Magazine article New Internationalist

Missing the Millennium Development Goals

Magazine article New Internationalist

Missing the Millennium Development Goals

Article excerpt

All the member states of the UN adopted a Millennium Declaration at a special session of the General Assembly in September 2000. They went on to agree a set of Development Goals that are now a formal priority for every relevant UN agency. Here the NI takes a critical look at them - and keeps the score.

* The goals were made deliberately modest. Even more 'realistic' targets were then set for each goal. The start date was fixed at 1990, the finish date 2015 - a period of 25 years in all - so projections for the future would relate to established trends. Just 10 of the 25 years now remain.

* How the targets were to be met was left unclear. A 'global partnership for development' was to be 'developed'. A UN Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002 pledged few new resources - fewer still have been delivered. The focus was to be on aid, rather than 'innovative' measures (such as a 'Tobin' tax on currency speculation) or any change to the mechanisms of debt and trade.

* In 2003 the UNDP Human Development Report made an assessment of progress. It painted a bleak picture, from which the comments below are derived. On current trends sub-Saharan Africa is going backwards. In the world as a whole (including rich countries), the target on hunger is unlikely to be reached until after 2040; on child mortality until nearly 2050; on primary education until after 2090.

* All the projections rely on current economic growth rates in India and China, which are likely to prove unsustainable. Overall, the best-performing region is Latin America where, since the overthrow of military dictatorships, neoliberal economic orthodoxy has been most hotly contested.

* Disrespect for the lives of many millions of people is, however, set to continue for generations to come - if not indefinitely. Many of the trends are adverse and cast into doubt the whole 'development' project itself.

ECONOMIC

GOAL: DEVELOP A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT

TARGET: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system.

TARGET: Address the special needs of the least developed countries.

TARGET: Address the special needs of landlocked countries and small island developing states.

TARGET: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.

TARGET: In co-operation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth.

TARGET: In co-operation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

TARGET: In co-operation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

COMMENT: The 'partnership for development' prescribes current neoliberal orthodoxy - with the 'private sector' (corporations) and pharmaceutical companies thrown in. Aid would need to increase by $50 billion a year just to regain the levels of the early 1990s, and by $120 billion (half of it from the US) a year to reach the target 0.7 per cent of rich-country income that was reasserted by the 2002 Finance for Development Conference - which itself produced just $15 billion. A 2003 report on 'third world' debt found that since 2000 progress had been 'glacial': 'It appears that creditors have done their best to ensure that as few countries as possible trickle through the net of debt cancellation.'

SOCIAL

GOAL: ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER

TARGET: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day. …

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