MDGs: Grassroots Awareness Required Before Demand
Have you ever wondered if there is anything you can do to contribute to solving global poverty? Did you ever get that sinking feeling that you are just one person who is too insignificant in the face of the forces of global domination and systematic oppression to make any difference? How many times has helplessness at things happening around you or in the wider world forced you to conclude that you cannot beat the system and that at best your only choice is to either join them or drop out?
If you answer yes to one or more or all of these questions, do not be embarrassed at all. You are one among many billions of us (actually 6.5 billions).
Most of us disapprove many things happening around us and in the world but feel we lack or actually lack any power to change them. There is frustration that no matter what we may think or do the world would always remain skewed against the poor and powerless, the little men and women, who constitute the majority. Whether it is the environment, the economy, education or health many accept that the rich always squeeze the poor and get their way all the time.
We all know that Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words: ‘there is enough in the world to satisfy our needs but not enough to satisfy our greed’ uttered so many decades ago are as true (if not truer) today than when they were first uttered. The vast wealth due to improvement in technology, science and genetic engineering in the last 5 decades is more than enough for all of us but the structures of power within nations and between nations continue to reward those at the very top while penalizing the majority poor at the bottom of the pile.
Poor people in poorer countries of the world cry out against their rich who also groan at the richer countries. Within richer countries, their own poor feel no better, yet the system that is producing this fabulous wealth in one pole and desperate poverty in another in the same universe is created by human beings. It can either be changed through their individual and collective efforts, cooperatively, confrontations or through contradictions.
The United Nations ushered in the 3rd Millennium (and its 55th anniversary) at the Millennium Summit in 2000 with a Declaration that recognized the world could be made better and we all deserve to treat each other and our shared environment better. This was encapsulated in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was an attempt to create a new social contract between the peoples and governments of the world committing all to 8 Goals that range from ending hunger through universal access to basic education, women empowerment, health, environment to reforming the unequal global trade, increasing quality Aid and canceling debt of poor countries. Since the MDGs became the ‘new’ language of development discourse, all kinds of debate as to whether they are achievable or not or even if they are adequate for guaranteeing peace and equal opportunity for development for all peoples continue. Wherever one stands in the argument, nobody will be hurt if they are achieved by 2015.
The UN itself realized that neither the declaration alone nor the official adoption of the MDGs will guarantee their fulfillment. That is why the UN Millennium Campaign was established to work with Citizens to hold their governments accountable for their fulfillment. The Campaign works with and through National Coalitions in various countries allied to the Global Call Against Poverty (GCAP), faith based groups, local councils, National, sub regional and regional legislatures, Youth, Students, Women and Trade Unions, to ensure political accountability of all leaders to their peoples at various levels. The MDGs can only be achieved at the local and community level. That is where their impact will be directly felt.
Over the recent years of Neo-liberal economic hegemony, economic policies within countries and globally are undemocratic and dominated by technicians and all kinds of latter day voodoo experts from the Bretton Woods institutions. Citizens who are the producers of their national and global wealth and a majority of whom are victims of these policies are totally excluded. The MDGs have tremendous potential for opening up democratic spaces for political accountability of leaders.
Through MDGs, it is possible to reverse this arrogant trend of making economic issues the sole preserve of economic egg heads and judge economic policies not just in terms of macroeconomic growth but development, how they impact on the general welfare of the majority of the peoples of the world who are poor.
As part of efforts to popularize the MDGs and focus global attention on poverty the UN Millennium Campaign in partnership with GCAP Allies and other International partners including OXFAM, Action Aid International, NOVIB, Micah Challenge, has been participating in a one month Campaign of activities from the 16th of September to culminate in the marking of the INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR POVERTY ERADICATION.
If you ever imagined a world in which the MDGs are a political priority for all our governments and other governments in the world. A world without poverty where every child is guaranteed education, where many women do not die in labor and people living with HIV/Aids have universal access to free treatment based on need not cash and Malaria, TB and other preventable diseases no longer kill us in the vast numbers they currently do. A world in which the environment is fully protected and the vast creativity of human mind and scientific discovery will be used for sustainable development that guarantees that this earth that we are loaning from the future generation is handed on safely.
There is a small chance to put your imagination into Action. The Goals sound like dreams but even the creation of this world must have begun with a dream. It needs not remain so. It is a world that we can bring about by first making people aware of the MDGs and working with them to demand their fulfillment from their leaders. Holding them to the promise is all that it takes.
If the richer countries deliver on Goal 8, the poorer countries can also deliver on goals 1-7. It is a complementary process that must run concurrently from goal 1 to 8. You can contribute to making it happen wherever you maybe. Together we can all make the difference between fulfillment and indifference.
By Tajudeen Abdul
Raheem of Justice Africa Nigeria