Millennium Development Goals should be top priority

Everyone wants a better world. And right now there is a chance to actually make it happen.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were proposed in 2000 by the United Nations to provide a plan for the wealthy nations in the world to finally live up to their responsibility and help fix the many imminent crises in the world today. Among those listed were eliminating extreme poverty, halting and reversing global climate change and environmental damage, lowering infant and maternal death rates, achieving universal education, fighting for women’s rights and gender equality, fighting diseases like AIDS and malaria and fostering development everywhere.

Arguably the most important of these goals – although they are all absolutely necessary for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous future for humanity – is eliminating extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than one U.S. dollar per day. At least 1.1 billion people live and die at this level right now. And die they do: 20,000 die every day because of lack of food, safe water or basic medical care.

I would like to assume that no one wants other people to die no matter where they are, because human suffering is human suffering no matter what plot of ground you call home.

In an article in the September issue of Scientific American, the head of the U.N. Millennium project, Jeffery D. Sachs, argues that extreme poverty could be eliminated by 2025 through an investment of only 0.7 percent of the rich, industrial nations’ gross national product. Sachs, who also works with Columbia and holds a doctorate in economics from Harvard, described the plan as, “giving a billion people a hand up instead of a handout.”

This help would come in the form of infrastructure building. New tools like drip irrigation, which delivers water straight to plants roots, and treadle pumps, which function as human-powered wells, are cheap and boost productivity.

These tools would allow small farmers to grow more food and make more than enough money to compensate for what was invested. Farmers can lift themselves, their children and eventually their countries out of extreme poverty.

Similar plans accompany each specific goal and guarantee that they would be successful in creating some real positive change in the world and reducing human suffering.

Some might say that doing this will only strengthen other countries and weaken the industrialized nations like America, but the benefits of these plans will be global. The implementation of these goals will also lead to more stable governments worldwide, which will cut down on wars, famines and genocides. More stable governments will lead to better conditions and cut down on terrorism because people will be less desperate and have more hope for bettering their lives through non-violent means.

The poorer nations in the world will finally be able to contribute to the world economy rather than just be exploited by it. This will increase trade worldwide and benefit everyone, including Americans.

Thus, there’s no surprise that almost everyone in the world supports the MDGs. On Sept. 14, the 2005 U.N. World Summit will convene to discuss international issues, and in particular to create a plan to implement these goals. Over 170 countries have already signed off on the draft agreement for this summit – the only one that didn’t was the United States.

Our ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, made hundreds of changes to the draft resolution for the summit that cripples both it and the MDGs. His revised draft deletes sections detailing the industrialized nations’ contributions of 0.7 percent in order to fund the MDGs.

Additional deleted sections addressed global climate change, which is staggering considering the present disaster in Louisiana. Bolton also cut out sections which agreed on nuclear disarmament and the use of force as a last resort. Another callous cut was made to a section that would, “encourage pharmaceutical companies to make anti-retroviral (HIV/AIDS) drugs affordable.” Who wants to help sick people anyway? They’ll probably just end up dying of something else later, right?

No other country in the world supports Bolton’s changes, not even our loyal ally Britain. Everyone else in the world recognizes that we have a responsibility and a real chance to help change the world.

It is the height of stupidity and ignorance for our government to continue ignoring the world and all of its problems as if we didn’t live here too. We need to get Bolton as far away from the United Nations as possible and start supporting initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals that could provide real hope for the future.

Information from –, “Neocon Spanner is Thrown in UN Works,” Julian Borger, The Guardian Weekly, “Can Extreme Poverty Be Eliminated,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, “The Big Potential of Small Farms,” Paul Polak, Scientific American