Leaders waxed and waned about UN Millennium targets
Posted on September 29th, 2010

Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UNƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s 65h General Assembly seemed to have glossed over the millennium goals. World leaders who convened in New York were waxing and waning about a series of ambitious goals established 10 years ago for improving living conditions in the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s poorest nations. Whether those targets called the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 would be a reality is another question. The short fall seemed obvious. Many economists have expressed doubts about pulling off a pragmatic and realistic achievement scenario in bringing the set target to fruition.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist and special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated recently that the American leadership has not played the role it should be playing and that leaders in other countries have been playing. He added ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-You donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t hear about [the millennium goals] from Obama, and you didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t hear about them from Bush or Clinton, so Americans just donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t know about them.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Translation into working document

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Goals statement seemed a very fine statement, with lots of nice sentiments. That had to be translated into a working document. There must be commitments from the major nations to get things moving.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is true that there had been some progress, for instance in Africa. The wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere had somewhat subsided. Economic growth has increased rather from 0 to negative in the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”90s to positive 5 or 6 percent in this decade. There must be further acceleration.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Basic infrastructure still lags behind in many countries in Africa. China has been financing many projectsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚even been accused of neo-colonialism. Infra-structure is an area that must get massive dozes of aid from the world. ChinaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s example needs to be followed by others in pouring in investment.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Motivating the donors to be magnanimous takes a lot of convincing. There are politics at play. The low support for educational projects is a shocking fact. There is hardly any international financial support for it. Everyone knows educationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s important, but everyone turns a deaf ear.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ How the world reacted to aids project in Africa is a good example of engaging the countries in a more meaningful dialogue. The scale up for AIDS actually came gradually and it snowballed. ClintonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Global initiative seemed a good success.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Poverty reduction

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Poverty reduction is another target requiring realistic goals. For example, the PhilippinesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ goal to reduce the number of Filipinos living in extreme poverty and subsistence by 12.5 percent in 2015 is ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-unrealistic,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ according to most observers.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Poverty level seems to be over 30 percent and trying to get it down to 12 percent by 2015 would be far fetched. The global down turn in finance put a damper on many nations striving to reduce poverty levels.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ One exception is Sri Lanka where the banks were becoming lenders to greater segments of the peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the rates also dropped. Eastern and Northern infrastructure projects also boosted the attempt to direct resources to where they were needed most.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Asian Development Bank had been trying to address the poverty issue directly. About one-fourth of the 42 developing countries for which Millennium goals funding was set up are not likely to meet the 2015 targets if they do not radically improve. The ADB has alerted the countries about his fact.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Millennium goals must be set in stone and political leaders made to follow them more vigorously. It could be said with near certainty that the goals are not well known to say the least in the U.S. You often go weeks or months without hearing about them from the politicians.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Fortunately and to the surprise of many people, they have become the organizing principle for development in countries throughout the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚as stated during last UN General Assembly. Many simply lack the appetite for international causes as the backyard in their country is now a mess with the banks performing well below par.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There has to be an attempt to tie Millennium goals to the share of national income or GDP-that way the process continues unheeded. It would take a gargantuan effort to bring about a sea change in the attitude towards poverty reduction. That ultimately would help the donors in the long run. It is just common sense.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The world leaders at the UN waxed and waned. It is time to put their money where the mouths were.

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