15 OCTOBER 2010


Why was a summit meeting on Millennium Development Goals called on 20 September when it was clear that nothing could come of it?

Does an availability of a conference room justify gathering high-level heads of states and governments under a false pretense?

Not even the most obvious goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015 has been half-accomplished. There are still many gaps, more shortcomings, and a very long way to go.

It is NOT Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's shortcomings. If anything, he tried his best to put a brave face forward, soldiering on a framework crafted initially with the real aim of renewing the mandate of his predecessor. He did not need to identify personally with it.

Actually, it was a tactical error by the current Secretary General's advisors to insist on having him put his personal stamp on an obviously unproductive gathering.

The right approach should have been to sharpen the focus on the gaps, the possibilities, and the political obstacles. It is member states -- key member states -- not Secretary General Ban, who should have been held accountable.

Yet here they were, competing to take over the podium to make their own spin to their own audiences, while our Secretary General would dutifully grin and bear it.

Fighting poverty is a universal consensus. No one would argue against it. Every world head of state and government will compete to be seen as playing a leadership role. Descending on New York late September was a welcome opportunity for them to grandstand. Except for the photo opportunities, only our esteemed Secretary General looked unaccomplished. Triumphant claims accompanied photos of heads of state, while difficulties in reaching the target were accompanied by Ban Ki-moon's photo. He may feel that's part of his job. It isn't. Regaining a role for the U.N. lies in precisely and effectively presenting that role in comparison with the responsibilities of member states.

As it happened, we got a lot of hot air in September in almost deserted halls, with no visible result, except perhaps a one-page photo of our friend Bono, fashionable "Development" guru, advertising for a special kind of luggage. Would Jeffrey Sachs be next?! We'd rather watch Shakira!