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Our Pledges for the Millennium Development Goals

co-authored with Johann Koss

[This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post on September 22, 2010]

Upon the conclusion of the UN’s major summit on the Millennium Development Goals, we are pleased to share the following statement that has been jointly signed by our friends and colleagues around the world.

– Johann Olav Koss & John W McArthur

***

This week world leaders are gathering at the United Nations for the last major check-point summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) before the 2015 deadline. The Goals were set by world leaders a decade ago at the Millennium Summit, and they have spurred great progress in tackling the challenges of extreme poverty around the world. Bill Gates has called them “the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that [he has] ever seen.”

At this important juncture, we call on world leaders to fulfill their MDG commitments through clear, practical, targeted, and measurable initiatives, matched by clear points of accountability and transparency for ensuring successes and challenges can be understood by all. At the same time, we recognize that the MDGs require leadership from all segments of the global community, not just governments. The world is ever more interconnected, and ever more able to leverage the ingenuity and efforts of individuals, companies, and non-governmental organizations from all corners of the globe in tackling the challenges of extreme poverty.

Recognizing the opportunity and responsibility that everyone has to contribute to the Goals, we have all agreed to make our own practical, measurable, and time-bound MDG pledges — whether through direct implementation, public advocacy, or the mobilization of financial support. These pledges are not a substitute for government action, but we hope they will make real contributions to the achievement of the Goals. Moreover, we hope that our range of pledges, from small to large, will help spur others to make their own MDG pledges. Such commitments can be particularly important in spurring momentum amidst global sentiments of economic strain.

Our MDG pledges are all published on the new website www.mdgpledges.org. We encourage others around the world to join this public registry by making their own MDG pledges, and in turn sharing them with members of their community and encouraging friends and colleagues to do the same. With five years to go, we pledge our own best efforts to work with communities around the world to help ensure the MDGs are achieved.

Signed,

Alberto C. Vollmer
Andy Freire
Ayla Goksel
Francois P Champagne
Daniel Lubetzky
David McWilliams
Esther Duflo (Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab)
Jennifer Corriero (Co-Founder, TakingItGlobal)
Jo Cox (Director Maternal Mortality Campaign)
Johann Koss (President and CEO, Right To Play)
John Battelle
John W McArthur (CEO, Millennium Promise Alliance)
Kate Roberts (Vice President, PSI)
Kristin J Forbes (Professor, MIT-Sloan School of Management
Mack Gill (President, SunGard Global Services)
Marco De La Rosa (CEO, AES Dominicana)
Michael Kremer (Professor of Economics, Harvard University)
Mina Al-Oraibi
Muna AbuSulayman (Secretary General, Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation)
Nancy Lublin (CEO, DoSomething.org)
Henrik Naujoks
Nikolay Pryanishnikov
Orzala Ashraf Nemat
Patrick McWhinney
Salimah Y Ebrahim
Vuyo Jack (Africa Empowered)

The Millennium’s Promise: International Security and Poverty Reduction

[This post originally appeared at CENSA.net on September 15, 2010]

President Obama’s recent national security strategy places a significant emphasis on development in the poorest countries. This is partly anchored in an ambition to promote American values, and partly in an ambition to address pragmatic concerns that human suffering in any corner of the world can ultimately threaten the wellbeing of Americans viagra a vendre suisse. The risks of violent conflict are much higher at the lowest levels of economic development, and there is significantly higher risk in African countries exposed to major climate stress.

The focus on development is consistent with the President’s stated objective of backing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a vision to eradicate extreme poverty in a generation. The MDGs are the internationally agreed targets that were established in 2000 to tackle key challenges in hunger, education, health, access to safe drinking water, and income poverty, with a general aim of cutting each problem by half by 2015, compared to a baseline of 1990. The Goals draw attention to 1.4 billion people still living on less than a dollar a day, and to the simple and low-cost interventions that can make a dramatic difference in their lives. A $10 modern anti-malaria bednet can protect two children for five years. A $50 bag of fertilizer can help a poor farmer double her crop and start to earn an income. A locally produced school meal can entice a child to attend classes and have the energy to focus and learn while there.

