Millennium Development Goal

The Near Bank of the Bridge: Wrap up from New York

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TEHRAN. With the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ah...
Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

So what came out of the United Nations High-Level Summit to discuss the Millennium Development Goals late last month?

The irony of spending a lot of money for people to gather together and talk about poverty is something I am still thinking about…

The drama and grandiose of visiting the United Nations in New York must be appealing. Certainly this was reflected in Meredith Burgmann’s comments in an Op-Ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Meredith Burgmann, a former NSW ALP MP, is president of the Australian Council for International Development, and was part of the Australian delegation to the UN Conference on the Millennium Development Goals.

Disappointing progress in many areas.
Many failed promises blamed on the global financial crisis.
The meeting was overshadowed by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, alleging the September 11 attacks were an American conspiracy in a separate meeting a few days after the Conference.

The New York Conference marks the beginning of a bridge I am defining for the 10 City Bridge Run.
It is the near bank.
Where we cross first.

The far bank defining the other side of the bridge is the G20 Summit.
Another important meeting of institutional and national leaders.
The G20 describes itself as the premier forum for international economic cooperation: “Our goal is to strengthen the global financial system and build a global economy rooted in sustainable growth and prosperity for all”.

The span, the bit in between, is all of us. All of us. Our global village.
I contend that what happens between us is as important as what happens at the two institutional meetings.
That is what the 1o City Bridge Run is about.
It is all about you, and me, and everyone else. We are responsible.

Meredith made an interesting comment about the MDG 3 which I am focusing on today:

One of my particular passions – the third goal, which promises to promote gender equality and empower women – is hardly mentioned. Maternal deaths seem to be important but not the empowerment of women. Tucked away in a side report was the astonishing information that of the nine countries that still have no women in parliament, six were in the Pacific. The percentage of women in Pacific parliaments is 2.9 per cent and even the next worst, the Middle East, has 12 per cent. It is a total disgrace and unless Australia begins to use its influence with the male leaderships of these countries, nothing will change.

Meredith wove the importance of how there is interplay between the MDG:

Rudd is particularly concerned with goals four and five, which deal with maternal health and child mortality. Improvement in maternal death rates has slowed dramatically. More than 500,000 women die each year of pregnancy-related causes. Australia announces that it is part of a newly launched public/private global alliance with the US, Britain, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to meet goals four and five and pledges $1.6 billion to this alliance. Rudd also promises to allocate $5 billion to education, $1.8 billion to food security and $1.2 billion for action on climate change over the next five years.

Check her article out here.
It is interesting that the embedded video is about Australian domestic political point-scoring. Is that a tacit commentary in itself on the importance and impact this conference had on a broader level back home in Australia? Interesting to note that many of my friends still have no idea of what an ‘MDG’ actually is. I think we will all know in 2015, although will this be for the right reasons?

6 Days to Go. 8 MDG: MDG 3- Promote Gender Equity and Empower Women

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Young women in preparing manioc bread or Fufu....
Young women in preparing manioc bread

Spotlight on gender equity and empowerment of women today.

Yesterday, my good friend Tiffany sent me through a video The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking. Worth a look- go on, check it out and I will wait here until you return.

So how was it?

In the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the United Nations (UN) have set a target to Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. From the video and thinking about this, already the symbiotic relationship between these MDG should be more clear. These are not stand alone stove-piped objectives.

So why should I care? This year I am also an Ambassador for the White Ribbon Foundation which looks at Australian men stepping up to end violence against women. Earlier this year, another friend of mine April, informed me about the atrocious prevalence of rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC). Rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and control. Statistics so high that they top the world. Nothing to boast about.

As an Ambassador of the White Ribbon Foundation, I would hope that these statistics are seen as ugly as they are, and that through this we men can reflect this back into our own communities and behaviours. If it is not ok for us to put up with violence against women here in Australia, why should it be any different in DROC? We should be outraged!

