Stand Up – UN Millennium Campaign

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Youths with the words ‘Stand up against debt’ painted on their faces join a human chain to commemorate the fight against poverty, in Manila October 16, 2006. The Philippines remains one of the most impoverished nation in Southeast Asia. A report on Monday showed that the Philippines was falling further behind in meeting United Nations poverty goals. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES)

About the Goals

When 189 Heads of State and government from the North and South, as representatives of their citizens, signed onto the Millennium Declaration at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, there was a palpable sense of urgency. Urgency to “free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected.”

Here, world leaders from rich and poor countries alike committed themselves–at the highest political level–to a set of eight time-bound targets that, when achieved, will end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015. Goals 1 through 7 commit them to raise the poor out of poverty and hunger, get every child into school, empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, and ensure environmental sustainability. Goal 8 explicitly recognizes that eradicating poverty worldwide can be achieved only through a global partnership for development. This global deal makes clear that it is the primary responsibility of poor countries to ensure greater accountability to citizens and efficient use of resources. But for poor countries to achieve the first seven goals, it is absolutely critical that wealthier countries deliver on their end of the bargain–more and more effective aid, more sustainable debt relief and fairer trade rules–well in advance of 2015. 

Oh no, not another set of UN commitments…

Given the proliferation of UN Conferences and commitments, it’s important to understand why the Millennium Goals are unique in many powerful ways:

  • They represent a compact between all the world’s major economic players. Poorer countries pledged to improve policies and governance and increase accountability to their own citizens; wealthy countries pledged to provide the resources. Since the commitment to achieve the goals comes from the highest political levels, for the first time, entire governments are committed to their achievement–including the trade and finance ministers who hold the world’s purse strings. And major international financial institutions–the World Bank, the IMF, the regional development banks, and increasingly, the membership of the World Trade Organization–have made explicit that they will be accountable for achieving the Goals too.

  • The world has never before seen so much prosperity. The hundreds of billions that are being spent in Iraq have put things in perspective. We might not need more than about $50 billion of additional aid per year to meet the Goals. About $900 billion was invested in arms by governments in 2003 alone; and rich countries grant large support to their domestic agricultural producers, totaling $300 billion each year. Financially, in the grand scheme of things, we’re talking about relatively small change.

  • Performance against the goals is being monitored. These are not just lofty statements of intent; precise monitoring mechanisms have been put in place, in the form of national Millennium Goals reports and the Secretary General’s reports to the General Assembly. Civil society organizations around the world are creating their own set of reports as well, to ensure that governments are held to the highest possible standards of performance. Over 60 country reports have already been produced at the national level.

  • The Goals are clearly achievable. Some have even argued that they are not in fact millennium, but ‘minimum’ development goals. We believe that to set the bar any lower than this would be morally unacceptable. Individual Goals have already been achieved by many countries in the space of only 10-15 years.

The Goals cover the range of key development issues and are rooted in a human rights framework. Freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility are at the heart of the Millennium Declaration.

The eight Goals are by nature inter-linked. Success or failure on any one Goal will affect efforts to achieve all the others. And at their core, the Goals are about people’s lives. There is often a tendency to measure success in the aggregate-for example how many more children are in school this year, or how many more women survived childbirth in 2003. This can give us a sense of how we’re doing, but the most important question to bear in mind is this: how have people’s real lives been affected by our efforts to achieve the Goals? It is important to note how each individual, each region, and each subregion is affected as we strive to reach the Goals by 2015.

Today, we not only have the financial resources to end extreme poverty once and for all, but we have the technological knowledge and know-how to realize the Goals. It is also clear, however, that if we carry on in a “business as usual” mode, the Goals will not be achieved by 2015. The way forward is marked, it is only the political will to achieve the Goals that is in question.

Find more about each of the Goals, and what you can do to help turn the Goals into reality:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

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