Millennium Development Goals: Where are we?

The Millennium Development Goals were set as Earth entered the Third Millennium. Eight goals were set at the time on reducing poverty, improving infrastructures, providing access to healthcare and sanitation and increasing women's rights. In a world which spends up to two trillion USD a year on weapons, where do we stand? Prepare to feel disgusted.

Millennium Development Goal (MDG)1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This goal aimed to halve the number of people living on less than 1 USD per day, to halve the number of people suffering from hunger and to achieve full employment. While there has been success in the first part of the goal (extreme poverty falling in all regions; people living on less than 1 USD per day fell from 47% to 22% in 2010), the goal for employment has fallen risibly short of its target.

In Northern Africa, only 68% of men are employed, as against just 18% of women. Western Asia fares little better (68% to 20%), Southern Asia: (78% to 30%), Latin America and the Caribbean: 75% to 49%, in developed regions: 62% to 49% and worldwide, 73% to 48%. In Southern Europe, inside the European Union, the youth unemployment rate is between 30 to 40 per cent. 2 trillion USD on weapons, countries spending 2% of the GDP pleasing NATO and they cannot even create jobs for their youth.

MDG2: Achieve universal primary education. This goal aimed to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, would be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. By 2011, enrolment in primary schools had reached 90 per cent but the rate of enrolment slowed after 2004. Poverty continues to affect school enrolment, affects girls more than boys and the gap widens as the pupils grow older. The bottom line is that in a world which spends up to two thousand billion USD a year on weapons, we will not have achieved universal primary education by the end of 2015.

MDG3: Promote gender equality and empower women. The target was to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary (by 2005) and higher education (by 2015); greater participation of women in decision-making bodies. While progress has been made in primary education (the situation nears parity) only 2 countries out of 130 targeted have achieved gender parity at all levels of education. Women hold 40% of non-agricultural jobs and continue to enter the work market on an unequal basis. 21% of seats in national Parliaments (lower or upper houses) worldwide are held by women. How many women, even in developed countries, are really free to have a child and to receive the support needed to do so? In a world in which up to two trillion USD is spent yearly on weapons, we cannot even guarantee equal rights for women.

MDG4: Reduce child mortality by two-thirds (Under 5s). The child mortality rate has dropped from 87 deaths per 1,000 in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012, a drop of 41%, far from the 66% targeted. Again, the education of the mothers is a factor here, because children born in rural areas to uneducated mothers are most at risk. We spend two trillion dollars per year on weapons but cannot even protect our children.

MDG5: Improve maternal health. The aim was to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75% and achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare facilities. Again, the figure is far from being reached. The maternal mortality ratio fell from 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (1990) to 210 deaths by 2010: 47 per cent, not 75. In 2013, 140 million women did not have access to family planning programs. In a world that spends two trillion USD on weapons, each and every year, we cannot guarantee a women's right to maternal health.

MDG6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. This goal aimed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, achieving universal access to treatment for this disease. Since 2001, the number of women living with HIV has increased yearly and in 2012, 2.3 million people became newly infected. HIV/AIDS remains the main cause of death for women and girls of reproductive age and every minute, a woman is infected with AIDS. That means 1,440 since this time yesterday, many of these because their partner has become infected through unprotected sexual activity with others and infects the wife or girlfriend. Again, universal access to healthcare is far from being reached. As regards Malaria, 207 million cases occurred in 2012 and 627,000 people died from the disease - most of these children under five years of age in Africa. Since this time yesterday, 1,440 children have died from Malaria - one per minute. We spend 2 trillion USD a year willingly on systems to kill each other but see one child die every minute of every day from a preventable or treatable disease.

MDG7: Ensure environmental sustainability. The aim was to integrate principles of sustainable development in country policies and programs, reverse the loss of environmental resources and reduce by half the number of people living without access to drinking water and basic sanitation. Global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 45 per cent since 1990, the good news being that halving the number of people living without access to drinking water has already been achieved. However, 768 million people continue to take their water from improvised wells and women and girls (71%) are charged with water-collection activities, often having to walk miles and miles every day to collect water... and miss school. Access to basic sanitation has improved from less than half the world's population in 1990 to 64% today, 11 per cent short of the target. We can build weapons systems to murder millions of people, and are willing to pay two trillion USD a day for them but cannot build sewage systems and instal bathrooms, when two thousand years ago the Romans were doing so across their Empire with fewer resources.

MDG8: Establish a global partnership for development. This last goal aimed to create an open and non-discriminatory trading and financial system and to make available the benefits of new technologies to all. Official Development Assistance from developed to developing countries was 125.6 billion USD in 2012, 4 per cent down on 2011 and 2 per cent down on 2010. Global penetration of mobile phone devices has reached 96% while there are 2.7 billion users of the Internet (39 per cent of the world's population).

In conclusion: we can spend two thousand billion USD per year on weapons systems but only 125 billion of Official Development Assistance. We spend ten times more on weapons than we do on development.

Let this article, and articles like it, be a fitting epitaph to the stage humankind has reached in 2014 and let us all feel utterly disgusted with our collective effort. NATO, for example, accounts for seventy per cent of the world's defence spending - member states are supposed to spend 2 per cent of their GPD on military spending - and so should bear the brunt of criticism for this ridiculous situation.

Instead of bombing countries, installing puppet regimes using terrorists, strafing kids with military hardware and targeting civilian structures with bombs, instead of destroying water supply systems and electricity grids, suppose NATO disbanded, freed the populations of its member states from the yoke of the 2 percent of their GDP burden, and spent the money instead on development programs?

 Source: UNO

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey



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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey