the impact their water use has, and they are regulated accordingly. However, the legal protection for small-scale users still remains unaddressed.

Heather Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Remembering Kofi Annan: A Leader in the Fight Against Global Poverty
In his ten years as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan was a beacon for diplomacy, peace and unity in the international community. Annan held this already highly scrutinized position in a time when global terrorism and political instability were occurring in almost every corner of the world.

As head of a United Nations’ peacekeeping operation that failed to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, Annan erroneously received personal blame and scrutiny throughout tumultuous times in his career. Yet, the manner in which he carried himself and pushed forward to fix his shortcomings, mold the institutional legitimacy of the U.N.

His work on curtailing the global poverty and human rights abuses earned him unprecedented praise from world leaders and representatives of poor and rich nations, as well as a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

Remembering Kofi Annan’s fight against global poverty is very important since it serves as a model of the amount of commitment, patience and humanity that are needed to make a difference.

Early Years: The Birth of an Advocate

Annan was born in what is now Kumasi, Ghana, in 1938. Being that he was the grandson and nephew of Asante chiefs, rulers of his home nation of Ghana at the time, Annan’s exposure to the world of politics came at an early age. His formal education also coincided with the Ghanaian independence movement that saw the nation become the first nation in Africa to gain independence from Britain.

The independence movement left many people in Ghana feeling that anything is possible. His vision of what the world could be, but most importantly, his pursuit of that vision demonstrates that he bought into this idea as well.

Millennium Development Goals

During his tenure at the United Nations, Annan was responsible for instituting some of the most pivotal developmental reforms priming the organization for the role it now holds in international affairs. Annan changed the United Nations from an institution that was once passive into the one that now promotes the norm of humanitarian intervention and advocacy. His advocacy and reforms often manifested themselves to protect those facing extreme poverty.

One of the most notable projects in Annan’s fight against global poverty was the Millennium Development Goals, at the forefront of which was the goal of halving extreme poverty, defined as people living on income less than $1.25, by the year 2015.

“For many countries, it will be necessary to take concrete steps to ensure that faster and more pro-poor economic growth is achieved between now and 2015 if they are to have a real chance of meeting the 2015 target,” Annan said back in 2001.

But he did not simply urge member countries to solve the problem. Rather, he presented a framework that would allow states to embed poverty reduction strategies into their plans for national development and policy. He also used his political prowess to bargain and incentivize richer nations to increase spending on development aid to 0.7 percent of their national incomes, a portion that can be described as low even today.

Annan’s United Nations also pushed for innovative ways to reduce poverty, including increasing access to renewable energy. Ultimately, the Millennium Development Goals would be dubbed as the most successful anti-poverty movement in history, just barely missing out on a goal of reducing extreme poverty levels by half.

Remembering Kofi Annan’s Impact on the Fight Against Poverty

Annan was a champion of world development and poverty reduction, particularly in his native continent of Africa. He was a chairman of the Africa Progress Panel after his second and final term as United Nations Secretary-General. The Panel, now subsumed by the Africa Progress Group, advocates for the equitable and sustainable development of African nations through international collaboration and engagement in global politics.

Annan helped to establish the annual Africa Progress Report that, among many things, analyzed and reported on the progress that African nations were making toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

He also founded the Kofi Annan Foundation that served as a catalyst for lasting peace and inclusive governance by anticipating looming threats security, development and human rights.

Kofi Annan’s commitment to the world’s poor never faltered throughout the duration of his career. As Secretary-General of the United Nations Annan faced many difficult and discouraging moments. But the spirit that emboldened Annan’s vision of a more effective United Nations and a more equitable world allowed him to carry on.

Annan’s fight against global poverty was immense. He showed the world what it means to be a dedicated advocate. But most importantly, he showed us that no vision is too big to be attained. Remembering Kofi Annan and his efforts in eradicating the world’s poverty are very important to cherish. Annan’s legacy lives on through his family, The Kofi Annan Foundation, the Africa Progress Group and the United Nations.

But it also lives on through the people that continue to dedicate themselves and their lives to the fight against global poverty.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Indonesia
Indonesia is a country that has made great strides in combating hunger. This Southeast Asian country consists of hundreds of volcanic islands, making it prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Government programs have given resources to those who need help, and there are many positives in the list of top 10 facts about hunger in Indonesia.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Indonesia

