MDGs run awry in NY

“One could say there was a certain lack of seriousness in this process from the start,” said United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at last week’s General Assembly meeting in New York.

The assembly met for the summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were revealed to be lacking the progress necessary to reach the 2015 goals.

The richest of states have committed to donate 0.7 per cent of gross national income in order to halve extreme poverty and hunger, establish universal primary education, promote gender equality and empowerment of women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

According to the BBC, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed concern and anger over the lack of progress made in establishing universal primary education.

Brown said that guaranteeing education for all was a matter of “security, anti-poverty and health.”

One of the primary reasons for these failures is that the world’s richest countries have failed to donate 0.7 per cent of gross national income.
Five years ago in Gleneagles, Scotland, G8 countries committed to doubling aid to Africa by 2010, which has yet to happen.

The countries claim that their failure to uphold their commitment is the result of the financial crisis. Jeffery Sachs, an MDG advisor, claims that there was a shortfall in aid far before the crisis.

Despite the bleak progress report, Ki-moon insists that the goals can still be achieved if enough work is done.

Wilfrid Laurier University professor Alex Latta disagrees. He explained that Ki-moon’s role is that of a cheerleader in that he is now trying to “rally the team for a last heroic quarter;” consequently he has to “make it seem that we can meet those goals if we just give it our 110 per cent effort.”

According to Latta, this, however, “serves to perpetuate the myth that problems like poverty can be solved by simply ‘working harder’ to deliver aid where it is needed most.”

A draft resolution referred to the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session reports that progress has been slow in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women as well as in providing basic sanitation and achieving environmental sustainability.
It further states that, “progress on other Millennium Development Goals is fragile and must be sustained to avoid reversal.”

Latta further explains that MDGs not only oversimplifies the world’s problems but “set the bar quite low in terms of what we might consider human ‘progresses’; or even the elimination of ‘poverty.’”

He argued that even if we were to meet all the MDGs “we would still live in a tremendously unequal world, where a minority consumes the bulk of the world’s resources.”

Latta suggested, “Instead of such abstract goal-setting exercises, attached to lacklustre aid initiatives, we would be better off to turn our attention to the economic relationships that generate inequality—both within and between nations.”

“As it stands, programs like the MDGs actually serve to legitimize the existing global order, distracting our attention from more critical reflection on world issues.”