Thursday, August 16, 2007

The UN's MDG Campaign

By Stanford Matthews
Blog @

Sometimes thoughts arrive in such a torrent when researching a post it makes it difficult to follow the plan. This is one of those times. The easy part is browsing for a suitable topic about the UN. It should be something useful for anyone reading the post. If it relates to a recent event some effort should be made not to duplicate the effort of others. The item of interest was found early. The Millennium Development Goals appeared and after a half hour of reading too many questions arose not to choose this topic.

Like most United Nations projects or initiatives an abundance of material is available. Most will no doubt contain fluffy accounts of progress and an appeal to the readers emotions to convert them to an advocate. The documents and other media reviewed today cannot be adequately presented in one post. Looks like a series may have been born. This post will be limited to an introduction.

You might get the impression that whatever the Millennium Development Goals are they are somehow connected to the year 2000. You would be right. According to UN docs, they are currently half way to the deadline for completing the goals. All the world's countries agreed to this plan as well as all the world's development institutions. There are eight goals. Reading the goals is the part that begins to raise the questions. Then the idea of half the time being gone and half left leading to the natural instinct to wonder how much has been completed.

The stated goals were read and the torrent of thoughts began. All the thoughts were questions. The wording of the first goal was question number one. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger is the first goal listed and right away the word 'extreme' jumped out. How easy will it be to define whatever they get done, if anything, as extreme? Leaving anything they don't get done as less than extreme. A little too critical of the UN? Do you really think they are above such a cheap stunt? If you do, please explain why they use the word extreme. Why not just use some fixed amount like eradicating hunger or poverty in country A, B and C for example. You get the point. It leaves an escape from responsibility for completing a task that is not precisely defined.

The second goal of achieving universal primary education may be tougher to abuse. But what does the 'achieving' part mean? Is all they are saying is it will be available and the same for everyone who participates? Or are they saying what most would accept as implicit? That every human on the planet gets a primary education. And the question of defining primary in this case won't be asked yet.

The remaining six goals only feature the last one as being likely to see completion. Promoting gender equality is not something that really begins or ends and neither is the other part of empowering women. Does saving one person from an early death before adulthood qualify as reducing child mortality? Who would be surprised if something that ridiculous was offered as an explanation after a UN failure? Improving maternal health, combating disease and ensuring environmental sustainability (the global warming game) are worded as empty as the earlier goals. But you can probably bet they will finish the last one. Develop a global partnership for development is the last and only goal that is nearly guaranteed to be completed. For the UN is little more than a global partnership for manipulating the people of the world on a grand international level. Trading the world's future at the expense of the world's citizens.

Skeptical, cynical, mistrusting and pessimistic is a natural response to the United Nations and its activities based on many previous outcomes. Like many other processes on the planet, members of the UN have put together a PR machine that excels in redefining diplomacy, statesmanship and other principles for achieving the trade offs necessary to reach agreements with other nations. All the members get a piece of the pie while the original concept has been abandoned except as a tool for press releases.

The first attempt to determine the status of the Millennium Development Goals began with agriculture. A link from the UN (and there are many) connected to the World Bank. Go figure. A somewhat impressive Flash presentation was to show the status on many things. The first item checked was hunger. An illustrated, interactive map displayed the map of the world color coded for % of hunger of children. The highest color code was 30% and up (infinity). The incremental code ended at the bottom with a color indicating no data. The map had many countries with the color code for no data. Two especially surprising countries to be uncounted were Canada and India. Canada because the population is about 10% of that in the US. And India because it may have the 2nd largest population in the world. Halfway through the project and there is no data?

More details as well as helpful sources will be offered in the next post. Perhaps less narrative and more mind numbing statistics will be presented. Okay, maybe not. The thoughts are still coming in torrents. The scale and quantity of possible misdeeds and disappointments that will come from this UN sponsored activity is really what numbs the mind; not the statistics.


Blogger gary said...

I find it revealing that the word "democracy" appears nowhere in these goals. The act of eliminating dictatorships would lead to significant progress in ALL of these goals. So this tells me one thing - goal #1 should be to eliminate dictators from the membership roll of the United Nations. Always go to root cause...


10:41 PM  

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