  1. Although the percentage of people enrolled in primary schools has increased to nearly 100 percent in urban areas, this number remained below 60 percent in rural areas of Indonesia. Food programs are offered in some primary schools, and in 2017, Indonesia established the Indonesia School Meals Programme (Pro-GAS) to provide healthy breakfasts to 100,000 children in 11 districts in the country.
  2. The rate of poverty in Indonesia has been steadily decreasing, from 24 percent of the population experiencing poverty, down to 11.3 percent in 2014. However, 43.5 percent of the population still lives on less than $2 per day.
  3. The rate of proper nutrition has somewhat stagnated since 2007, with stunting rates of 37 percent nationally, according to UNICEF. Stunting is the impaired development and growth of children resulting from malnutrition. The Government of Indonesia is well aware of the health concerns associated with stunting, as the vice president of the country enacted a National Strategy to Accelerate Stunting Prevention in 2017. The strategy will pledge $14.6 billion to converge priority nutrition interventions that include food insecurity measurements, dietary diversity and basic immunization.
  4. Despite this, the availability of fruits and vegetables almost doubled from 1990 to 2013. This jump in production can partly be accredited by the government program known as Good Agricultural Practices or Indo-GAP. The program gives farmers better education on safe and effective agricultural methods, while also providing resources like land and fertilizer.
  5. Stunting caused by malnutrition also has an impact on Indonesia’s GDP, resulting in a 2-3 percent loss on the economy. Children who grow up with stunting are less likely to be properly educated, less likely to work in skilled labor, as well as having lower income attainment. These factors of undernutrition affect the economy because of the overall loss in productivity.
  6. Fluctuating food prices have also contributed to hunger in Indonesia. It is estimated that the food inflation rate increased by 12.77 percent from 1997 to 2018. This can be attributed to rising energy costs, with energy prices rising 28 percent between 2008 and 2011. Agriculture commodity prices rose 17 percent from 2008 to 2011 as well. While higher food prices allow farmers to make more profits, it negatively affects people living in poverty who rely on low food prices.
  7. Indonesia’s Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), pledged at the United Nations summit in 2000, were a committed global partnership in fighting global poverty and hunger with a deadline of 2015. Indonesia achieved its number one goal of halving the number of people living in hunger between 1990-2015. The prevalence of undernourishment decreased from 19.7 percent in 1990-1992, to 7.6 percent in 2014-2016.
  8. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters as it is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Earthquakes are common due to a high degree of tectonic activity. Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and floods also affect the country. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake in the city of Lombok in August 2018 resulted in 565 casualties. Calamities like this lead to hunger as food security and land are destroyed in the process.
  9. Indonesia’s government National Medium-Term Development Plan was established in 2015, with the goal of improving nutrition and the quality of food, as well as reducing the negative effects natural disasters have on food security. The long-term goal of the program is to help 9 million people achieve food security by 2020.
  10. One of the government subsidy programs that has been beneficial in addressing hunger is Raskin, a program established in 1998 that allows low-income families to purchase 15kg of rice at 20 percent of the market price. In 2012, the budget for Raskin was $1.5 billion with a targeted population of 17.5 million households.

While there is still room for improvement, Indonesia has taken the necessary steps to address and take action in reducing county in the country. The Government of Indonesia has been a great supporter of the country’s efforts.

– Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

goal 4
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is in charge of the implementation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the United Nations in 2016 to improve economic, social and political stability around the world through 2030.

The Millennium Goals Program

The goals range from clean water and sanitation, to increasing infrastructure and industrial development in cities. These new sustainable development goals are a legacy built from the UNDP Millenium Goals Program (MDGs) and strive to continue to the success of the older program.

The Millennium Goal program took place from 2000 to 2015 and its key achievements claimed by the UNDP are:

  • More than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990
  • Child mortality has dropped by more than half since 1990 along with the number of children out of school
  • The total number of HIV/AIDS infections has fallen by nearly 40 percent since 2000

While the UNDP claims that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals strategy is the most successful sustainable development project in history, the organization did state that there were lessons to be learned and more work to be done for future global endeavors. While many of the MDGs were interconnected, similarly to the SDGs, the MDG’s Goal 2 was to achieve universal primary education.

Goal 2 was largely successful. The literacy rate of people ages 15 to 24 was increased from 83 percent to 91 percent from 1990 to 2000 but the gaps between wealthy students and impoverished students and urban students and rural students still remain.

A Focus on Education

Goal 4 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal strategy aims to combat this disparity by providing quality education. This task has numerous targets that it plans to reach by 2030 (the end of the program), and one that it plans to reach by 2020. The full list can be found on the UNDP’s Goal 4 targets page.

 Many of these targets make sure that not just boys and men receive help in their education process, but that girls and women do as well. For example, targets one and two specifically state boys and girls in regard to education in their wordings. Target one aims to provide better education and preparedness so that both girls and boys are able to complete free primary and secondary education.

Target two aims to provide early education so that children will have a better chance of completing their primary education. The third target aims to ensure the continuing education of men and women, and hopes to ease their access to tertiary education, such as technical schools, vocational schools and college.

Sustainable Development Goal 4

When searching for statistics about the accomplishments of Goal 4 thus far, it is difficult to see the impact. But it is important to remember that this program is a mere two years old.

Worldwide education statistics will still look similar to the end of the MDG program. However, one can see the seedlings that will sprout in the future and benefit individuals and society as a direct result of Goal 4. In fact, this fruition has already begun — India made Goal 4 part of their country’s “Vision 2030,” or the domestic plan for their future.

Strides in Educational Programs and Infrastructure

On September 1, 2016, or National Teachers day, a coalition program was launched by the government of India, private companies and the U.N. in which students will learn about the 17 Goals through cartoons and comics. These cartoons will be produced in six different languages and be shown in school and distributed around the country.

In 2015, Buenos Aires, Argentina founded a multilingual school, and despite common misconception, the school is not a Spanish to English school as many think. The school is actually a cooperation between Buenos Aires and Beijing that offers classes in the native languages of both countries — Spanish and Guarani for Argentina, and Mandarin and Cantonese for China. This initiative fits into both Goal 4 and Goal 17 of global integration.

Global Goals and Steps for Change

These are not the only initiatives related to Goal 4 implemented by countries looking to improve life for their citizens — SDG funding in Columbia is being used to improve rural education; funding in Mozambique is increasing access to professional training; and in Sri Lanka, food quality at schools is being improved.

With the U.N. groundwork, and cooperation and initiative taken by countries on Goal 4, it is easy to see how it will improve education around the world. 

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr