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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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NEW YORK, Jul 9 2007 (IPS) - Where do we stand on the UN Millennium Development Goals halfway to the 2015 deadline? asks Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and founder and president of Realising Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative. In this article, Robinson writes that a new UN report shows that significant strides have been made in some countries while in other places, like sub-Saharan Africa, no country is on track to meet the goals of halving extreme poverty, ensuring universal primary education, or stemming the AIDS pandemic by 2015. This is tragic and unacceptable because we know what works and what kinds of actions are needed to make faster and more equitable progress. The experience of the past seven years tells us that where political will exists there can be positive results. Even some of the poorest countries, like Rwanda, Mozambique, and Bangladesh, are on track to achieve many of the MDGs, precisely because there is political will and responsible donor support. Developed countries have an obligation to provide timetables for delivering on their promises concerning aid volume, aid effectiveness, and debt cancellation.
The Berne event, ”0.7 percent – Together Against Poverty”, highlighted one critical dimension of the strategy needed to achieve the goals set by world leaders in 2000: rich nations need to do their part by meeting internationally-agreed development assistance targets. It was heartening to see such a large gathering of Swiss civil society organisations and ordinary people urging their government to raise the Swiss level of official development assistance to meet the 0.7 percent target.
The MDGs provided a hopeful indication of how international cooperation could unfold in the early part of the 21st century. World leaders acknowledged a shared responsibility for the fate of our planet and its citizens and committed to working collectively to halve the number of those in extreme poverty and hunger and achieve universal primary education for boys and girls by 2015. In the 2000 UN Millennium Declaration they agreed to promote gender equality and empowerment of women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensure environmental sustainability.
Where do we stand halfway to 2015? A new stock-taking report by the UN paints a decidedly mixed picture. It shows that significant strides have been made in some countries while in other places, like sub-Saharan Africa, no country is on track to meet the goals of halving extreme poverty, ensuring universal primary education, or stemming the AIDS pandemic by 2015. This is tragic and unacceptable because we know what works and what kinds of actions are needed to make faster and more equitable progress.
The experience of the past seven years tells us that where political will exists there can be positive results. Even some of the poorest countries, like Rwanda, Mozambique, and Bangladesh, are on track to achieve many of the MDGs, precisely because there is political will and responsible donor support.
But we also need to look beyond the numbers. On a recent trip to Ghana, where I had the honour to address government, donor, international agency, and civil society representatives, there was a sense of achievement that MDG 1 concerning poverty reduction would be reached ahead of the 2015 target. But political will to tackle other goals lags behind. Ghana is challenged by increasing inequalities between different areas of the country and is still not moving fast enough to promote women’s equality.
Many other countries are in similar positions. We must assess more than whether the aggregate targets of the MDGs are reached country by country. Development plans are needed which are inclusive and focused on reaching the poorest and other groups who are marginalised in society. We can’t let aggregate numbers obscure the realities of inequality based on gender, ethnic background, or other characteristics which will, in the end, undermine human development.
But as the event in Switzerland stressed, we must acknowledge as well that the lack of significant increases in official development assistance since 2004 makes it virtually impossible, even for many of the best-governed countries, to meet the MDGs. The UN’s new report stresses that unless adequate resources are provided in a predictable way so that developing countries can plan to scale up their investments and make the most effective use of available donor assistance, success is far from assured. Developed countries have an obligation to provide timetables for delivering on their promises concerning aid volume, aid effectiveness, and debt cancellation. In this respect the outcomes of the G8 Summit at Heiligendamm in June were disappointing.
The MDGs – particularly their numerical indicators – should not be viewed as ends in themselves. Rather they should be seen as agreed benchmarks solidly embedded in the broader framework of international human rights obligations. The MDGs were set within the context of commitments governments reaffirmed in the 2000 Millennium Declaration to respect and fully uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ensure respect and protection for the rights of migrant workers and their families, and work collectively for a more inclusive political processes, allowing genuine participation by all citizens in all countries.
Achieving the MDGs is a critical task. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration in 2008, we should recommit to taking the additional steps needed to reach the 2015 targets. But we should do more. We should recognise that the MDGs are part of the larger effort needed to realise human rights for all. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
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