Information and stories on Millennium Development Goals

Africa_Poverty_Reduction_Initiative
The ONE Campaign has launched an initiative in Africa called “You Choose,” aimed at creating representation for poor citizens throughout Africa on how to reduce poverty in their own communities.

This initiative to reduce poverty, which has been endorsed by high-profile African celebrities, aims to give a voice to millions of people throughout Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa by sending their opinions and views on how to tackle poverty through Short Message Service (SMS) in hopes that leaders and policy-makers will be pressured into making changes.

Citizens can use mobile phones to text a designated number that will prompt them to explain “what the government can do to help improve [life for] your family and friends” to which they can reply with their suggestions on critical needs facing their families and communities. A goal of the You Choose campaign is to give those in extreme poverty a voice in deciding how poverty will be dealt with in their countries, which will hopefully lead to the poor having a voiced opinion and participating in the decision-making process.

The initiative will collate the data it receives through SMS responses, and the information will be presented to the UN at the end of March, when the High Level Panel plans to meet in Bali to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The organizers behind the You Choose initiative highlighted the fact that only 16.5 million people in Africa had mobile phones when the MDGs were first introduced. Today, over 650 million people throughout Africa have access to a mobile device, which has “allowed people to learn firsthand what priorities Africans believed in and what the new developmental agenda should include.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: RNW

A Voice for the Poor
There are billions of people in the world today who are currently living under the shaky circumstances of poverty. One in five people in the world survive on less than $2/day, while 1.5 billion struggle with less than $1/day. This shocking truth affects people everywhere and creates a lack of hope and opportunity.

Although there is aid money that is accessible, cash transfers have become comparably effective way to help the poor. In the effort to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty, cash transfers have played a significant role in reducing the high number of people living in extreme poverty. While the benefits of having access to cash transfers are well known, the people who are most in need of them believe that the value and improvement of the system can be better. For the poor, their voices remain unheard.

Cash transfer programs in developing countries have been viewed as an effective and fast way to provide aid.  Because of how money is distributed, the money is not being given to everybody due to eligibility concerns and a lack of people properly applying before deadlines. Some countries such as Kenya had trouble trying to figure out the application process for cash transfer programs. Like many people living in poverty stricken area, many are unaware of what to do and are more focused on surviving.

While there are always benefits to receiving money, there is also conflict in the process of collecting it. Elderly people in Uganda have had a difficult time trying to voice their issues whenever mistakes occurred. Whenever there is any kind of conflict, elders are faced with the problem of whether to address it or not. They don’t believe that a voice truly exists for them. Not being able to share their complaints has a lot to do with their fear of having their benefits taken away from them.

As the poor are struggling to reach out to share their voice, there is an ethical argument for them to have a say in society. Although they already face such vast conflicts in their life as the poorest in society, discrimination plays into their lives on the basis of gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexuality and religion.

Being able to find a voice for the poor is not only going to better their lives, but it will properly open up a different perspective on how unjust the poor are treated. This issue is not that these programs are not already effective enough in combating poverty, but by having their own voice, the poor can address their issues with aid systems to the government and donors for improvement, efficiency, and fairness.

Jada Chin

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

quinoa
February 20th marked the beginning of the International Year of Quinoa, a project designed to raise awareness of the benefits of quinoa and its ability to bring nutritional security. The project was launched by the United Nations and the Andean community of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to help reach the Millenium Development Goal of reducing world hunger to a half by 2015.

Quinoa contains essential amino acids and vitamins, yet has no gluten. It is easy to grow because of its adaptability to different environments – thriving in below freezing temperatures, as well as altitudes way above sea level. Thus, cultivating quinoa in areas with arid farming conditions and high malnutrition rates is both a possible and effective way to help combat global poverty and improve the standard of living in many countries. During the project’s launch, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented that the International Year of Quinoa will act as “a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty.”

Bringing awareness to the value of quinoa worldwide is beneficial not just to the fight against global hunger and poverty, but to quinoa farmers as well. As the price of quinoa rises due to its increased popularity with large companies, farmers that cultivate quinoa will experience higher incomes.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: NY Times

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former UN official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the UN.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the UN Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the UN’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the UN in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the UN heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders

Child Marriage
Nobel laureate and anti-apartheid icon Archbishop, Desmond Tutu; former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson; former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland; and social activist Ela Bhatt will work together to eradicate the high rates of child marriage in Bihar, India.

Their initiative, Girls Not Bridges, has connected 80 civil society organizations based throughout the world.

Bhatt drew several conclusions after speaking with local people about child marriage. “We have discussed with all including women, children and youths about child marriage, all of them described it a bad practice,” Bhatt said.

Robinson said the local opposition to child marriage was beneficial for the development of their campaign against child marriage. “It is a positive development to encourage people to join the campaign,” Robinson said.

Internationally, approximately 10 million girls are married before turning 18 each year. If this rate does not slow, 100 million girls under 18 will be married by 2020.

In Bihar, girls are typically married off at a young age. Most are unable, as well as unprepared, to have children of their own. Early marriages result in early childbearing, resulting in frequently premature and underweight infants. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are also common.

