WDM looks at why the MDGs are not being met in Africa
Date: 28 September 2010
The progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals is being discussed at a summit in New York. The goals were set in 2000 with a target of meeting them by 2015. Ten years later, it’s clear that progress in many areas is slow, espeicially for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where over half the population continues to live in abject poverty.
Deborah Doane, director of UK based, anti-poverty campaigners, the World Development Movement explains why:
“With only five years to reach the Millennium Development Goals, leaders of rich countries need to get beyond inspirational speeches, and pledging more aid money that never arrives. Heads of State are delivering rhetoric but little else.
“They need to address the root causes of poverty that simply aren’t being mentioned: including an unfair trading system, unjust debt burdens and the biggest elephant in the room: climate change. If governments continue to dodge these thorny issues, then ultimately, MDG project will be doomed to failure.”
The World Development Movement believes that the lack of progress can be attributed to three central failures by rich countries which are neglecting people in sub-Saharan Africa in particular, but are also failing to address inequality between the poorest and richest within countries, such as India and China.
According to the World Development Movement the central failures are: a post 9/11 pre-occupation with national security at the expense of poverty reduction elsewhere; a failure to deliver aid and meet the 0.7 target; and the lack of focus on the bigger picture.
Deborah Doane continued: “There has been a highly problematic post 9/11 preoccupation by rich countries who are increasingly conflating poverty reduction, national security and foreign policy objectives. This can be clearly seen in the UK’s most recent announcement that aid will unequivocally have an objective to ‘protect the UK from external threats’. Iraq and Afghanistan are the top two recipients of aid internationally.
“Whilst recognising that these are poor countries, aid expenditure in conflict regions must not detract from poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa. This is now the only region where more than half the population continue to live in extreme poverty.
The poorest countries in the world like Mali, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic are being forgotten and their people are starving.”
More pledges of money – more broken promises?
Deborah Doane continued
“There is a huge shortfall between the aid pledged with great fanfare at each summit and the aid delivered once the trumpets have died down. At this conference, we know a $100 billion more is needed to even come close to achieving the MDGs. It’s likely that more aid will be demanded, pledged, but this time it must actually be delivered.”
Only the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, as well as the Netherlands have met the 40 year old commitment to actually spend 0.7% of GDP on aid.
The World Development Movement say that to assess the true nature of the pledges of aid, governments must answer the following questions: Is this really new money or is it recycled? Is money pledged for climate finance going to take away from already strapped aid budgets? Is it being delivered to the poorest people in the world, who are most in need, or will it focus on those countries deemed a ‘security risk’ to rich countries ? When will these pledges actually be fulfilled? And will there be strings attached?
The World Development Movement has been critical of the MDG initiative since its inception in 2000 believing that an ‘inspirational’ goal to halve the percentage of the world’s population living in poverty is hardly inspirational for the half left in poverty.
Deborah Doane continued: “It is no surprise that poverty is still an endemic problem affecting millions of people throughout the world – the MDGs, while laudable on face value, have missed the point – they seek to cure the symptoms of poverty but not the disease.
“Because they separate poverty into a list of problems to solve in isolation, they fail to even begin to address the structural causes at its core. This includes excessive corporate power that favours the rich; an unfair global trading system, that doesn’t enable countries to set their own path out of poverty; huge inequities between rich and poor countries, including in our global governance systems, such as the WTO, the World Bank; as well as unfair debt burdens placed on the poorest countries by the rich.”