Back to what the UN have to say about this MDG 3:

  • For girls in some regions, education remains elusive
  • Poverty is a major barrier to education, especially among older girls
  • In every developing region except the Commonwealth of Independent States, men outnumber women in paid employment
  • Women are largely relegated to more vulnerable forms of employment
  • Women are over-represented in informal employment, with its lack of benefits and security
  • Top-level jobs still go to men — to an overwhelming degree
  • Women are slowly rising to political power, but mainly when boosted by quotas and other special measures

So what should we make of this? It would seem that there is an opportunity to advance this forward through much of the excellent advocacy and game changing approaches through microfinance groups by organisations like the IWDA.

The video presents an opportunity. Can we harness this? And when will we consider those women and girls subjected to appalling conditions of rape and sexual violence as neighbours within our broader global village, the global ‘dongnae’ (Korean for village)?

Please consider sponsoring the 10 City Bridge Run. Please sponsor $24 to make this journey possible.

The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking

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My friend Tiffany sent me a wonderful link from The Girl Effect called The Clock is Ticking.

Watch it for yourself- it is its own explanation.

Tomorrow I will put focus on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015 . Let’s see what the assessment is from the United Nations on MDG 3. So far the scorecard looking at MDG 1 and 2 is not good for a complete successful achievement of the MDG.

This is why a focus on child mortality and women is so important. So many other factors are woven into the same solution. Hans Rosling explains this indirectly in this TED video in an earlier blog I recorded here.

The most productive 50 million ways to influence extreme poverty are primed ready to be enlisted in the fight. It is a resource and an opportunity that won’t stand still- it sits on a knife edge of time to be saved or exploited by the environment. Is there anything we can do to influence this situation?


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Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke


Hans Rosling, the intellectual heavyweight and Professor of Global Health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, wrote a really encouraging comment a few weeks ago on this blog. I thought I would share it here:

I wish you good luck Matt.
The seemingly impossible is indeed often possible, but be aware that the impossible is impossible. It takes a lot of wisdom to see the difference between the impossible and the seemingly impossible. We follow you with interest!
Hans Rosling

All too often, statements have been made then expectations failed about what was thought as possible. Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1987 famously stated that

“…by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”

This has not been achieved, especially on many remote Indigenous communities. This comment should not be used for cheap political point scoring or neither used to judge the performance of Mr Hawke. In 2007 he claimed it was among his biggest regrets in his political life.

We should take Hans’ caution seriously. Do we have the wisdom to discern what is in fact impossible? And how do we then navigate the path forward past failed expectations?

Already, many of the Millennium Development Goals appear to be closer to impossible than possible. “Hope dims for universal education by 2015”. Can we arrest child mortality as one target to achieve?

Should we prepare ourselves now for a more realistic outcome in 2015? Is there more we can all do to change the situation in some small way? The disappointment at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen in 2009 was significant. A different issue to extreme poverty. How will we respond when the Millennium Development Goals are accounted for in 2015?

What is impossible?

Luke Asked: What is this about?

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The President of South Korea, mr Lee Myung-bak...
The President of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak

My good mate Luke asked me a question this morning by email. “What is the 10 City Bridge Run actually about?” It is a good question. Here is an answer.

The central question that the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to address is: “How can you build a bridge to help close the gap on extreme poverty?” A response requires to you think and feel, as much as to act.

This is part of a bigger movement about social impact. In this movement, we are each playing a small part in a bigger change. The 10 City Bridge Run is a small part in a well-established ecosystem of other initiatives.

We all should know that extreme poverty is a problem. There is enough news and branding around the issue. But do we know the extent to the problem, or do we know how we might make a difference – a real difference- aside from donating money to charity?

The 10 City Bridge Run presents a global challenge. There is a physical challenge – the 10 sub-marathons across 10 countries, which is more of a symbolic act through a tough and demanding journey.

The bigger challenge, the real challenge, is asking people to engage intellectually; asking people to engage emotionally and take action. Small actions. Like taking a photograph of others building a bridge.

Is it possible? Does it matter? Can one person on their own make a difference? (I would suggest the answers are Yes. Yes. and No.) And these answers are reflective of the bigger questions facing humanity on the issue of extreme poverty.

It is a complex issue. I think it starts with building a bridge to help close the gap on extreme poverty. You might be doing this already, and if so please show us what that looks like by capturing that in a photograph.

