Information and stories on Millennium Development Goals


In order to end poverty, it is vital to look at the big picture. A group of Australian scientists have recently published a study about the importance of environmental issues in the fight against world poverty.

The group declared that world governments need to be stricter when it comes to environmental regulations and limiting pollution. Two of the major concerns they identify are: protecting clean air and radically decreasing the amount of water taken from rivers. Environmental agencies like the EPA are responsible for limiting pollution from industry, and more developed countries follow some type of air protection doctrine but these scientists believe that the regulations are not nearly strict enough. The researchers admit that one of the biggest changes that must be made is not so much a change in policy so much as a change in the public mindset. The global community cannot continue to view the Earth as a provider of infinite resources. While unregulated resource extraction helped many to escape nationwide poverty in the past with materials such as coal and oil, that is no longer the case. The changing climate and ever-growing pollution that the world faces today produce a series of difficulties for those living in severe poverty. Air, water, and soil pollution all pose a threat to food production and sustainability.

The study comes at a time when the member countries of the United Nations are preparing to work out a new fifteen year plan to replace the Millennium Development Goals that will end in 2015. The authors of the study believe that the new plan, that will end in 2030, must view environmental protection and poverty reduction as two issues that must be addressed together, not seen as separate crises.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: ABC-CBN News
Photo: Promasys

UN Highlights Technological Innovation and African Development
An often overlooked factor that underpins the sustainability of development in a nation is the ability to be innovative in the fields of science and technology. Recently, at a United Nations meeting in Tanzania, senior UN officials repeatedly stressed the importance of technological innovation and African development as key in moving past the 2015 millennium development goals and well into the future.

Of the many beneficial consequences of a robust science and technology sector, none is felt more than the long term effects they have on overall growth and job creation. Innovative Green Farming has produced thousands of new startups across much of the developed world, so too have the various technological enterprises built by well funded post-graduate researchers at various universities and laboratories. By harnessing the entrepreneurial power of science-based sectors, technological innovation and African development can work in tandem towards a sustainable economic future. In regards to the need for more innovation in Africa, President of ECOSOC Nestor Osorio remarked that “Innovation is the essence of our modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies. Greater efforts are needed to build partnerships among government, private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations and the international community, to promote and spread innovation for sustainable development in Africa.”

By utilizing the minds of the African populace, technological innovation and African development can be used to not only pull much of the people out of chronic poverty but also solve the food security and logistical challenges of the continent. By bringing to light the amazing potential of economic prosperity and a greater quality of life through the science and technological sectors, Africa can dramatically reduce poverty levels and standards of living well into the future.

Brian Turner

Source: UN News
Photo: Guardian

UN Warns Environmental Threats Increase PovertyA report released by the UN warns that the number of people in extreme poverty could rise by 3 billion in 2050 unless immediate action is taken to combat environmental threats.

The 2013 Human Development Report had stated that more than 40 countries have shown significant improvement on health, wealth and education with rapid increases in Brazil, China, India as well as many other developing countries. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty, or living on $1.25 a day or less, had fallen from 43% to 22% from 1990 to 2008. This is attributed to significant successes in poverty reduction and economic growth in China and India. In response to this statistic, the World Bank has said that the Millennium Development Goal of decreasing extreme poverty by half by 2015 was ahead of schedule.

However, the UN had also reported that if environmental challenges such as climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution were left unaddressed, human development progress in the poorest countries could come to a halt and possibly be reversed. Environmental threats and ecosystem losses are worsening the living situations and hindering the livelihood opportunities of many poor people. Building on the 2011 edition of the report arguing for sustainable development, the UN warns that unless coordinated global action is taken to combat environmental issues, the number of people in extreme poverty could rise.

“Environmental threats are among the gravest impediments to lifting human development,” the report says. “The longer action is delayed, the higher costs will be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Flickr

ONE's Initiative to Reduce Poverty in AfricaThe 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

How Quinoa Can Lead to Nutritional SecurityFebruary 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 U.N. 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 U.N.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the U.N 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 U.N.’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the U.N. 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 U.N. heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

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


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

Panel Discusses the Millennium Development GoalsLast 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

 

Accountability Promised on Aid PledgesAt 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 in 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 the 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