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

U.N. Secretary-General
Starting in 1946, the United Nations assigned its first Secretary-General while still in its infancy as an organization. His name was Trygve Lie from Norway, and there have been eight successors since; Antonio Guterres currently serving as U.N. Secretary-General.

 

The Role of a Secretary-General

The U.N. Charter, the foundational treaty of the U.N., describes the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, “who shall act in that capacity and perform ‘such other functions as are entrusted’ to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs.”

Overall, the U.N. Secretary-General is someone who is supposed to symbolize humanitarian ideals of equality and hold an interest for obtaining peace among nations.

On a day-to-day basis, the Secretary-General attends U.N. meetings, consults with world leaders and other state officials and must remain up-to-date on important international and national relations.

In times of crisis, the U.N. Secretary-General should take it upon his/herself to speak in front of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and rally support for action. This role requires the utmost responsibility to maintain international peace and security — if there are any conflicts occurring within or between borders that goes against human rights and international security, the Secretary-General must be aware and ready to rally support.

 

The Seventh Secretary-General

One man who truly upheld and set an example in his role as U.N. Secretary-General was Kofi Annan. Annan, born in Ghana, worked for many years with the U.N. before becoming Secretary-General in 1997.

Human dignity was central to Annan’s mission with the U.N. — he sought to advance human dignity in three predominant ways:

  1. He promoted human rights standards and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  2. He worked through the U.N. institutions themselves to reform their machinery and ability to act (specifically by starting the Human Rights Council)
  3. He focused on zones of conflict to build U.N. operational efforts in needed locations

In the early 1990s, and prior to Annan’s entrance as a Secretary-General, the Cold War left the international field in a state of tension. In zones of conflict, such as during the Rwandan genocide, U.N. was seen in a negative light. Due to a lack of resources and a clear mandate for peacekeeping units to use force, the Rwandan genocide became known for its mass atrocities.

 

The Revolutionizing Ability of the Secretary-General

Annan had been Undersecretary-General at the time, and vowed to make positive changes starting in 1997; specifically, he wanted to make human rights a concept known and promoted for every member state. While the idea of protecting human rights was casually thrown around in the mid-late 20th Century, it was never fully given the attention it deserved.

During the World Summit in September 2005, all governments in attendance recognized the R2P and even gave it the nickname of being the “Annan doctrine” due to the intense lobbying the Secretary-General did during his years in office for human rights. The R2P meant that all governments within the U.N. clearly accepted their collective responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Never before had a Secretary-General put so much effort into humanitarian causes and the protection of birth right; but during Annan’s 10 years in office, U.N. peacekeeping grew both in terms of scale and efficacy. The governing body also increased the annual budget for U.N. peacekeeping from $1 billion in 1997 to $5 billion in 2006. Annan transformed not only the role of the U.N. and its member states, but positively impacted the lives of thousands (if not millions) of people.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

Anoyara Khatun Anoyara Khatun was the victim of a very real threat to many Indian children. At age 12, Khatun became one of the millions of children who are trafficked every year. An organization called Save the Children rescued her from her life of domestic slavery, and since then she has been determined to be a part of the solution.

Upon returning to her village at age 13, Khatun realized that the situation was not much better for girls in her home in West Bengal than for girls in slavery. Girls from her home were forced into child marriages, and still more were being trafficked to cities.

According to the International Center for Research on Women, 47 percent of girls are married before age 18 in India. Meanwhile, a staggering 135,000 children are estimated to be trafficked in India annually.

When forced into marriage or work at a young age, children are robbed of their childhood; Khatun hopes to restore the gift of a childhood to young people in India.

Khatun joined the Save the Children’s Multi-Activity Centre almost immediately after escaping domestic slavery. However, she wasn’t able to reach as many Indian children as she thought was necessary to make a real impact.

Consequently, Khatun formed children groups throughout her village to discuss solutions to the rampant child marriage and trafficking in India, raise awareness about these issues and educate people about the dangers.

Over time, by working with Save the Children as well as a growing number of adults in the community, Khatun was able to accomplish amazing feats.

So far, she has been instrumental to reuniting 180 victims of trafficking with their families and rescuing 85 children from trafficking. She has also prevented 35 child marriages and registered 200 children into schools.

Recently, Khatun has expanded her horizons and joined many superstars in the charity world. She is working alongside Bill and Melinda Gates to push the Every Woman, Every Child initiative.

This initiative was launched during the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010. It includes a goal to “address the major health challenges facing women, children and adolescents around the world.”

Clearly, Anoyara Khatun has a unique perspective and fervor for child rights. She is changing the lives of Indian children every day.

Sabrina Yates

 

UN Millenium Development MDGsThe United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000. World leaders and members of the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to set goals for eradicating world poverty focusing on eight specific aspects of poverty and how it affects people globally.

The campaign concluded in 2015 and at that time data was released to show the progress achieved. The eight UN MDGs are listed below, along with what was achieved in each category, per the results of the 2015 report:

    • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of this goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, both the number of people whose income falls below $1 per day and the number of people suffering from hunger. These goals were largely achieved. The number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries fell by nearly half.
    • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This goal began with the ambitious target of assuring that both boys and girls everywhere would have access to a full primary education by 2015. Significant strides have been made in this area. The number of out of school children of primary age, globally, dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the course of the MDG campaign.
    • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The goal, specifically, was to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary education no later than 2015. This was achieved in roughly two-thirds of developing countries.
    • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality. The goal was specifically to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate was not reduced by two-thirds by 2015 but it was more than halved. The 12.7 million deaths in 1990 were reduced to 6 million by 2015.

  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target of this goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. The result was that maternal mortality declined by 45 percent, largely after the year 2000.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. The primary target named for this goal was to have halted the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to have begun its reversal. Cases of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and there was an immense increase in the number of people who had access to the drugs that combat HIV. Additionally, the mortality rate due to malaria dropped by 58 percent, and 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in affected areas.
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability. This goal was to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.” Results included 1.9 billion people gaining access to piped drinking water between 1990 and 2015 and 90 percent of ozone-depleting materials being eliminated in countries included in the campaign.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Financial assistance by developed countries increased from $81 billion in 2000 to $135 billion in 2014. This is a 66 percent increase.

In many cases, the UN MDGs were achieved. Where they were not, great strides were still made towards achieving the goals. Some have criticized the campaign for falling short of its stated goals. But the data shows significant progress made for each one.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr