Where Do We Stand At The End Of The Millennium Summit?


Credit: © Reuters/Eric Thayer

NOW THAT THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS SUMMIT IS OVER, where do we stand? There was lots of talk, lots of world leaders, lots of renewed promises, and familiar debate about an aid-led approach to development.

What have the MDGs achieved? If you’re looking for success stories, there’s good news about Indonesia, Ghana, and Ethiopia. If you’re looking for facts and figures, there’s no shortage of numbers, such as 45 developing nations (out of 84) have already achieved or will achieve the poverty reduction target.

But what does it all mean? And would these “achievements” have happened without the MDGs?

Most people in rich nations haven’t even heard of the MDGs: AidWatch published the results of a survey that in the U.S., the world’s largest donor, 89 percent of Americans “had heard ‘not much’ or ‘nothing at all'” about the MDGs.

Not surprising. On Wednesday, the summit’s last day, at the traditional close of business (5pm EST), the top story on Google News was the announcement of the new judges on American Idol.

Let’s step away from statistics and pie charts for a moment and ask: are we any closer to ending poverty? We know the answer; the question then is, how much do we want to end poverty? How far are we willing to go to improve the lives of people who lack the most basic needs for survival, including food, shelter, and clean water?

“Yes, of course we want to help,” we say, but how many of us actually take actions to do something about it? Are we willing to share our wealth, so we can achieve a true and lasting “global partnership“?

How many of us will give up our coffee allowance, or buy one less pair of shoes, or look at our grocery bill and think, “Is all this food necessary? Do I need the pasta, hamburgers, frozen pizza, Pop-Tarts, and ice cream?”

How many of us volunteer time with a cause we are engaged with, and instead spend it playing Halo: Reach or watching YouTube?

We’re talking about a world now that has rising inequality within industrialized nations, and that goes largely ignored.

Individuals and NGOs continue to work towards poverty reduction, improved maternal health, and clean water—all the “millennium development goals.” The fact is they don’t need to be labeled as such, or even administered or assessed by a large body like the U.N. As always, you and I need to make the education, health, and safety of our neighbors a priority. Only then will there be no need for MDGs.

This is the eighth in a series of posts examining each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

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