Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Millennium Development Goals

What with everyone's attention focused on the Labour leadership contest, the Lib Dem conference and - perhaps most distracting of all - the battle to head the UUP it's perhaps not surprising that the UN's summit on global development in New York has received rather muted coverage in the British media.

This is a great shame. Top of the agenda will be the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight lofty ambitions with the combined goal of alleviating economic misery in the world's less developed nations. Ambitious targets - on poverty and hunger, education, women's rights, child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, aid budgets and the environment - set in 2005 hoped to have succeeded in a decade.

This makes the 2010 conference particularly important; it is now the half-way point and the outlook for hitting interim targets is looking particularly grim. Some critics are blaming a toxic combination of global recession and sheer complacency from many of the 189 countries that signed up. The lack of progress on any of the eight key areas of concern does suggest that the Goals have lost impetus extremely quickly and that donor countries have essentially lost interest.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, for his part, has told the summit that the UK's contribution towards fighting African malaria will more than double by the end of the MDG cycle, a move predictably opposed by the Daily Mail who cannot understand why a British government would want to waste money on saving lives when it should be spending it on the armed forces instead.

The Millennium Development Goals are so far off-target because of a lack of positive engagement by those nations who committed themselves to helping some of the world's poorest and their - and our - environment. It is right and proper that the UK - as one of the world's largest economies - renews its pledge and continued support of humanitarian missions that aim to combat poverty. Concerns over how that cash is spent are legitimate; recent investigations into the likes of CDC reveal that there is money to be made in alleviating misery. But that is not a legitimate excuse to abandon those that genuinely need help; aiming to combat corruption at the same time is merely the other side of the same coin.

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