WHAT ACTION TO CUT POVERTY BY 2015? FLIP IT TO 2030!

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2015

WHAT ACTION TO CUT POVERTY BY 2015? FLIP IT TO 2030!

No problem, as our Jamaican friends would say. Anyway, it is being explained that the touted Millennium Development Goals were conceptual goals, not specific projects. Cutting poverty in half by 2015 was an appreciated effort accomplished by one or two exemplary member states (who are they?) and unfulfilled by others. But then, "la lutte continue."

Anyone with institutional memory would recall that the Millennium Summit made a big splash when pronouncing the goals. Habitually, heads of states sign documents; they don't read them. But our distinguished conceptual Professor Jeffrey Sachs, let alone Bono Pro Bono providing the politically correct lingo, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan's promotional team -- with a keen eye on the second term -- received accolades plus professional public relations support from Ruder Than Finn.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued the general thrust despite his preoccupation with other pressing world issues and his devoted involvement in making Climate Change a mainstream issue. Unlike his predecessor, he did not have a commercial Public Relations firm to puff up media coverage; he, rightly, relied on his own credibility and the experienced effort of his Spokesman's Office.

With an approaching General Debate on the committed target date, questions were naturally raised about what precisely has been accomplished since the year 2000?

A "Post-2015 Development Agenda" is obviously not persuasive enough. An initiative that all 17 goals, particularly "eradication of extreme poverty and hunger" worldwide, were expected to be met by the year 2030 seemed almost farcical; already it received criticism from several civil society groups. As IPS' Thalif Deen pointed out in his excellent coverage on 30 July, there were questions relating to budget allocations, genuine public participation, and actual implementation of the agenda. "Don't break your promise before making it," said one civic leader. "In order to make that vision a reality, we have to ensure gender equality," said Shannon Kowalski at the International Women's Health Coalition, adding her disappointment over the outcome of the recently concluded conference on Financing for Development in the U.N. Regional Commission for Africa's Addis Ababa.

Other reviews will be forthcoming with the approach of an Assembly debate.

In addition to obvious feasibility limitations in implementing the Goals, a serious shortcoming is the glaring gap in the U.N. Development mechanism. To begin with, the head of the main U.N. Development operation, UNDP, a former politician, has been busy running for the post of Secretary-General. Her recent activities seem to be guided by political considerations; cutting posts of dedicated hard-working staff is most likely aimed to please powerful member states than even at the expense to accomplishing development tasks.(?) Additionally, the Economic and Social Development departments within the U.N. Secretariat have been politically guided to the point that one of its former chiefs openly attacked his official boss, the Secretary-General, though in an unguarded (possibly tipsy!) moment. Gone are the days when the head of that Department almost ran international development policy.

An obviously busy Ban Ki-moon has no real publicly credible individual drawing practical support for Development causes -- causes that he personally pursued with almost heartfelt sincerity. Official posts do not feed the hungry of the world. Enlightened effective action by credible staff at all levels drawn from all geographical and solid backgrounds may help.

Until then, keep flipping!