United Nations

Inspiration…why do this to yourself?!

Posted on

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.

United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Posted on Updated on

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?

24,000 children died today, and yesterday, and will also tomorrow…

Posted on Updated on

UNICEF reported in 2009 that 8.8 million children under the age of five died during 2008. Tragically this would be the same as 24,000 children dying every single day. For comparison, it is worth noting the stark contrast that 50% of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa while only 0.1% occur in the “Industrialised Countries”.

UNICEF, the United Nations funding agency for the relief of children in need, is a reliable source of information. In their November 2009 publication The State of the World’s Children Special Edition: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child gives insight into how different the lives of others can be, and how great their need can be often in comparison to our own. For example, UNICEF report that in 2008:

  • 2.5 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children were deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 148 million children under the age of five in developing regions were underweight for their age
  • 101 million children were not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out
  • 22 million infants were not protected from diseases by routine immunisation
  • 4 million newborn babies worldwide died in the first month of life
  • 2 million children under 15  years of age were living with HIV
  • 8.8 million children under the age of five died, equivalent to more than 24,000 children dying daily
  • 500,000 women died from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth

(Source: UNICEF The State of the World’s Children Special Edition: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 2009, p.18-19)

Anup Shah produces a website with much of this information presented clearly for easy reading and can be found here.

How should we respond to this information? Shock, disbelief, vigilance, anger, compassion, sadness?

Maybe the bigger question is what are we prepared to do about it.