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By Sydney Kornegay

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) received their 20-year old check-up at the MDG summit in September. The diagnosis? While some of the goals are on track for completion by 2015, others- like reducing maternal mortality- have experienced only patchy progress. The poorest and most vulnerable communities continue to suffer, and have unequal access to basic human services. These trends are particularly true for women.

According to a UNICEF report of the conference, 1,000 women still die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, mostly in Sub-Sahara and South East Asia. That’s one woman every minute. And while that number represents a one-third reduction in the maternal mortality ratio since 1990, it’s not fast enough to satisfy MDG 5. This goal calls for a three fourths reduction in the maternal mortality ratio and universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

“MDG 5 is not on track for success, based on current trends. An orchestrated global effort will be needed to achieve it.”

“By focusing our efforts on scaling up practical interventions that reach the poorest and most marginalized women, we can reach MDG 5 more quickly, more cost-effectively and more equitably.”

These cost-effective, equitable solutions are already being implemented in several countries.

Take Brazil: In 1996, just over 70% of poor mothers received skilled care during childbirth. According to a recent report by World Health Organization and UNICEF, coverage of skilled birth attendance became almost universal in the country, by 2007, even amongst the poorest.[1] Brazil has focused on sending Read the rest of this entry »

A post by one of our student MDG champions and Issue Analysts- Elizabeth Con, College of Charleston.

StandUp NYC, held in Lincoln Center on September 19th, spread awareness of the Millenium Development Goals and the organizations that have been working to achieve them.  The event was especially relevant because it held on the eve of the UN MDG Summit 2010, which brought together world leaders to discuss the MDG goals.

I thought StandUp NYC was a great event because it had various things for people to engage in: music, speakers, and information tables for organizations who support the MDGs.  I personally enjoyed walking around to the various tables (and getting some great freebies like pins and pens!) and speaking with representatives from the organizations.  I had never heard of some of the organizations out there and it was such a great opportunity to learn more and to see how I could get involved. One of the groups that got my attention was one advocating for road safety.  I never thought of road safety as being a human right, or as something that we would actually have to work to improve, but in many parts of the world, people are killed each day because their roads are not safe and laws are not enforced.

I enjoyed listening to the speakers, especially because each one spoke for only about 15 minutes each.  This was great for me because out there in the sun, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my attention on one speaker for too long.  Each speaker had such an interesting take on the MDGs and their backgrounds were so different that it was great to hear each of their perspectives.

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One last thing about StandUp NYC is that by the time I left Lincoln Center (with two tote bags full of pamphlets and brochures), I felt inspired and ready to plan events and get students on my campus excited and willing to work together to achieve the MDGs.  The representatives from organizations were all so friendly and eager to help that I have even e-mailed a few of them to learn how we can work together towards progress on the MDGs.

Last Monday I attended a TEDx Change event on the Millennium Development Goals in NYC. Speakers included Hans Rosling, Melinda Gates, Mechai Viravaidya (introduced as “Dr. Condom”), and Graca Machel. We were also treated to a performance by Sierra Leonian hip hop group Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew. Some highlights:

  • Hans Rosling stressed the need to update our concept of poverty, including how we analyze our statistics. We have made greater progress than we often realize in the last decade, even though we must remember that the 90s were a very difficult decade financially. And the progress that’s been made in developing countries has often been much, much faster given their starting points than what we saw in parts of Europe! Watch the video on the Gates Foundation website.
  • Melinda Gates gave a really interesting presentation about the importance of branding, comparing the marketing of the fight against poverty to that of Coca-cola. Coke stresses a better life in their ads. While many development programs stress the need to ‘avoid’ certain behaviors or conditions. Why not make development something sexy – something we strive for, she asked. She showed a clip of Wavin’ Flag, a remix of which Coke used for advertising during the World Cup earlier this year, which really communicates that aspirational vibe. (If you haven’t heard this song, check it out. It’s really catchy – I’ve been singing it for days).  Watch video of Melinda’s presentation on the Gates Foundation website.
  • Mechai Viravaidya is the founder of the Population and Community Development Association, and spoke about some really entertaining strategies he introduced to cut HIV/AIDS rates in Thailand, including: a Cops and Rubbers program (police hand out condoms on the street), Captain Condom (a superhero who promoted condom use). Efforts like these contriuted to a 90% drop in HIV/AIDS in his country. Watch his presentation on the Gates Foundation website.
  • Finally, we saw a performance by Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew. Check out the video on the Gates Foundation website.

Because we are attending the Millennium Campus Conference this weekend, focused on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and which satellites the actual United Nations MDG Summit on Monday-Wednesday in NYC, I thought I’d read up on recent news.

