Even with all the diversity of culture evident at the United Nations meeting to assess progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the one theme that all leaders have agreed upon is “less talk, more action.” As Dimitris Christofias, the President of Cyprus, put it, “We have spoken a lot, but not done enough.”
The deadline for reaching the Millennium Goals is 2015. A feeling that five more years is not very long to reach success when the world has been suffering unexpectedly strong repercussions from financial crisis, conflicts and climate disruptions ran as an undercurrent through the meeting.
Seven of the key objectives of the United Nation Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 include the following.
• Reduce world hunger by half
• Reduce extreme poverty by half
• Provide universal basic education for children
• Ensure education for girls and women
• Reduce infant mortality by two-thirds
• Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters
• Stop spread of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS
Each leader of the 140 countries in attendance has stated the progress and problems in their country, as well as offering straight-forward suggestions for improving the chances of reaching the goals. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, suggested that success in meeting the objectives makes necessary the inclusion of all people into the economic structure of the world, which would call for a fair distribution of wealth in order to create jobs, especially for women. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, added, “The trinity is still true.” She is referring to the foundational assumption of the UN Millennium Declaration, which includes the following three principles which cannot be ignored.
• Peace and Security
• Respect for Human Rights
Just before the beginning of the summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented to the French Press Agency, “I know there is skepticism but this Millennium Development Goal is a promise, a blueprint, by the world leaders to lift billions of people out of poverty. This must be met and delivered.” Think tanks from across the political spectrum have suggestions for the UN on how to reach the goals.
The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation points out that much of the foreign aid ends up in the wrong hands, into the hands of corrupt governments. Analyst James Roberts sets out two choices, “Foreign Aid vs. Economic Freedom.” His argument is based on the lack of success in ending poverty although over the past 50 years $1.65 trillion has been donated. Brown suggested President Obama emphasize the importance of three essential actions necessary in all countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals, as suggested by Secretary of State Clinton.
• End to Corruption
• Strengthening of Rule of Law
• Return to Principles of Economic Freedom
Roberts’ main conclusion being that incentives for “free-market-led economic growth” will bring the success that foreign aid has failed to provide.
On the other hand, the left-leaning Brookings Institute drew attention to the need for an overhaul of the Security Council was brought to attention by the MDG meeting. Analyst Bruce Jones noted the changing political landscape of the world demands a change, and the current configuration doesn’t offer workable solutions, as seen at the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit. He cites two main reasons change is necessary:
• Power has shifted away from Europe toward Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).
• G-20 may usurp the powers of the Security Council in face of a political crisis such as a security crisis.
Jones concludes that the United States of America is the best choice for facilitating a change in the Security Council membership, suggesting, “. . . they may be able to engender enough momentum to change the U.N.-and show that, in multilateral affairs, the United States is still a powerfully creative force.”
The centrist think tank Center for Global Development has a concern that the eight goals, 20 targets and more than 60 indicators were bound to fail for many reasons, including being over-ambitious. Todd Moss has suggested that these five goals would bring more success.
• Think of the needs of each individual country, rather than shoe horn countries into a global template
• Goals should be achievable as well as ambitious
• Facilitate accountability
• Rather than global goals make them warning markers
• Identifiable success so success can be celebrated
Moss suggests his fifth marker is important because “Scorecards of progress should be able to identify and celebrate success of those countries ahead of the curve and be creative in enhancing the lives of their people.”
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