Moreover, girls who marry young often don’t receive an education. This is a detriment to the Millennium Development Goal of attaining universal education.

In Bihar, UNICEF works to ensure that girls are educated. For instance, Nari Gunjan, one of UNICEF’s partners in education, with the help of Sister Sudha Varghese, started a learning center in India. This learning center provided many girls with access to education that they were previously denied.

Several of these girls were able to write their own autobiographical essays from the education they had received at the centre. Rinku Kumari wrote about her early marriages and lack of education. Her father married her to a boy from a neighboring village when she was only 15 years old.

“I was keen to study right from my childhood but there was no opportunity.  It was only when a Nari Gunjan centre opened in my village that I joined it with the permission of my father,” Rinku wrote.

However, Kumari’s husband did not allow her to attend school for long. “Though my mother-in-law allowed me to attend classes at the centre, my husband stopped me from going there.  He threatened to break my legs if I disobeyed him,” Rinku wrote.

Buna Devi was 13 years old when she was married off. “When I went to the Centre, my neighbors would comment, “Look at this old woman with two children.  She is going to study now, at this age!”  I never replied to them but silently pursued my goal,” she wrote.

Hopefully, Girls Not Bridges will help UNICEF ensure that girls like Rinku and Buna aren’t married off so young, but instead are able to receive an education.

Kasey Beduhn

Source: UNICEF, rediff News
Photo: Thoughtful India

UN High Level Panel On Post 2015 Development Agenda_opt (3)
Last Friday, a high-level United Nations panel met in Liberia to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of the few successful international efforts aimed at addressing poverty, beyond 2015. Co-chaired by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, the panel made up of 27 world leaders is part of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s post-2015 initiative to discuss international development targets and advise on how to focus the international community’s efforts to end extreme poverty.

Started in 2002, the eight Millennium Development Goals of the UN Millennium Campaign are: End Poverty and Hunger, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Partnership.

The objective of last Friday’s discussion was to renew, replace and replenish these goals and their sub-targets.  Present at the conference was Save the Children advocate Brendan Cox who commented that the members of the panel mostly differ on the foci of the new framework. “In our view, the framework can do lots of things: advance debates, encourage a normative shift, start to redefine development – but at its core must be abolishing absolute poverty in all its forms. That’s both because we think ending absolute poverty and focusing on the world’s poorest people is the most important thing, but also because we’re worried that without clear prioritization the panel and the ultimate framework will flounder, be unable to prioritize and unable to get specific. Such a framework would remain at 30,000 feet and struggle to gain political purchase if it could even be agreed.”

Prior to attending the panel, Prime Minister Cameron along with President Sirleaf visited a local school in need of books and computers. Cameron asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, to which many answered doctors and lawyers. “That is very impressive. In my country, they all want to be footballers or pop stars,” joked Cameron. Cameron made mention that he hopes to include higher quality education to be included in the world poverty goals.

Cameron has also emphasized the need to focus on extreme rather than relative poverty. “Liberia is a country that was absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war,” he said. “It is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty. I think it is very important we keep a focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

“Here in Liberia, one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. But I also think it is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. These things matter, as well as money,” he said.

Key documents, reports and ongoing research on the post-2015 agenda are available on post-2015.org.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Post2015UNUN Millennium GoalsThe GuardianThe Guardian
Photo:DFID

 

David Cameron

At the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly

save the children
Save the Children has proposed their goals for a post-2015 development agenda. Ending Poverty in Our Generation lists ten major goals, aiming to end extreme poverty globally by 2030. Building on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose progress on its 8 development goals have not been consistent, Save the Children hopes to play a part in realizing the eventual global impacts by delineating their priorities.

Save the Children’s Chairman Harpal Singh praises the MDGs for raising 600 million people out of poverty and providing 56 million children access to schools and education. This significant improvement in the past couple of decades shows that the end of extreme poverty is attainable. To work towards that end, Save the Children acknowledges the faults in the MDGs’ framework, which should be addressed dynamically, while also proposing new targets for creating a sustainable future.

The report proposes that the political process at the level of the UN needs to be cohesive, that inequality has to be tackled at its roots for the progress of every group of people to advance, and that a mechanism should be created to hold governments accountable in global cooperation for development.

The 10 goals proposed by Save the Children, aiming for progress by 2030, are as follow:

  1. Ending extreme poverty by generating growth inclusively
  2. Securing universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
  3. Providing universal basic health care, and preventing child and maternal mortality
  4. Providing education for children everywhere, and ensuring that the children are learning
  5. Creating a global environment where children can live free from violence and are protected in any conflict
  6. Creating accountable governance
  7. Establishing string global partnerships in working for development
  8. Creating societies that remain resilient through disasters
  9. Creating a sustainable and healthy environment universally
  10. Delivering sustainable energy universally

This proposal puts forward a set of universally common goals that draw on the strength and successes of the MDGs to ultimately create a brighter and more sustainable future.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: Trust
Photo Source: Save the Children