Millennium Development Goals

To put that into perspective…

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IMG_1861The G20 communique says that if the $2 trillion initiative is fully implemented, it will lift global GDP by 2.1 percent above expected levels by 2018 and create millions of jobs.

That is good news by any measure.

Meanwhile, the Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality which was agreed to by all United Nations Member States in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of child mortality by two-thirds before 2015 has acheived favourable progress, but will likely fall short of its objective.

A reduction of 3% was needed year by year to achieve the MDG4 goal.

Achieving the required reduction in child mortality would have saved millions of lives, and reduced the burden on developing countries significantly by addressing population, health, environmental, infrastructure and corruption issues.

One of the problem of the G20 declarations is that they are very broad on commitment to specific issues such as child survival. But it is not a case of either/or. We can lift global GDP by 2.1% above 2018 levels and work to improve child survival too! The good news is that both complement each other, and so are symbiotic goals.

How might we do this? That is the discussion to unfold during the Design Forum next year. In the meantime, good ideas about how to improve child survival are welcome.

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Will the G20 Cut It? Four Lessons From Brisbane

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Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

The G20 has been widely criticised in past years as being all talk and no action. When first framing the 10 City Bridge Run ahead of the Seoul G20 Summit in 2010, I asked “Will the G20 cut it?” at this link.

In the wake of the wash-up from the Brisbane G20 Summit, this question still is worth asking. What did we learn from Brisbane? Here is my analysis in four lessons:

Firstly, it is important to recognise that the G20 is a global economic institution. This means that the language will largely be around issues of trade, employment, debt, taxation and monetary policy. This does also include development issues relating to poverty as key to this equation. The G20 Development Working Group begins the 2014 Brisbane Development Update with a statement that is more than just a throwaway line:

Development remains a key element of the Group of Twenty (G20) agenda.

I sense that the G20 recognises both its ability and limitation to influence development through strengthening economic growth and resilience. This is at the heart of economic thought: how to best allocate the distribution of scarce resources.

The opening line from the G20 Leaders’ Communique flags the core priority of the G20, and consequently overshadows dilemmas this might bring in addressing issues of development:

Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority.

Secondly, the Summit is to some extent a forum of theatrics. It is misleading to think the G20 Summit as a dynamic roundtable to discuss all of the issues in detail. There is a lot of preliminary and behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations that take place outside of the limelight to resolve how members of the G20 will orientate their national interest with the agenda for the Summit. It is more than a photo opportunity, and such gatherings are important.

Theatrics serve a purpose, and they also signal what people are keenly focused on. In focusing on one thing, they also steal a lot of the oxygen out of the occasion to more freely discuss a broader range of issues. In Brisbane, the theatrics was mainly seen through the grandstanding of and by Putin around the Ukraine incident. That is signalling how the Ukraine is fast becoming a place of heightened strategic value for leaders to communicate their sovereign will and power. The consequences of this grandstanding will not be immediately clear, but ripple through events that are yet to unfold.

Consequences are important, and the issue that receives the limelight will be at the expense of others that do not get discussed in depth. Obama flagged his theatrics publicly at a university address prior to the G20 to gain most favourable media attention to help sway his agenda.

Thirdly, wording is important and will ultimately drive action. The concluding G20 Leaders’ Communique and supporting documents give guidance for the future. If an issue doesn’t make the list, that would be troubling for those who see it as important. The question becomes one of what concrete and practical action will actually trickle down from this wording? 

The 2014 Brisbane Development Update was quite clear about what that G20 sees as an important priority, quoted here directly from the document:

Our work has continued to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Further, we reaffirmed our strong support for the ongoing intergovernmental efforts in the UN to conclude an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda and for its effective implementation. We reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to poverty eradication and a coherent approach to sustainable development, which integrates its three dimensions in a balanced manner. We underlined the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. We look forward to the third Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015. We reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that G20 activities beyond 2015 are coherent with the post 2015 development agenda.

