We (ie the UK) committed ourselves at the UN to achieve its Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We did this back in the 1990s and the deadline is fast approaching.
Some of the goals will be attained but not really due to UN efforts or our efforts but by the burgeoning economic growth of the populous nation of China. But we are miles behind on other goals.
We’ve got to halve the number of people living on less than $1 a day.
Halve the number with malnutrition.
Reduce to a third of 1990 levels the number of children dying before their 5th birthday.
Reduce to a quarter of 1990 levels the number of mothers dying in childbirth.
Halve the number of people without access of clean drinking water.
Halve the number of people without access to sanitation.
Universal primary education for boys and girls.
I get a bit muddled after that. Indeed I may have got the ones about water and sanitation mixed up but the job is clearly huge.
It is a list worked out by a committee. The first few are straightforward and they get more complicated and questionable and un-clearcut as you go down the list.
The big thing about any of these goals is that they are going to be jolly hard to achieve.
How do you improve the system for delivering mothers safely in childbirth in, say, Somalia where there’s violent chaos….. or even in very poor Malawi where the pressures aren’t as violent but still a challenge … or in Afghanistan?
And fixing sanitation is a big job at the best of times but in places without the basics of infrastructure it is hard.
It involves politics and economic and police work or even sending in the army (ours or and international force).
And we mustn’t think this is just for charities to do. It is too big a job and they’d need the relevant government firmly behind them. And if the government of the land doesn’t care then there’s politics and persuasion to do.
The other thing is that while we are doing this to help people we or firms from our own country might be doing things that counteract the benefits of what we are doing if, for instance, they induce the nation’s government to privatise the water supply or the health service. We have got to have a coherent development policy and make sure it makes sense and that our nation isn’t sending out mixed messages by doing a whole bunch of things for different motives that cancel each other out or even do harm.
We will only succeed with these goals if the whole nation (the UK) cares and owns this as a project of our whole nation that we care about passionately. (At the moment we aren’t good at doing things passionately except when it comes to football!) Then we can send out a clear message and earmark enough resources and people to get the job done.
Why bother? Because we are a decent nation that cares about people in trouble. And because it does serve our own best interests to tolerate a world situation with vast numbers of impoverished tyrannised people. We want our children to grow up into a decent world where people care about each other and there aren’t bitternesses that we have decided to overlook.
Somehow we need to raise the profile of good things that our government’s aid agency The Department for International Development. DfID. They are spending nearly 0.7% of our nation’s turnover or GDP. They produce glossy brochures but I find it hard to get a grasp of what really good stuff they do.
We have got used to distrusting government glossy presentations. And in any case I can’t easily see how much DfID is spending. Maybe they don’t want an easily available headline sum in case people say “We want some of that for something else back home.
If we are spending all this money it would be nice to see a bit of public enthusiasm about it and knowledge of the great things our people are doing in specific places overseas. I doubt if the man man in the street (of which i am an example) knows anything about what is being done of our behalf oversears with our tax money. Any government that manages to get through to our own public on this will have to get a reputation for being trustworthy first and that’s a bit rare with politicians here today!!