Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon: Connected, united

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English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文
English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few short months after the conclusion of the Second World War, the United Nations was formed on 24 October, the anniversary of today.

Do anniversaries really mean anything to anyone anymore?

What about the United Nations? A colossal failure and bureaucratic mess? Or is it a critical international place of important convening?

I have had my own first hand experience working with the United Nations in many different capacities, but perhaps most significantly was as the Lead Operations and Plans Officer for the Australian Defence Force while deployed into East Timor.

Certainly, it is not a perfect organisation, but would the world be better off without it? I think not.

Far beyond an instrument of global security, the United Nations focuses across a broad range touching every aspect of the human experience.

The one area this blog focuses on is the eight Millennium Development Goals signed by all 192 Member States in 2000 to reduce  extreme poverty levels to two-thirds of the recorded levels in 1990 by 2015. It has been one area where there has been some success. It is not a perfect story: child mortality remains improved, but only reduced to half of the recorded levels of 1990, and so the aspiration to achieve a two-thirds reduction by 2015 might be unobtainable.

Work remains to be done. And it is not for us to sit back and criticise the United Nations. We must put our shoulder to the wheel also.

Ban Ki-moon’s words today in his United Nations Day Message for 2013 was fitting:

We continue to show what collective action can do. We can do even more.

In a world that is more connected, we must be more united.

This is the sentiment of the 10 City Bridge Run. To build a human bridge between ourselves to help address the problems we face. Together we can make a difference.

A Different Perspective

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The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis an...
The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Yesterday I posted a blog titled: Did the Government Let Us Down? where I questioned claims that had been made that not enough had been given by own government toward the Global Fund which contributes towards the eradication of diseases: in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB.

I was asking: how much money is ‘enough’?

Outcomes from the United Nations Donor Meeting held on 4-5 October sparked this discussion. The meeting announced that US$11.7 billion had been pledged in new funding over the next three years to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This in fact represents the largest-ever pledge for the collective effort to fight the three pandemics and will allow the Global Fund to further support countries as they work to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) related to health.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented in a more positive manner from the earlier claims which promoted my blog yesterday. He said:

At a time when so many Governments are tightening their belts at home, these commitments send a powerful message: It shows how seriously world leaders want to do the right thing beyond their borders, too.

What can we make of this? Two different claims, with the United Nations Secretary-General applauding this initiative. The esteemed members of the MDG Advocacy Group have shown support for what they describe as “the ample replenishment of the Global Fund”. The MDG Advocacy Group summarised it like this:

We can recommend no better and more timely investment on the planet to support the Millennium Development Goals.

That sounds like a call-to-action to build bridges with all the time we have available between now and 2015. 21 days to go before I start running (no more false starts!). Please step up and do what you can to influence extreme poverty. You might support this initiative with a $24 sponsorship, or from the time I commence running submit a photograph of a human bridge to be presented as a pictorial petition.

Any other ideas worth sharing? Let’s hear them!

United Nations Millennium Development Goals

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2015 marks an important time horizon for the United Nations: reporting on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). These are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organisations agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

Speculation exists whether this will be possible. Is it time to make excuses and analyse “what went wrong”, or is now the time to create massive change and set a determined course to achieve the goals successfully?

Talk alone will not have the necessary effect. How is it possible to translate this objective from the United Nations in New York into meaningful actions which we as a global community can engage in?

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDG, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to accelerate progress towards these goals.

I recently conducted an informal survey of contacts I met across five countries between March and May this year. I was surprised that most people had never heard of these MDG. Even so, every person I spoke with was fully engaged when presented with the statistics on child mortality.

What will it take to move action forward on the MDG? Will a conference of leaders in New York this September cut it?

I contend that action needs to come from the global community, with people acting as bridge builders. What might this look like? I am not sure, but through the 10 City Bridge Run I intend to stimulate discussion to identify a crowd-sourced list of 10 actionable items that people can engage in to make a difference. Is this naive? Possibly, but nothing ventured, nothing changed. Two-thirds into the first time period for reporting on the MDG, progress is slow and maybe falling short. Maybe it is naive not to try all options which we are presented with, regardless how facile they might seem.

For my previous experience with the Australian Army assisting in Timor Leste and later in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami, my instinct says that just giving money and leaving it to the bureaucrats is not the answer. It will help, but there has to be more we can do.

What do you think?