World leaders gathered in New York to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have failed to decide on the strong actions needed to alleviate the most pressing problems of our decade.
The outcome document approved by the plenary session of the New York meeting today is an “action plan for the inert”, according to ACT Alliance, one of the largest humanitarian and development networks in the world.
ACT Alliance argues that it is long on promises and short on detail, and contains few of the practical agreements needed to realise the MDGs by their 2015 target. “We need action on hunger, poverty, trade and human rights – and we need it now,” said John Nduna, General Secretary of the alliance, in a statement this afternoon.
While the MDGs aim to halve the number of people experiencing hunger and living on less than US$1 a day by 2015, progress at meeting that target is lamentably slow. World Food Programme statistics released last week show that one in seven of the world’s population experiences hunger every day. “This is not the forgotten few we are talking about: it’s the forgotten billion,” said the ACT Alliance head, adding that people’s empty stomachs cannot wait.
ACT Alliance argues that poverty and hunger could be eradicated if politicians were willing to embrace innovative thinking: to invest in smallholder agriculture, which continues to be the main source of livelihood for people in poverty; to change global food policy into one that is based on the right to food; to eliminate all forms of export subsidies in developed countries which are allowing Western agriculture producers to sell their goods on the cheap to the developing world, squeezing out poor farmers.
“New York’s fog of fine words”
One of the very few concrete plans to have emerged from what Nduna called “New York’s fog of fine words” was the global financial transaction tax put forward by French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The tax would provide a new pool of aid and development money to fund the Millennium Development Goals.
“Sarkozy’s proposal is to be welcomed,” said Nduna. “The tax on financial transactions has been ridiculed by many national leaders until now, so we welcome its introduction into the mainstream of political discourse.” ACT, which has been demanding wholesale reforms of the international economic architecture, wants Sarkozy to give reassurances that participation in a global transaction tax would not mean a reduction in France’s – or any other country’s – official development assistance. ACT argues that the global financial transaction tax needs to become a reality within the next year if we are to come close to realising the MDGs by 2015.
“The poor can’t eat promises,” said Nduna. “It will take courage, a strong will and bold leadership to put these fine words into action. But we do not have the right not to. It is morally wrong that 1 billion people are deprived of the right to food. So now is the time to act.”
ACT Alliance 23 September 2010