Five years remain until the Goals’ 2015 deadline, and this September the UN will convene its last major checkpoint summit to map out a course for the home stretch. More than 150 world leaders are said already to have confirmed their attendance, so the breadth and caliber of participation should be high. Expectations were set last September, when President Obama used his first speech to the General Assembly to assert that he would approach the 2010 MDG Summit with a “global plan to make [the Goals] a reality.”

The US Government’s commitment to a successful MDG summit outcome unlocked a cascade of ambitions throughout the international community, driven by a desire for the US to take a proactive global leadership role for sustainable development, rather than what had previously been perceived as a reluctant if key role on specific issues of interest, in particular global health. Nonetheless, the recent MDG movement in Washington has been sympathetic but gradual as foreign policy players have navigated a thicket of policy urgencies plus an internal review of strategies and institutional arrangements. As a result, a little over two months away from the summit, the world is still waiting to learn the US’s suggestions for an action plan.

The previous official international hurrah around the MDGs took place five years ago, at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit in the United Kingdom and then the UN World Summit in New York. At Gleneagles, leaders of the wealthiest countries made extremely high profile and solemn commitments to double their collective investments in African development by 2010 and to increase their global development support by $50 billion over the same time period.

Since Gleneagles, the UK has been the one country that made major promises and also held steady to its word. Canada and the U.S. made modest commitments and generally met them too. But in the end the G8 has fallen roughly $20 billion short of its collective pledge, due mainly to shortfalls from France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, thereby defaulting on its joint commitment. Even worse, at last month’s G8 Summit in Canada, leaders declined even to mention their Gleneagles commitments in their public communiqué, as if erasing a reference at the deadline would somehow erase the commitment itself.

It is remarkable that even the richest and most powerful countries cannot coordinate to hold their word for dollar values that amount to near rounding error when compared to national security budgets and economic stimulus packages. Twenty billion dollars would easily fill the global budget gaps for bednets or fertilizer, while the Wall Street bonuses in New York state alone were more than $20 billion in 2008, the same year the financial sector melted. Such explicit shortcomings of G8 collective responsibility undermine the legitimacy of any of their future promises, and indeed undermine anyone’s desire even to hear more promises. This, in turn, forms an indirect threat to global security and stability, since intergovernmental agreements are anchored in trust, compliance, and an understanding of shared responsibility.

A loss of faith in global commitments creates diplomatic costs well outside of the development community. For the well-governed but poverty-stricken countries, development priorities like farm productivity and disease control are first order political priorities wherein donor shortfalls cause direct local repercussions, fueling resentment to be aired on other international issues. For the less well-governed developing countries, a lack of accountability among the rich countries creates opportunities for “spoilers” to foster sympathy coalitions other issues, fueling a cycle of mistrust in international negotiations.

All of this points to the imperative for US leadership on the Millennium Development Goals, and for a strong action-focused outcome at the UN this September. There is a global leadership gap at the intergovernmental level, and the world is hungry for the U.S. to be out in front on the Goals. Developed and developing countries alike will respond very positively to suggested global policy and planning recommendations for agriculture, education, child survival, maternal health, infrastructure, and basic environmental management.

This summit is therefore not just an opportunity for the MDGs. It is a moment to build system trust – and thus a significant opportunity for advancing national security, even if not typically appreciated as such. Where development budgets might not be immediately available amidst fiscal pressures, great gains can still be made if the appropriate mechanisms are launched, like a global education fund that can sow the seeds of development for a generation. The world will need to continue well beyond 2010, and ongoing success will hinge on contributions from all parts of foreign policy community, including government, business and non-profit organizations. This blog looks forward to exploring these themes in more detail over the weeks ahead.