The wording from the G20 Leaders’ Communique shows that this responsibility is one that is for the United Nations to resolve, but one which has the support of the G20 for an ambitious post-2015 agenda: We support efforts in the United Nations to agree an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The question of how an issue will strengthen economic growth and resilience is important to address to receive more attention.

Fourthly, who actually holds the G20 to account for their words? The declarations made at the conclusion of each Summit are not so much binding as aspirational guidance. The Seoul Consensus for the 2010 G20 Summit shown at the link at the beginning of this blog helped shape this central theme of a human bridge which supports the 10 City Bridge Run. The Seoul Consensus showed its priorities framed in the following statements:

We, the Leaders of the G20, are united in our conviction that by working together we can secure a more prosperous future for the citizens of all countries… The Seoul Consensus complements our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focuses on concrete measures … to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives.

 

There is consistency between what was written in 2010 and most recently in Brisbane yesterday. This is comforting to know, and no small measure for optimism as we look to address child survival in the context of economic growth and resilience. Recent statements from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about embracing a new paradigm of development assistance through looking for innovative ideas is consistent with this as well to build concrete measures to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives through improving child survival.

The case for taking action is an ethical issue. It is a good thing to do and the right thing to do, as well as being just. It doesn’t need the imprimatur of the G20 to take action. As global citizens, the outcome from the G20 Summit in Brisbane indicates that the institution is something to be readily engaged with on this issue because we both share a common objective. Opening the conversation with countries from the G20 is an important step towards the Design Forum in 2015.

The face of child survival

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IMG_0266In many respects, for a person who has spent their entire life within the confines of the Western world, the Millennium Development Goals which are soon due to expire can best be measured in images.

IMG_0313The eight MDG are simple and easily defined, which is their best feature.

One of the problems with the MDG has been the need for education of what they actually are. Still today, if you walked down the main street of any capital city of any large Western economy, most people in the street wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you mentioned the MDG.

IMG_0300Too much time and money has been spent explaining and educating these MDG. Most of the publicity campaigns I have seen appeared to look something akin to massive, extravagant, community cake stalls. What outcome was really achieved by all of that?

IMG_0294Like it or not, systemic change requires some degree of education. This is the cost of a new idea.

IMG_0351But here I want to talk about child mortality, the reason behind the 10 City Bridge Run. We are focusing on child survival: the positive side of child mortality.

IMG_0378What does child survival look like? Healthy children. Rather than celebrate it, we take it for granted.

IMG_0283Child mortality largely goes unseen. My friends from Sierra Leone, all who I have met outside of their country in different parts of the world, all are well educated, eloquent, intelligent, and seemingly no different to you or I. There is not a tag around their neck that proclaims they are from the country with the highest rate of child mortality.

IMG_0277This has been one of the failures of the MDG. They have created an image of something created by large NGOs involved in helping to address these problems through a series of well selected photographs to tug at the heart strings and wallets of people in the West who might fund their causes. It becomes the tool for the charity muggers who provide the customer facing face of these organisations as their massive fundraising and messaging campaigns ramp up.

IMG_0261The stories told through these campaigns create a narrative of the issue. The statistics take on a life of their own. ‘What might that look like?’ we ask ourselves in our mind’s eye.

This post is not about trying to fight the system. Rather, it is about celebrating images of healthy children with healthy mothers. That is the work of the 10 City Bridge Run. There is enough misery to go around. Let’s celebrate life instead.

Post 2015 Development Framework

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United NationsThe United Nations General Assembly is meeting again this year, this week.

The agenda, as usual, is full and widely ranging.

Anyone who has ever worked for the United Nations can attest to a shared sense of frustration and optimism about what outcomes might be realised.

Success or failure? Dysfunction and broken beyond repair, or best available outcome with seeking consensus among such a disparate collection of global citizens? The answer to these questions will never be settled, but one thing is for sure is the massive convening power that the United Nations has brought since its inception many years ago on 24 October following the end of the Second World War.

