Why are governments failing on the Millennium Development goals?


by Guest    
9:30 am - April 8th 2012

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contribution by Chris Bain

A decade ago, the United Nations agreed 8 ambitious goals designed to rid the world of the worst extremes of poverty, and set themselves a deadline of 2015 to meet their targets.?

This week marked 1,000 days until the start of 2015: 1,000 days left to ensure that girls and boys everywhere complete primary school; to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth by three-quarters; and to make similar progress on hunger, disease, child mortality and the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).?

?While the MDGs have helped to focus attention, their segmentation of the symptoms of poverty has taken attention away from the ultimate root causes of poverty.

Globally, economic inequality is on a longstanding upward trend. Some countries have got immensely richer, while many others are as poor as they were hundreds of years ago.?

?Not surprisingly therefore, MDG progress has too often failed to reach those in most need. Whatever the improvement in national averages, women and girls, those in extreme poverty and those living in rural areas have usually remained worse off than the rest.

?It is also clear that some issues, such as environmental sustainability, required much greater attention, resources and political commitment to achieve progress, while other issues have been neglected because they did not feature in the MDGs at all, such as access to energy and the needs of people living with disabilities.?

?The final, central flaw of the MDGs was their almost exclusive concentration on what had to be done within individual developing countries, not what action the world as a whole needed to take to address shared problems.?

A new framework must learn these lessons.

?Environmental sustainability must be at the heart of the new framework. The world has so far failed abysmally to make progress on MDG targets to protect and preserve environmental resources and eco-systems, the basis for many poor people’s livelihoods. ?

?The new framework must also increase the focus on eliminating extreme poverty, and explicitly target the groups which have made least progress to date. This will also mean broadening the global remit beyond the current MDGs to tackle inequalities within and between countries, which is essential to targeting the root causes of poverty. ?

?CAFOD is co-chairing the Beyond 2015 campaign, bringing together nearly 300 civil society organisations from over 70 countries, committed to work with the United Nations and our respective governments to help develop their proposals.?

?So far, we have seen good intentions from the authorities but little action. ?It is not too late, but the countdown from 1,000 days has begun, and we cannot wait any longer.?

—-
Chris Bain Director of CAFOD

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1. Paul Newman

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“Globally, economic inequality is on a longstanding upward trend.”

Simple error of fact there I’m afraid. Global economic inequality is falling.

Economic inequality within countries is rising, yes. But overall inequality among the entire human species is falling.

We normally measure this by the Gini. And global Gini is indeed falling. See the work of Xavier Sala i Martin or Branco Milanovic for the proof.

Because (a), the millennium goals were only ever a public relations spin to make fat blowhards in the developed world feel good about their selfish, short sighted, money grubbing “free market” lifestyles and (b), because giving money to those in the third world paying the price for our indulgences now plays badly when people clutching their ipads and other hi-tech toys to their chests are in danger of losing public services they depend on but prefer not to support by paying taxes see foreign aid as more threatening to their prosperity than tax dodging and bonuses.

4. White Trash

2 Tim -: To be fair, “global inequality” is an extremely complex notion that takes a lot of unpacking, as sociologists call it, and can’t be reduced to simple either/or assertions. Not surprisingly the whole issue is also highly contested.

The UC Atlas of Global Inequality website says that:

“Global inequality has grown dramatically over the last 300 years. At the end of the Twentieth Century global income inequality was greater than ever before. There is debate amongst academics, between street protestors and global institutions, and elsewhere, about the whether inequality is rising or falling. This Atlas seeks to shed light on that debate and to broaden discussion to include aspects of inequality beyond income measures and beyond aggregated national statistics. The Atlas already includes sections on Health, Gender and Economic Crises. And it will be expanding in the future. ”

http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/

There is also the issue of where global inequaliies are heading. IF we are reaching peak production levels, particularly of key non-renewable resources, as well as over-exploitation and degradation of slowly renewable resources, simultaneous with ever- expanding human populations; going beyond unprecedented levels as they are, then we may yet see radical dislocations whereby global inequalities may also increase rapidly and unpredictably, with disturbing synergistic effects. We mustn’t be too complacent.

