global goals
As the deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching, world leaders have continuously met in the last year to assess the achievement of the program and set goals for the future. However, in light of the fact that many targets remain to be met, the U.N. is shifting from an approach that promises to help to one that is more inclusive and participatory — the Sustainable Development Goals.

This new approach carries important changes, especially when it comes to aligning national and international interests and needs, instead of imposing generalized international goals to a wide array of countries with different resources. It also seeks to incorporate more global leaders and local agents to produce more tangible results.

One of the elements driving this change is the wisdom of global goals in driving development. The set of goals established by in the Millennium Program have produced mixed result at best. While extreme poverty and child mortality have indeed been reduced to half of their 1990s levels, progress remains uneven among different countries and regions, especially in education and health. Even some African countries have seen a reversal in health related issues.

However, according to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, considering the nonbinding nature of these goals, the fact that countries and various organizations have abided by them and attempted to meet them speaks to their significance.

Building upon successes of the Millennium Development Goals, world leaders want to expand to new goals to include more than just poverty alleviation. This means that beyond health and education aimed at reducing extreme poverty and child mortality rates, the Sustainable Development Goals include issues such as climate change.

A main driver behind the new agenda setting for the next 15 years is to create programs that not only benefit the world’s poor, but the world in general. U.N. leaders have met 11 times in the last year looking to align national goals with some of the most challenging issues facing humanity today.

Whether setting development goals is a good practice or not is still being debated. However, one thing that world leaders can agree on is that it established a common language to implement and measure the success of development programs.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: The New York Times, Anchorage News Daily
Photo: UN 

Over the past two decades, sweeping statements about our ability to end poverty have been common. Lyndon Johnson declared it in 1964. Thabo Mbeki in 2002. Tony Blair in 2005. More recently, Obama and U2 frontman Bono have attempted to inspire action by reiterating our capacity to make an impact and in April press conference, Jim Yong Kim wrote “2030” on a piece of paper, held it up and stated emphatically that this was the deadline to end global poverty.

More common than our leaders’ public displays of confidence, however, is our general inaction towards capitalizing on our ability to use it. This is not necessarily a reflection of the stinginess of those in power; the international response after disasters and during successful charity drives is a testament to the existing desire to aid those in need. Rather, we are grappling with a problem of mismanagement and misconception.

Ending poverty is achievable in the way winning an Olympic medal is achievable. It will take energy, time, luck, effort, money and above all, indomitable will to ensure its success. It has to be properly managed and directed. Currently, what we have is akin to having a potential star athlete without a trainer or equipment.

The Washington Post estimates that if countries were to donate 50 cents of every $100 earned in income, it would drastically decrease poverty – if properly funneled. The cost to end poverty is not, in and of itself, exorbitantly high, especially in comparison to budgets for other programs. Yet the money already used is too often misused – charity, while noble, is often a misguided venture which temporarily alleviates rather than solves problems and too little is directed towards programs that could help because of fear of corruption or siphoning by dishonest governments.

The Millennium Project has released a report Investing in Development which outlines the numerous ways a small amount can have a huge impact. Malaria nets in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, are magic bullets: eliminating disease, potentially lowering birth rates and allowing greater productivity. The provision of obstetric care could save hundreds of lives, while using local healthy foods to provide nutritious school lunches could increase revenues for farmers and improve child health and performance in schools.

Too often, people think of poverty as an unconquerable single problem. In reality, poverty is the result of a confluence of factors, all of which have structural solutions. Although it is complicated and requires long-term planning, a fatalistic view of poverty is solely an excuse for not trying. Estimates put the total cost of the US contribution around 60 billion – a fraction of what the nation spends annually. With so much potential benefit in terms of emerging markets and sound international security, the cost to end poverty seems almost a bargain price.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: The Economist, Washington Post
Photot: Middlesbourgh Diocese