Slipping away

There is reason for the international community to be concerned. A UN summit has revealed that the world is unlikely to meet several key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline. Ten years ago, world leaders pledged to halve the number of people living in conditions of abysmal poverty, improve maternal and child health, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Ten years on, it seems that while the world can draw some satisfaction on its performance with regard to tackling poverty, it is unlikely to meet the deadline with regard to maternal health, universal primary education, gender equality and so on. In fact, the situation has worsened on some fronts. The number of people who are hungry and malnutritioned has risen between 2007 and 2009. The world has made the least progress with regard to cutting maternal mortality and reducing the number of children who die before they reach the age of five.

There is no doubt that the magnitude of the problems that the world set out to address back in 2000 was enormous. The issues involved were undoubtedly complex. Yet, the goals were not impossible to achieve. There is no reason why the world should have fallen back in meeting the 2015 deadline. Several countries including India have lagged behind in the effort to tackle malnutrition and maternal mortality. Warnings that they were not doing enough to address these problems were issued from time to time. Yet they seem to have paid little heed. Rich countries cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for the world’s failure to achieve the MDGs. They did make grand pledges of aid to make hunger and poverty history. Yet when it came to delivering on those promises, they tightened their purse strings. UN data reveals that while they pledged 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to assistance, only a handful have met their commitment. Total aid by donors stands at a paltry 0.31 per cent of GNI.

It is still not too late. The world has five years still to meet the 2015 deadline. If donors step up their aid and dismantle structures and policies that keep poverty and hunger alive, and if governments in developing countries summon the political will to tackle problems with renewed energy, it might still be possible to make the MDG dream happen.

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