I came across this really interesting article that helps put many things into perceptive. Don’t miss the section on the UN Agency for Women, a new agency said to be a “breakthrough” for women’s rights and gender equality and expected to help achieve all of the MDGs. And it’s not too late to register for the conference in NYC here.

Ahead Of MDG Summit, U.N. Secretary-General Calls For Additional Funds, Strategy For Tackling Women’s And Children’s Health Issues

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced that “nearly 140” world leaders are planning to attend next week’s U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit in New York, where they will discuss ways to help countries reach the targets by 2015, the Canadian Press reports (Lederer, 9/13).

“The leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will be joined by business tycoons and political activists in a three-day summit next week to pledge a renewed effort in the fight against poverty and disease,” the Globe and Mail reports. “The summit [which kicks off Monday] is reported be on track to produce $26-billion in promised new funds. But after decades of broken commitments to the poor, much more than rhetoric and promises will be needed this time, critics say. … The draft has failed to impress some anti-poverty activists, who are pushing for more aggressive action” (York, 9/13).

“Of course, the deadline [for the MDGs] is approaching fast, and many countries are falling short, especially in Africa,” Ban said, according to a U.N. transcript of Monday’s press conference. “Inequities are growing within and among countries.  Too often global economic management neglects the poor and vulnerable.  And the money we need — even though it is modest — is not yet there, a problem compounded by the economic crisis. … To achieve the health MDGs in the 49 lowest-income countries alone, we must invest an additional $26 billion in 2011 — by next year — and building to an additional $42 billion in 2015” (9/13).

World Bank Examines Impact Of Global Crises Crisis On MDGs, Pledges Additional Funds

The World Bank on Monday released a report that explored the impacts of the global economic crisis on developing countries progress towards reducing poverty and other MDG targets that noted “[d]eveloping countries were making significant progress in overcoming poverty until the recent food, fuel, and financial crises,” Xinhua reports (9/13).

“As we take stock of the MDGs so far, we see the crises only made things worse, with too many of the world’s people hungry, poor, or vulnerable to poverty, with too few jobs and too little access to services and economic opportunity,” World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick said, according to Environment News Service. “We must therefore redouble efforts to target support to the poor and vulnerable. We need to invest in what works and fix what doesn’t,” he said (9/13).

Also Monday, the World Bank announced plans to “boost aid to some of the world’s poorest countries to improve health and education and to alleviate the crisis brought on by food shortages,” to help countries reach the MDG targets by 2015, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (9/13).

Under the plan, the World Bank will “boost support to agriculture to some $8.3 billion a year, up from $4.1 billion annually before 2008, under its Agriculture Action Plan … increase its zero-interest and grant investment in basic education by an additional $750 million, with a focus on the countries that are not on track to reach the education MDGs by 2015, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa … [and] expand the reach of the Bank’s results-based programs by more than $600 million to scale up essential health and nutrition services and strengthen the underlying health systems which are essential to sustain better health results over the years” in 35 countries, according to a World Bank press release (9/13).

“The new funding, totaling nearly 10 billion dollars, is meant to help overcome what have been termed the food, fuel and financial crises which the Bank says have added to the obstacles faced by developing countries,” Inter Press Service reports in an article that elaborates on the World Bank’s strategy for bolstering agriculture and health funding for developing countries. The article includes comments by Millennium Promise CEO John McArthur, who addresses the significance of the World Bank’s commitment of additional funding to agriculture, and elaborates on the breakdown of the groups who will provide the funds (Berger, 9/13).

U.N. Secretary-General To Announce Global Strategy For Women’s, Children’s Health At MDG Summit

Read the rest of this entry »

A follow up post to the one below, also from the Food First blog.  A little long, but well worth it.

Africans Face Competing Visions of Agricultural Development at Critical Juncture
Posted May 20th, 2010 by rjonasse
By Richard Jonasse, Food First

Aid Collage

A contest of competing visions over the future of Agriculture is playing out across Sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers’ organizations are lining up against an aid regime that threatens to swamp smallholders with purported “solutions” to which these farmers have not assented and do not desire.

Read the rest of this entry »

Next week activists, doctors, politicians, and public health experts from around the world will convene in Vienna, Austria, for the XVIII International AIDS Conference. The Conference will last from July 18 to 23 and will include over 25,000 participants from over 100 countries.