The Millennium Development Goals are an aspirational list of eight objectives unanimously agreed upon by all member states in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of poverty by two-thirds before 2015. The deadline is next year, and the writing is already on the wall in terms of success that has been achieved.

The result is more than simply a pass/fail scorecard. The goals were always aspirational in nature, but within reach. One of those goals, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, is the key focus on the 10 City Bridge Run.

In many cases, there are great stories of progress and success, but the distribution of this is unequally experienced. The results in some countries remains troubling.

Papua New Guinea is one country which is unlikely to meet its stated objectives.

Other countries remain at high levels of poverty, despite being extremely rich in minerals. Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality, but is the biggest producer of diamonds in the world. How can this be? It doesn’t seem to make sense.

My friend Edison, who was a journalist from Sierra Leone, and spent time in jail for his political views, has spent a little bit of time telling me about the background to conflict in the country, and helping me to try to understand why problems there should be so bad. What was the cause of so much ill-health and poverty, I wondered? Now, also with Ebola to contend with.

His answer surprised me. What one thing is the biggest problem?, I asked, expecting him to provide some answer like fresh water, or medicine. “Corruption” he said. “It is the biggest killer, the biggest problem. While corruption is still there, nothing will change.”

The same answer is true to for child mortality. If that is the case, then how to improve the delivery of child survival? This is a question we are hoping to contend with across the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, the United Nations are discussing the Post 2015 Development Framework.

This doesn’t change the fact that child mortality is a problem.

Why does it matter how things are measured beyond 2015? Why not just keep the old MDG and push a little harder?

United Nations is preparing a new sustainable development framework with its member states as the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) will get end in 2015. Speakers also urged to adopt a strong, inclusive and legitimate Post 2015 framework to success the Millennium Development Goals.” But what does this actually mean, or is it just a room full of well-dressed bureaucrats word-smithing a strategic document?

It does matter, and it is not just a word game.

The outcome will need to be focused on rights, transparency, addressing corruption, and a framework that is grounded in sustainability. The question will be whether countries will use their diplomatic jockeying for other issues of a security nature to influence or block resolve and consensus for a strong and cohesive result. It might sound like a lot of hot air, but these will be a guiding strategic tool for the next couple of decades. The work in New York this week is important, make no mistake.

To give an insight into the complexity, here is the extract from a recent press release. You can see from reading this, that the simplicity of eight MDG was remarkable when now looking at the intricacies of competing ethical concerns. All are important, but if it has everything it risks being meaningless, and if it is reduced to a couple of bullet-points, it risks being toothless.

“The post 2015 framework must reinforce international human rights commitments, laws and standards, fight injustice and address how its goals will allow for a progressive realization of rights. It must embrace a rights-based approach to development based on equality, equity and non-discrimination, and ensure the rights of people to participate fully in society and in decision-making, Ahmed Swapan emphasized.

Ahmed Swapan also said that developed countries must comply with their commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) and the unfinished business and they should align and harmonize their activities to avoid competitions and to be refraining from service overlapping. There should also be more transparency and accountability in delivering services to the communities for whom development is meant.

Pratima Paul Majumder said that United Nations must emphasize women rights in the Post 2015 development framework. She also demanded that government should include gender equality and women rights as priority area in new framework. The post 2015 framework must recognize the global resource constraints and aim at a more equitable distribution of resources, including how it meets the rights and needs of future and present generations.

She urged to ensure decent work environment and living wages for the women labour. She questioned the present mode of corporate based development which is unfavorable for realization of women rights. This model has particularly worsen life and livelihood of rural, indigenous and migrant women.

The Post-2015 framework must be underpinned by the strongest, most robust and comprehensive accountability framework possible, incorporating the commitment to monitor and report on progress and share learning and knowledge.

