In 2000 the United Nations committed to eight goals. The signing of the Millennium Declaration by all member nations of the UN represents a commitment to reduce extreme poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women by 2015.
To accomplish change informed policy is essential: improving aid, cancelling debt owed by developing nations, and establishing better rules to govern trade for better trade justice are all concrete policy initiatives that can bring about the change outlined in the eight goals.
Canada currently contributes only 0.33% of our GDP, falling short of our modest 0.7% UN target. We must contribute more aid and make sure that it goes where it is needed, helping to end extreme poverty and hunger, enabling all children to attend elementary school, reducing child mortality rates, improving maternal health, creating decent jobs and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Aid often comes with strings attached. Tied aid comes with certain stipulations, the recipient of Canadian aid for example would have to buy Canadian products or even from a particular source in a tied aid situation. This arrangement is usually in the best interest of the donor country and not the country in need of aid. The UN contends that focused quality aid is the first step in helping millions of people work their way out of poverty.
Many of the poorest countries in the world are under a debt sentence. These nations are under crushing debt, barely able to service the debt (pay off the interest to prevent the balance from rising). Much of the money going to development ends up going to debt service rather than improving living conditions in these nations.
Between 1970 and 2002 the poor countries in Africa received $294 billion in loans and have paid back almost the entire amount in principal and interest. They still owe $200 billion in penalties and interest to the rich developed nations.
Trade justice is an important issue on the world stage. Many affluent nations are able to subsidize industries. This makes global trade extremely unequal. Sometimes developing countries are pushed to lower trade barriers while wealthy nations undercut them, selling subsidized goods on the global markets.
It should be argued that education must be the number one priority. In his TED lecture (watch at http://tiny.cc/olpc) Nicholas Negroponte makes the case that children are our most precious natural resource. A common theme in TED lectures is the role of education in solving the problems we face; “Everyone agrees that whatever the solutions to the big problems, they include education, sometimes can be just education and can never be without some element of education.”
Negroponte argues. Nicholas Negroponte is the founder the One Laptop Per Child. OLPC is an initiative to develop and distribute a durable, efficient learning oriented laptop platform featuring wireless connectivity to children all around the globe. OLPC is a non-profit association, the laptops are paid for with donations and cost $199 each, and the project is a massive success already. Education is crucial because as knowledge and understanding increase, so do quality of life. Improving basic literacy skills opens the door to discovering new territories of knowledge; facilitating personal and social progress.
You can visit www.8goals.ca for more information how you can get involved. Stop by the Multi Cultural Center in UC 2014 for more information or our treat of the week.