The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the supreme example of an international commitment to help the 1.2 billion people imprisoned by poverty. During the 2010 MDG Summit, which ran from 20-22 September 2010 at the United Nations Headquarters, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the richer donor countries to continue to provide aid to the poor despite budgetary distresses. It was a worldly scene. Over 140 Heads of State – presidents, prime ministers, kings – were in attendance over the course of this three-day Summit. Addressing the leaders of the world, he pressed that the rich, have provided under half of the $100 billion pledged for the fight against poverty in Africa and Asia. Sadly, in the end Africa’s living standards will unlikely be improved in accordance to the goals. According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, the United States and Europe are particularly behind in meeting the MDG goals.
Is it possible to realistically meet the Millennium Development Goals within five years? Unfortunately, the progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals was delayed due to the global economic downturn. The United Nations admits that only two of the many targets will likely be achieved: halving the number of people who lack safe drinking water and halving the number of people who live on under $1.25 or less per day.
Old ways must be addressed and alternate strategies ought to be investigated. According to France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, it would be necessary to discover new funds in order to reach the goals by 2015. He suggested that a tax be imposed on financial transactions. On the final day of the Summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health”, a worldwide campaign to save the lives of sixteen million mothers and children by 2015, backed by over $40 billion pledged by governments and private aid organizations.
Despite the bleak scenery of nations failing to meet their MDG commitments, it is a fact that the eight Millennium Development Goals – (1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; (2) Achieve universal primary education; (3) Promote gender equality and empower women; (4) Reduce child mortality rate; (5) Improve maternal health; (6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; (7) Ensure environmental sustainability; (8) Develop a global partnership for development – have been instrumental in yielding more development success stories than ever before.
We must be reminded that the return on investment is high. According to UNICEF officials, $1 million invested in aiding children five years old or younger in poor countries would prevent sixty percent more deaths than the current approach. President Barack Obama’s statement which was delivered during the Summit was hopeful, reminding the world community: “Let’s put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests. And let’s reject the cynicism that says certain countries are condemned to perpetual poverty. For the past half century has witnessed more gains in human development than at any time in history. A disease that had ravaged the generations, smallpox, was eradicated. Health care has reached the far corners of the world, saving the lives of millions. From Latin America to Africa to Asia, developing nations have transformed into leaders in the global economy.”
Obama further added that “no country wants to be dependant on another”, “no Leader in this room wants to ask for aid,” and “no family wants to be beholden to the assistance of others.” Thus, the MDGs must also address the building of self-sufficiency and the breaking of aid dependency. They are not just about development. They remind us of the positive opportunities revolving around tapping into the potentials of emerging economies and developing nations.
Brenda Vongova writes for the HARBUS on international affairs. She has served in the cabinets of three Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly.