Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Human Rights and UN Millennium Goals Update -- The Real Poverty is on Easy Street

Image: UN Millennium Goals

Human Rights and UN Millennium Goals Update -- The Real Poverty is on Easy Street

By Richard Power

I will focus on only one of Bush's many disingenuous statements in the 2007 SOTU.

Think Progress provides both the utterance and its truthful context:

Bush said: “We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease - and that is precisely what America is doing....I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat.”
FACT — MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE PROGRAM WILL SOON BE BANKRUPT: “President Bush’s signature foreign-assistance program is likely to run out of money this year, leaving in the lurch several poor countries that have labored to meet its strict eligibility standards, according to aid officials. Mr. Bush introduced the Millennium Challenge program in 2002 as a new approach to fix the perceived failures of overseas-development assistance.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/22/07]
Think Progress, 1-23-07

Just as the Bush-Cheney national insecurity team has ignored the planetary struggle to mitigate global warming, it has also ignored the planetary struggle to mitigate poverty, disease and oppression.

The world has lost six years it could not afford to lose.

Nevertheless, the UN Millennium Goals are both vital and achievable (even now).

But, as Jeffrey Sachs says, two elements are essential: "sustained partnerships between governments and civil society and sustained donor resource input," and although there has been "a scaling up of donor investment in the key areas of agriculture, education, the fight against HIV/AIDS and the provision of health services," the money is still moving to slowly into poor countries. Of the recently promised 240 billion dollars (US), only 140 billion has made it into the field.

This challenge demands values, perspective and personal commitment. It demands leadership.

"On New York’s Wall Street Christmas bonuses of 24 billion dollars were paid out in December 2006. Just think how far only a small part of this amount could have gone in projects to keep people alive in poor countries,’’ Sachs pointed out. Stephanie Nieuwoudt, It Is Possible to Meet MDGs: Sachs, One World, 1-23-07

How dire is the plight of women and children in the 21st Century?

Consider these recent news stories:

In Cartagena, Columbia, a community center, operated by the League of Displaced Women (Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas), was destroyed in an arson fire over the weekend. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has vowed to fund its reconstruction. The League of Displaced Women receives "frequent threats for its work on behalf of thousands of women and children displaced by violence in Colombia's Atlantic Coast region. The country has one of the largest populations of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the world -- approximately three million people. (UNHCR, 1-23-07)

Human Rights Watch (HWR) has revealed the Sri Lankan government's "complicity or willful blindness" in the abduction and forced recruitment of hundreds of children in eastern Sri Lanka. According to HRW, Karuna, which split from the Tamil Tigers and cooperates with the Sri Lankan military, is "abducting children in broad daylight in areas firmly under government control."According to HRW, the government is "fully aware of the abductions but allows them to happen because it's eager for an ally against the Tamil Tigers."(Human Rights Watch, 1-24-07)

Married for 16 years to Qasim, Najma Bibi bore him eight children. Three of them died, the last from obstructed labour that called for surgical intervention to repair obstetric fistula. Najma cannot thank her doctors enough, for they saved her marriage....According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), nearly two million women -- a vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia -- suffer from this devastating injury. A major challenge for health care professionals is that each year that number is increasing by over 50,000 to 100,000. Yet, true prevalence remains underreported and is a stark indication of the low priority given to women's health on national health agendas....
What is tragic, however, is that fistula can be avoided by stopping child marriages, delaying the age of first pregnancy, by cessation of harmful traditional practices, and by timely access to good emergency obstetric care (EmOC).

Zofeen Ebrahim, HEALTH-PAKISTAN: Obstetric Fistula - Grim Reminder of Unmet MDGs, Inter Press Service, 1-17-07

There is so much to be done, but it is do-able.

As Sachs remarked at recent a sustainable development summit in India, the Millennium Goals can sometimes be achieved with simple solutions:

India does not require miracle solutions for meeting its millennium development goals (MDG) of water, sanitation, education and health....the solutions don’t require long-term investment and are really as simple as providing a village with a clinic, a school and a borewell... Simple solutions for social goals: Sachs, Economic Times/India Times, 1-23-07

The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) report on Sachs' six strategies for the development of Millennium villages in rural Uganda enumerates some of the opportunties and challenges:

Millennium villages and millennium districts form part of an integrated rural investment strategy that Sachs believes can end extreme poverty….He outlined six strategies that have worked in Ruhira village – a pilot project in Mbarara district.
Grow more food: Fertilizers, High-yield seeds, Treadle pumps, Agricultural extension, Landscape management in low scale farms.
Control malaria: Bed nets, Anti-malaria medicines, Rapid diagnostic tests, Ensure clinical health services, Improve clinics (level three), Upgrade hospitals (level four) with improved staffing and salaries for health workers, Training of health outreach workers, Access to family planning services.
Provide safe water points: Boreholes, Protected springs, Rain water, Pumped water if available, and Sanitation.
Ensure schooling for all children: Classrooms, Books and supplies, Teacher training, Mid-day meals (Sachs urged the implementation of school feeding programmes and de-worming every four months and promised to help in accessing free medicine for Uganda.), Computers, Internet connectivity in some schools
Connectivity to break isolation: Cell phone coverage at clinics, schools, Truck transport, Broadband connectivity, Road grading....
It is also worth noting that Sachs’ prescription falls short of addressing corruption as a serious impediment to meeting the MDGs. The GLCSS maintains that MDGs will be met in a sustainable manner by addressing corruption….Ways of ensuring environmental sustainability – another crucial MDG – should equally be addressed....A fast-increasing population, unpredictable weather conditions and security problems in some parts of the country must also be tackled to ensure sustainable growth and development.
James Karuhanga, Sachs’ Six Strategies for Uganda to meet MDGs, Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, 1-22-07

The solutions exist. They are reflected in the enlightened minds of those engaged in this and other worthy struggles.

What is lacking is the collective will. Such will flows from awakened hearts.

The real poverty is on Easy Street.

Most Recent Related Posts

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Hard Rain Journal 12-12-06: UN Millennium Goals Update -- Nobel Prize Winner Yunus Urges World to Fight Poverty to Win Security and Peace

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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