There are larger global forces at work. Is the global financial system broken, at least in part? This is the importance of passing a petition to the G20 Summit leadership. Will the petition make a difference? Will President Lee Myung-bak acknowledge the receipt of the petition? There is only one way to find out, and that first requires the collation of 24,000 photographs online.

Please join us.

Pause and reflection: musical interlude on 9/11

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Sydney Harbour Bridge IMG_5264
Sydney Harbour Bridge

This morning we launched the 10 City Bridge Run with a spirited gang of runners and walkers rejoicing in glorious Spring weather to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Milsons Point. Photos and more details later this evening.

Today is also the 9th anniversary of 9/11. What a decade! Some writing over the past nine years has spoken about the importance of eradication of extreme poverty because of the strategic gain it presents in the so-called ‘War Against Terrorism’. While this might be a desirable indirect consequence, our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty should have the aim of ending needless suffering so unevenly distributed across the world.

Here is a musical interlude from The Black Eyed Peas reminding us that too many Bridge Builders is never enough. The is still much more work for all of us to do.

Its time to change the narrative, and a positive outcome is truly within our reach. The Millennium Development Goals provide a useful framework through which to work toward the eradication of extreme poverty. The journey ahead over the next 42 days for me is as much a process of learning and inquiry- I don’t have the answers, let alone a few comprehension of the issue in its entirety.

Please join me in learning more about the issue of extreme poverty and what is actionable to make a meaningful difference through our own actions.

Inspiration…why do this to yourself?!

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Percentage of world population in extreme pove...
Percentage of world population in extreme poverty as defined by the World Bank (income of less than US$1.25 per day)

What has most shaped me to want to commit to the 10 City Bridge Run?

The idea for the 10 City Bridge Run was thought of and developed by myself (Matt Jones). My experience running a similar event called the 9 City Bridge Run last year left me with a sense of responsibility from the lessons I learnt to do something meaningful with that knowledge in 2010 which over time emerged into the 10 City Bridge Run.

My outlook in relation to this project has been largely influenced by my experience through my previous extensive service as an Australian Army Officer. This is broad and includes encounters with ‘unseen’ neglected and dilapidated Indigenous communities in Central Australia during the late 1980‘s, and later deployment on Active Service in East Timor seeing the often wasted efforts of a number of inefficient charity projects aside good examples of well run government and charity interventions.

Additionally later responsibilities as Desk Officer standing up and managing Australian Army response to the 2004 Aceh Tsunami relief effort showed the incredible power of media and the ‘fund raising industry’ to reap focused attention and financial contributions globally. The level of accountability following such efforts is often overlooked, along with less glamorous, unaddressed, longer-term, systemic issues which fail to have the capacity to ‘sell’ themselves. In these circumstances I witnessed the awesome efficiency by which the corporate machine is able to mobilise brand, but sadly often with disturbingly very little real impact on the ground to boast about other than a handful of photographs and well conducted fund raising efforts.

While this might seem overly critical, having worked in support of the United Nations in different capacities while serving in the Army I am concerned about the likely outcome of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) due to be reported on in 2015.

Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty paints a picture where the eradication of extreme poverty might be possible to achieve by 2025, which is to some degree based on the successful achievement of the MDG in 2015.

Can we be sure that the necessary attention can be maintained by countries and institutions to achieve this? The influence of the global financial crisis is likely to be disruptive, and the outcome of Copenhagen last year was not a promising indicator.

Meanwhile, every day children continue to suffer and die as a result of the conditions of extreme poverty they are borne into. What can we do to change this?

Is giving more money enough? Should we start up more ‘not for profit’ organisations with a focus to eradicate poverty? Should we turn our backs on the situation? What will it take to move action forward on the MDG? Will a conference of leaders in New York this September cut it?

I recently conducted in person 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.

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.

The significant output from the 10 City Bridge Run will be a book published featuring the photos of 24,000 ‘bridge builders’- people who are building a bridge between themselves and another- which will be presented to the G20 leadership as a pictorial petition.

Maybe you have a different view. Go ahead and prove me wrong, or give me a better option. I start running in 19 days.