Alison Subrata Baroi focused on reducing inequality within and among countries which is essential for transformation while he proposed for ensuring progressive taxation and tax governance as a way out of challenges mobilizing own resources for financing development in post 2015. Alison also said that the Post-2015 framework cannot afford an approach that promotes growth at all costs without considering human rights and environmental implications. The framework must demonstrate coherence and integration across the environmental, economic and social dimensions of different goals and targets. He also emphasized access to justice and governance that should be enshrined in Post 2015 framework.”

10.24 A Promise Renewed

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United (States) Parcel Service.

My last post revisited the contribution, such as it was, of John Bolton who was posted as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 2005. He was famous for arguing that the United States had agreed to the development goals of the United Nations within the context of the Millennium Declaration, but not specifically to the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations had framed.

Some might use the expression ‘weasel words’ to describe this type of back-peddling. It was sensible, but not inspirational. It fought for the interests of the United States, but not necessarily for those in need.

How the Millennium Development Goals are pursued in this final three years will be telling. There are a lot of reasons for countries to play it safe. Increased economic burden in the face of domestic austerity, concerns over the slow-down of growth in China, fear of contagion, or just peddling self-interest.

UNICEF have launched a campaign with a more positive message: A Promise Renewed. Here is a video they made about how social media has been used to carry this message, although I don’t think the cut-through has been very effective:

For me, it is a source of motivation just in the title alone. An initiative I began in 2010, and am now ramping to tackle this year again. 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km. Across 10 cities, in 10 countries, all inside of one month.

This is my own promise renewed. Please keep your encouragement coming. I need that support.

Why the G20?

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The G20 Toronto Summit Declaration from June earlier this year stated:

We recognize that 2010 marks an important year for development issues. The September 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary will be a crucial opportunity to reaffirm the global development agenda and global partnership, to agree on actions for all to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and to reaffirm our respective commitments to assist the poorest countries.

In this regard it is important to work with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to make them active participants in and beneficiaries of the global economic system. Accordingly we thank Turkey for its decision to host the 4th United Nations Conference on the LDCs in June 2011.

Narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to our broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all. In this regard, we agree to establish a Working Group on Development and mandate it to elaborate, consistent with the G-20’s focus on measures to promote economic growth and resilience, a development agenda and multi-year action plans to be adopted at the Seoul Summit.

The G20 as a representative body has the ability and political will to make global change happen very quickly, if it chooses to do so. But to do so requires effort and participation from us.

The Government remains resolute

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Kevin Rudd, Australian politician
Kevin Rudd: influential in shaping global events

What did Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Foreign Minister, have to say when he gave a strongly worded speech last week on extreme poverty? Thanks to my mate Luke who forwarded me this link.

I was really pleased to hear the framework through which the Australian Government is operating. Here are a few of the points worth mentioning:

  • Bi-partisan support.
  • A recognition that “the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) hang in the balance”
  • Focus on increasing aid effectiveness.

Policy is the vehicle through which a government can exercise influence on issues like this. It can be crude and slow in delivery at times. Kevin Rudd indicated that the government is looking for ideas in how to always improve and have greater impact- that is a good offer which should be responded to in good faith when the performance of the government appears frustratingly less than what could be achieved.

This is the reason for the 10 City Bridge Run. Governments need the input of people to make a difference. Howls of protest serve a limited purpose, just as does long and unremarkable petitions which lobby for change. The 10 City Bridge Run seeks to create a ‘pictorial petition’ comprising of 24,000 photographs of ‘human bridges’ to be sent to all leaders of the G20 members states. The petition will applaud the resolute spirit of each government to achieve the MDG, and recognise the decisions that will be made at the G20 Summit in Seoul, and importantly appeal for change that ensures together we influence a reduction on child mortality before 2015.

The petition started with an idea. It is emergent and still needs work. It is at this point in time still in design. You can help. Please contribute to the crowdsourcing questions that will be articulated later tonight. Only by acting together will this initiative be able to achieve impact.

Kevin Rudd closed with a noteworthy reminder, leaving aside statistics and policy:

Let us not forget that we are talking about people who are part of our common humanity.