Government leaders need to make “concrete and clear strategies” at the UN Summit held 20-22 September, so that Millennium Development Goal targets will be met by 2015.
Focusing on the issues of food and HIV and AIDS, members of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) of which CWS is a member, welcomed some aspects of the draft outcome document of the summit on the Millennium Development Goals starting today at the United Nations in New York. “But we need more than words,” stated Rev. Dr Tolbert Jallah, general secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA). “Our poor people in rural communities cannot eat declarations,” Jallah stated. “Rich countries must fulfill their promises in helping poor and developing countries meet the MDGs in a timely manner. World leaders need to show how they will turn their words into action and meet the MDGs by 2015.”
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme hunger and povertyEAA members welcomed statements in the outcome document which acknowledge the need to strengthen smallholder farmers, support participatory community-led strategies, and call for respect of all human rights. Yet statistics released last week by the FAO and the World Food Programme show that while there may have been a slight decline last year, hunger is still affecting one-sixth of the world’s population.
The draft outcome document states that “successes have been made in combating extreme poverty”. Rev. Dr Richard Fee, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada noted that “925 million still suffering chronic hunger is far too high; there are only five more years to reduce the number of hungry people by half.”While the document highlights commitment by governments to address the root causes of extreme poverty and hunger. Fee said it lacks clear strategies to achieve the intended objectives.
Under the EAA’s Food for Life campaign, members call for concrete actions to achieve food security and contribute to the realization of the right to food, such as:
Supporting and implementing the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Good Governance on Land and Natural Resources.
Ensuring that private investments should not displace communities nor degrade natural resources, but instead promote sustainable and agro-ecological production systems.
Directing more Investments to smallscale farmers, particularly women, who produce more than half of the world’s food.
“The summit should come up with concrete and clear strategies on how to reduce hunger if Goal 1 is to be a reality by 2015,” stated Fee.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseasesChurch organizations and representatives engaged in the “Live the Promise” campaign highlighted that achieving Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is hailed in the outcome document as crucial for meeting not only MDG 6 but other MDGs too. However, “with no acknowledgement that the target of reaching this goal by 2010 will not be met, and no new time-bound and costed plan of action to reach this target, progress towards MDG 6 and other health-related MDGs may be lost,” stated Rev. Veikko Munyika, coordinator, The Lutheran World Federation HIV and AIDS Desk.
The latest UN statistics have indicated that while significant progress has been made in slowing the pandemic, the reality is that for every two people who have access to treatment, another five still become newly infected with HIV. In addition, an estimated ten million people with advanced HIV infection have no access to antiretroviral therapy.
Governments can take one clear action now “to demonstrate the truth of their commitments”, stated Erlinda Senturias, HIV and AIDS consultant, Christian Conference of Asia. “The world will be watching to see whether they pledge the 20 billion USD needed for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis to maintain and effectively scale-up its contribution to achieving both Universal Access and the wider health-related MDGs.”
However, those involved in the EAA campaign acknowledge the major challenges are even greater. Meeting MDG 6, and the Universal Access goal, will entail intensifying efforts to boost HIV prevention; identifying simpler and less costly treatment regimens; and tackling inequalities, punitive approaches, discrimination and stigma that increase vulnerability to HIV infection and present obstacles to effective prevention and access to treatment.
Dr Sonja Weinreich, senior health advisor, Church Development Service (EED) in Germany stated, “Over the next five years, governments have to turn these words into action – develop funding that is sustainable and predictable, demonstrate leadership and support strategies developed by the most affected communities, and invest human and financial resources to reach those who need it the most.”
Text of the draft outcome document of the MDG summit:http://www.un.org/en/mdg/summit2010/pdf/Draft%20outcome%20document.pdf
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/
Christian Aid has launched a new report on the MDGs, Poverty Over: We’re All in This Together.
The report outlines how the Millennium Declaration’s radical ambition was ‘lost in translation’ in the determining of the goals.
‘With the MDGs focusing primarily on seeking to halve– but not eradicate – the want of some of humankind’s most basic needs, the ambition of the Declaration was lost or weakened,’ said Alex Cobham, Christian Aid’s Chief Policy Adviser and the author of the report, Poverty Over: We’re All In This Together.
‘The Declaration’s emphasis on empowering people living in poverty was somehow translated into telling poor counties what their priorities should be. Its emphasis on powerful countries and companies meeting their responsibilities to others was somehow translated into a system which fails to hold them accountable for their part in fuelling global poverty.’
The new report, published before the 20-22 September UN Summit to assess progress towards the MDGs, recognises that the Goals have helped hundreds of millions of people living in poverty.
‘There has been welcome progress towards addressing some important areas of human need – not least around clean water and gender equality in education,’ added Alex Cobham. ‘However, progress has been significantly behind the target level in many areas, including maternal and child mortality, hunger and access to sanitation.’
The new report argues that the fundamental reason for the failure of the MDGs to achieve more is that they are based on a flawed understanding of poverty – one which ignores the root causes of the problem.
‘The MDGs have achieved a lot but there is a long way to go because they were flawed from the beginning,’ said Alex Cobham. ‘They fail to address the causes of poverty and they are blind to inequality, unsustainability and the importance of ordinary people having a say in decisions which affect them.
‘Where the Declaration recognizes that poverty is complex and based on a lack of power, the MDG framework is weakened by focusing on needs rather than causes.
‘Inequalities between groups – for instance based on gender, ethnicity and caste – can be especially pernicious in undermining human development. Why should membership of a particular group prejudice anyone’s chances of a good life?’ asked Alex Cobham.
Despite the flaws in the MDG approach, Christian Aid recognises that it is the only global process aimed at poverty eradication and that it offers – along with any potential successor after 2015 – the best hope the world has of major progress towards ending poverty.
Christian Aid’s new report calls for several reforms to the current MDG process. These include making rich countries more accountable for their part in the achievement of the Goals and ensuring that much wider progress is made towards equality between women and men. The MDGs should also be amended to reflect improvements in our understanding of climate change and the urgency of tackling it.
For the years after 2015, the report argues that a successor to the MDGs is vital – one which truly reflects the ambition of the Declaration and in which power, inequality and sustainability take centre stage.
To download a copy of the report, go to: www.christianaid.org.uk/images/were-all-in-this-together.pdf
21 September 2010