The MDG is based on numerical targets. Therefore, for the initiative to be valid the data must be valid. Most births and deaths in Africa are simply not recorded. Only Mauritius registers such events according to UN standards. How the hell can you measure progress in eliminating undesirable events if the data is unreliable? You did not know how many women died in childbirth before the MDG, and you do not know now.

We know at our own national domestic level that bottom-up local initiatives have more chance of success than something top-down from chinless cretins in the Whitehall/Westminster asylum. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose that at the international level top-down will have any more success than the domestic failure that we know top-down to be. The MDG is institutionalising top-down at the international level. Targets for getting children to school is just an exercise in getting bums on seats. Just increasing bums on seats tells us nothing about whether children learn anything useful. We could be increasing the amount of woo that is taught to children and that would be counted as success if the amount of children receiving a primary education increased. Personally, I think being taught drivel is worse than not being taught at all.

The main beneficiaries of the the MDG initiative have been international charitable NGO’s, which have received huge sums of financial support from large foundations and states. Yet, because the data is unreliable or nonexistent we do not know if they achieve anything beyond jobs for themselves. Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is doing relatively better than they ever did in the past. However, apparently on MDG metrics they are getting worse. Where the data is reliable in Asia we know that economic growth has raised million out of poverty. Apparently not in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, on so many other observations this deterioration in performance is unlikely to be true. The apparent divergence is caused by the made up data. No one is likely to disagree with the Millennium Development Goals. The problem is numerical targets, top-down bureaucracy and unreliable statistics.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 1 Paul Newman

“The problem seems to be that as a consequence of many parts if the world getting richer , thanks to the joys of capitalism, and average wages going up (ditto ), we have more inequality. Right then, would every one whose life has immeasurably improved please return to the stone age existence some fatuous do gooder would patently prefer you to endure.”

Could you point to the fatuous do-gooder in question and show me where they called for this?

“Global inequality has grown dramatically over the last 300 years.”

Sure, The Great Divergence. Some places had industrial revolutions and others didn’t. That is, some places escaped the $600 a year per capita GDP that has been man’s historical lot and other didn’t.

“At the end of the Twentieth Century global income inequality was greater than ever before.”

Not so. As Milanovic and Sala i Martin have shown, global inequality was lower at the end of the 20 th cent. than it had been a few decades before.

You know, as this neoliberal globalisation thing brought the industrial revolution to places that hadn’t had it yet?

“This Atlas seeks to shed light on that debate and to broaden discussion to include aspects of inequality beyond income measures and beyond aggregated national statistics.”

Translation: given that this neoliberal globalisation thing is reducing global income inequality let’s go and talk about something else.

“Global inequality has grown dramatically over the last 300 years.”

Oh, for the good old egalitarian days, when we all lived in abject poverty. Damn that accumulation of capital!

9. White Trash

7 Tim -: That just sounds like a restated assertion of what you already wrote in 2, without addressing any of the points that I made about the complexity of the issue and the instability of our current position.

I guess if you are sufficiently comfortable in the current arrangements all these problems can look simple and distant.

Because people in the ‘West/developed world..whatever we agree to say’ now have the audacity to imagine they are poor. And giving t other countries is not fashionable now.

11. Leon Wolfeson

@2 – Racing to the bottom isn’t a good thing. That the rich have pushed down wages in developed countries since the 70′s…

@5 – Well, when we’re on course to miss several in THIS county, at present trends…

12. Frances_coppola

Chris, I’m sure your heart’s in the right place, but really this is priceless. We’re not doing well enough with the existing MDG goals, so let’s think up a whole lot of new ones and try to implement them in the remaining 1,000 days?


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