United Nations

The Slippery Target

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IMG_24582015 is fast drawing to a close, and with it the culmination of the Millenium Development Goals.

Among the eight MDG, Goal 4 which was to Reduce Child Mortality made progress but failed to be achieved.

The Sustainable Development Goals replace the MDG for the period 2016-2030, and continue with a more ambitious reach to continue to address the impact of poverty.

My good friend Trish shared this document today The Slippery Target for Child Survival in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development from the Health and Human Rights Journal. It is a short document that is well worth reading to see how difficult it is to set targets in a world where there is great discrepancy in levels of child mortality between countries.

Information worth noting. It helps define the challenge before us.

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2030 Agenda

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New World Order...
New World Order…

Did you hear about the plan the United Nations has for world domination? Apparently, the Illuminati are involved there somewhere as well. Yes folks, the New World Order is finally arrived…

Watch the video below. The guy makes some alarming and stunning claims. If they are true, we are truly doomed. I suspect we might yet be in good hands.

In actual fact, the 2030 Agenda is the subtitle for the United Nations for their ambitious plan to replace the Millenium Development Goals which are due to expire at the end of 2015. From the beginning of 2016 through until 2030, the United Nations will be focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The proper title I think is: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Once upon a time and many years ago, I served in the Australian Army for many, many years. Most people know that ‘military time’ is read using a 24-hour clock. That is to say that 8.30 pm would be read ‘2030 hours’.

During my time in the Army when I was a young gunnery officer, there was a gathering we used to have when young gunnery officers on course at the old School of Artillery. Come 10 pm, we would drop our studies and meet in the bar for a few drinks and to share a laugh with a bit of a ribbing.

Recently, I had suggested that we could reconvene the 10 o’clock Club on Twitter by posting what we were doing and where we were at on that evening at 10 pm as if gathering for the 10 o’clock Club. It worked to some degree, although with less pick-up than might be seen as successful.

Now, with the change of this new agenda for a global partnership, or the imminent rise of a New World Order depending on your worldview, it is appropriate that the 10 o’clock Club should also reflect this change. Consequently, I’m inviting you all to the 2030 Agenda every evening at 8.30 pm. Post every evening with something that comes as close to addressing the issue of child survival with the #2030Agenda. I will be posting every evening (as often as I can) at 8.30 pm on Twitter (in whatever time zone I am in). I hope to see you at the #2030Agenda soon!

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.

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.

Legitimacy of G20: Self-appointed for the sake of G172?

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G20 countries
G20 countries

Last week the leaders of the G20 met in Seoul for the G20 Summit. For many, the ‘Group of 20’ (G20) is a largely self-appointed and barely legitimate body with no authority to assume its current role. Is this a valid perspective, and what does it mean for the ‘G172’ (the 172 member states of the United Nations)?

Over the next few blog posts I will examine the Seoul Summit Declaration in more detail from a development perspective. What decisions did the G20 make, and are there consequences for other countries excluded from the meeting which are unfair or favourable? What did the G20 Summit mean for influencing extreme poverty, and how does this relate to the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals?

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.

Participation- A Broad Overview

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Our Global Challenges:  The Millennium Develop...
Image by CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies via Flickr

How will the 10 City Bridge Run play out? It is about participation, but to the extent this occurs is not up to me, but the contribution of others. Here is a broad overview of how I see the initiative taking shape.

This might seem a little wordy, but a workable framework is needed for something that is a little complex. If you see a way to simply this, or just drop stuff off the list please let me know!

While this is an overview to work from, the initiative will be taken ‘one step at a time’.

This is a creative process of inquiry. Your participation is welcome at every point.

  • Observing: The 10 City Bridge Run began with observing the United Nations and the MDG, culminating at the late September New York Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary.
  • Designing: Prior to commencing the 10 City Bridge Run, a design process will occur to optimise participation and challenge what is expected to be achieved.
  • Listening: The November G20 Summit will be monitored closely to hear what decisions are being made influencing development and child mortality.
  • Carrying a message: From the time the G20 commences until the conclusion of the 10 City Bridge Run a month later, the 10 City Bridge Run will officially commence in earnest with the running of 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. Each country is a member of the G20, and each city tells a story in the narrative. Each run is representative of the 24,000 children that die every day around the world.
  • Bridge Building: During the running, the intention is to collate 24,000 photographs of human bridges. We want these to be meaningful, expressive and have impact.
  • Petition: After the run, the photographs of the bridges will be sent to each leader of G20 member states to express our collective appeal for action in reducing child mortality. The petition will applaud the leaders commitment to making change happen. The petition will hold the leaders to account for decisions influencing extreme poverty they make at the G20 Summit in Seoul.
  • Framework: Publish a co-created list of 10 actionable items to make a difference without needing to spend money with a working title of “10 Steps to Social Alchemy”. This will provide a framework for participative engagement during 2011.
  • Communication: 24,000 copies of a book with a working title of “Above the Line” containing 1,000 photographs selected from the photographs in the petition will be published and distributed to sponsors, schools and stakeholders.
  • Collaboration: Throughout 2011, collaborate with others using the framework “10 Steps to Social Alchemy” and the book “Above the Line” as an inspiration for engagement and action. The focus is on partnerships and enabling change. This embraces an idea shared by Steve Killelea that reducing the emotional distance between ourselves and ‘the other’ who we do not know is the first step to removing stereotypes and achieving a peaceful world where we can begin to make a difference.
  • Learning: $24,000 invested into water and sanitation directly through a selected organisation, as well as $24,000 invested into anti-malarial measures through the distribution of 10,000 mosquito nets will provide an opportunity to learn about the effectiveness of aid. How much is needed? How much is enough? Is there a point below which it is does not make a difference?
  • Accountability: Holding G20 countries accountable for their actions at meetings in 2011 as well as the 4th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries to be held in Turkey during June 2011.

Did you find this made sense? Clear? Too process orientated? Too complicated? Would you take a minute to give me your feedback?

Thanks for your consideration.