Fourteen years ago, United Nations member states set a lofty goal: to work together to relieve global poverty, hunger, disease, and the lack of access to basic education and clean drinking water by 2015, and to improve the status of women. Eight areas were targeted for improvement, collectively named the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.
This important agenda has been advanced by civil society actors, including activists and non-governmental organizations. In late August, representatives from 117 countries and some 900 Non-Governmental Organizations met at the United Nations Department of Public Information's 65th NGO Conference, to work out a post-2015, post-MDG development agenda.
“This conference, and the entire United Nations post-2015 development agenda, is not just about setting noble goals. It’s about figuring out what we can do to meet them,” said U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power.
Since the MDGs were agreed to, there has been significant progress on many goals. Over 600 million people advanced out of extreme poverty; girls and boys attend primary school in roughly equal numbers; and nearly 14 million people received anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Still, much of this progress can be attributed to remarkable economic growth in India and China, while too many places in the world have seen little or no relief from crippling poverty. So how do we reach these people?
First, peace and good governance should be included among our goals, said Ambassador Power. Countries that pass just laws and build credible, independent institutions to implement them are better able to prevent conflict and create the enabling conditions for private sector development, which in turn enables development.
Countries where violence and injustice persist have seen little or no progress on the MDGs. Ambassador Power observed that from “1981 to 2005, countries that experienced conflict or severe violence fell twice as far behind in reducing infant mortality; their populations were three times as likely to be under-nourished.
And second, activists and organizations should narrow their goals to those that promise the deepest and most long-lasting positive impact on the most vulnerable people.
“More than ever before, inequality and poverty in any part of the world not only go against our values, but also undermine our shared security and our shared prosperity,” said Ambassador Power. “All of our destinies are interwoven with one another.”