A decade has passed since all 192 member states of the United Nations made the commitment to work together on the Millennium Development Goals– eight time-bound and measurable, albeit ambitious benchmarks to be achieved by 2015. The MDG’s, as they’re called, center on drastically reducing global poverty, hunger, disease and child mortality, and promoting sustainability, education and gender equality.
Here’s what they are:
Nearly 140 world leaders are expected to convene at the U.N. for a three-day summit starting today to take stock of the progress to date — and to recommit to ensuring they meet the goals over the next five years.
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “the summit will be a crucially important opportunity to redouble our efforts to meet the Goals.”
Just last week the Overseas Development Institute, a U.K.-based think tank, came out with the MDG Report Card, which analyzes progress to date — and where the most crucial needs remain.
The good news is that real, measurable progress has been made. Take a look at these examples:
Of course the picture is not so bright everywhere, nor can one expect it to be.
The gap between rich and poor, male and female, urban and rural remain just that — gaping. World unemployment is at its highest level ever. As the Secretary General stated when he released the U.N.’s 2010 Millenium Development Goals Report in June “Two hundred and eleven million people are unemployed — and the world needs to create 470 million new jobs in the next 10 years simply to keep pace.”
That makes the MDG’s all the more pressing. Not to oversimplify, but you have to start somewhere, and the MDG’s offer a framework for development, or, as the United Nations Foundation likes to say, they’re “the world’s to-do list.”
The success stories show solutions are feasible. The harder question is just how to take on the greater challenges in tangible ways. UNICEF just came out last week with an innovative report positing that working with the poorest of the poor — those most difficult to access — would be not only cost effective, but could affect some of the real change the MDG’s are all about.
The real trick now is to raise the profile of the Millennium Development Goals. As world leaders convene on New York City this week for the Summit that will take them through Wednesday, and then the General Assembly session that continues through the end of September, there’s a real hope for change.
Is it possible that not all the goals will be hit by 2015? Sure. Is it probable that many, if not all, will? Yes. Good governance will play a major role in whether the goals can be met, or not. It’s easy to jump on the naysayers’ bandwagon — U.N. bashing is, after all, high art, but it’s much more important to focus on the progress made, and look to the future. We owe it not just to ourselves, but to the 22,000 children who die each day around the world.
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