Power in Collaboration: Advancing the Millenium Development Goals

By Turner, Ted | Harvard International Review, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Power in Collaboration: Advancing the Millenium Development Goals


Turner, Ted, Harvard International Review


In 2000, world leaders representing the then 189 member states of the United Nations signed the Millennium Declaration to reduce poverty worldwide, creating eight ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and 21 concrete targets to measure progress toward them.

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I founded the United Nations Foundation to build support for the United Nations' programs and policies in 1998. Therefore, as the United Nations turned its focus to meeting the MDGs, the UN Foundation did as well. In doing so, it eschews the traditional model of a foundation that provides grant dollars alone. Instead, the UN Foundation facilitates cooperation between corporations, other nonprofits and foundations, local and national governments, service and religious organizations, grassroots movements, and individuals of all ages and income levels in campaign-building that sustains the United Nations' MDG-related efforts. The UN Foundation has created some initiatives, such as Nothing But Nets and Girl Up, that are designed to bring together creative ideas and expertise from partners to accelerate progress on the MDGs in several different ways. Other UN Foundation programs, such as the Measles Initiative, coordinate diverse partners in a common, coherent program focused on one or more of the MDGs. The UN Foundation's efforts prove that if the world is to realize the MDGs by 2015, coordinated partnership between public and private organizations and individuals is essential.

An Overview of the MDGs

The MDGs are a global "to-do" list with the due date of 2015. They range from "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" (MDG 1) to "promote gender equality and empower women" (MDG 3) to "combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases" (MDG 6). Other MDGs address additional pervasive problems in the world's poorest countries: substandard primary education, high child mortality rates, poor maternal health, and deteriorating environmental resources. The 21 targets endow the MDGs with useful specificity, as each target outlines practical steps to the realization of its respective MDG.

We are making progress on many of the MDGs. Childhood deaths fell from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008, with 10,000 fewer children dying daily. The increasing use of technology and mobile devices is creating new pathways for information sharing and is enhancing the delivery of health care and surveillance. For example, cleaner cookstoves are reducing the number of women and children harmed by smoke inhalation. And the number of people receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS increased tenfold from 2003-2008. While these statistics are remarkable, more work needs to be done.

In September 2010, world leaders met at the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals to reaffirm their commitment to meeting the goals by 2015 and update concrete action plans. In addition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced public and private pledges of over US$40 billion to accelerate progress on women and children's health. As he explained, the improvement and protection of women and children's lives are essential to realizing all of the MDGs.

The United Nations is the only organization with the global reach and reputation necessary to spearhead a project as ambitious as the MDGs. The organization boasts a total of 192 members, representing every sovereign state in the world except for the Vatican City. Each day, the organization works to address the world's toughest challenges. The United Nations' many offices, agencies, and committees serve the world community in a variety of ways, from monitoring nuclear agreements to building schools, sheltering refugees, and imposing sanctions on terrorist organizations. For example, in the last decade alone, UN peacekeepers disarmed more than 400,000 ex-combatants. The UN World Food Program annually ships 5.1 million tons of food to 113 million of the world's hungry. And UNICEF supplies vaccines to more than 40 percent of the world's children. …

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