The establishment of the Millennium Development Goals by the United Nations in 2000 drew international attention to the enormity of the challenges facing our world in the 21st century. MDG 6 vows to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases, and it ramped up the world’s collaboration around the issue of AIDS. The call to action at the 2000 International AIDS Conference in South Africa reiterated the need for cooperation and attention to this issue, and there has been huge progress in providing ARVs to more people around the world, decreasing the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and increasing prevention and education efforts. However, the first major milestone of MDG 6 was to have universal access to treatment by 2010, and that has definitely not been achieved. In fact, the rate of new HIV infections continues to exceed the rate at which access to treatment is expanding.1 The second prong of MDG 6 is to have halted and begun to reduce the spread of HIV around the world by 2015. It’s still possible, and part of the focus of this conference will be sharing best practices and revamping international efforts to that end.

Why hasn’t the international community been able to achieve its goal to halt HIV/AIDS? Read the rest of this entry »

“Cause you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery” – Paul Schickler, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred

This week I had the privilege of attending the release of Feed the Future (FTF), the Obama Administration’s strategy to address global hunger and food insecurity. Approximately 300 senior leaders from the Administration, Congress, and the business, policy, and NGO communities packed into the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to hear USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah unveil the Administration’s plan.

With more than a billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – now suffering from chronic hunger, the U.S. is stepping up its game. At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy last summer, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion over three years (to be leveraged in conjunction with the more than $18.5 billion pledged by fellow heads of state) to “scale up” U.S. investments and impact towards achieving Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicating Extreme Hunger and Poverty.

Some of us have expressed skepticism with respect to the Administration’s initiative and the Global Food Security Act in the past: namely with respect to money earmarked for corporate biotech research and U.S. investments being funneled through “multi-lateral” institutions such as the World Bank.

While those concerns remain, I want to take a moment to highlight the points of this plan that deserve applause:

  • FTF puts addressing global hunger and poverty back at the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda
  • FTF supports country-led strategies, supporting effective governments and active citizens’ efforts in determining which goals to pursue and how to allocate resources

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday, March 22 was World Water Day and this whole week has been designated as World Water Week.  Each year the week focuses on a different aspect of freshwater.  This year the focus is on the quality of freshwater around the world, but particularly in developing countries.  This week is not only on raising awareness about the scarcity of clean water in some nations, but also on raising awareness about how something small, such as drinking tap water rather than bottled water, can have a huge impact on both water resources and climate change!

UNICEF’s Tap Project has been held this week at campuses across the country.  The campaign asks participating restaurants to ask for $1 from patrons for the tap water (that is normally free).  This $1 is donated to UNICEF for use in efforts to bring clean water and sanitation to people all over the world.

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So well articulated.  So true.

Post by Alejandro Nadal,

International conferences on poverty and the environment come and go. There’s always a big pachyderm in the meeting room. It’s got the words “macroeconomic policy” written on its forehead. Nobody wants to talk about it.

Consider the following. The Millennium Development Goals were debated in many conferences, but nobody spoke about the macroeconomic policy framework needed to achieve them. As if reducing hunger and extreme poverty, generating employment and providing health services and education had nothing to do with fiscal policy, monetary policy and financial deregulation. Aside from some pious words about financing and overseas development assistance, the implicit message was to carry on with the same macroeconomic policies. That could only have been based on faith in the trickle-down potential of neo-liberal globalization.

At UNFCCC-COP events, everyone recognized there are serious issues in terms of financial resources for mitigation and adaptation. Vulnerability and poverty go hand in hand, it is said. But, again, nobody wanted to discuss the relationship between neo-liberal macroeconomic policies and poverty, as if they had no connection.

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Guest post from Michael Boampong, Executive Director, Young People We Care

A few weeks ago I was reading a newspaper item in the March 21st 2009 edition of the Daily Graphic. In the course of reading the article, I realized a big and yet timely challenge has been thrown out by the Secretary General of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Mr. Oumar N’dongo. Mr. N’dongo has called on governments of member states of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to ensure the full implementation of the regional protocols on the freedom of movement people and goods, which was adopted some decades ago.

Prior to reading this, I had participated in TakingITGlobal’s ‘Live Chat on Youth Migration’, which was held in commemoration of the 2008 International Migrants Day celebration. The chat was sponsored by Young People We Care (YPWC), a youth-led organization founded by myself and based in Ghana. The chat brought young people from around the world together to hear from experts and young professionals who are working on migration and youth development issues. This gave them the opportunity to share their thoughts on irregular migration and migrant rights within the context of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW).

International migration has arguably become one of the most topical issues of today’s global order. Migration has been facilitated in the 21st century by ‘globalization’ and the global development disparities of economic development and human development. In recent times, climate change and conflict have also resulted in an increase in migration.

Read the rest of this entry »


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