Every three seconds...
By the time you have finished reading this sentence a child, somewhere in the world, will have died as a direct result of poverty.
That frightening fact is just one of many contained in the 2005 Human Development Report , presented to world leaders today by the United Nations Development Program.
The timing of the report is crucial as next week the heads of state of 175 countries will gather at the United Nations in NY to discuss the urgent and ambitious Millennium Development Goals.
World leaders have a last chance to fulfill promises to reduce poverty and boost health by 2015 or risk being damned by history for condemning millions of children to death, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.
The warning was issued a week before heads of state and government from 175 countries gather in New York to gauge progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goals in the face of attempts by the United States to declare them null and void.
World leaders agreed in 2000 on a series of goals to be reached by 2015, including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, cutting deaths of children under five by two-thirds and achieving universal primary education.
"Leaders have last chance to save poor"
According to the Report:
* 1.2 billion people were living on less than $1 a day.
* 47 million children would not be in school by 2015.
* Eighteen countries, with a combined population of 460 million people, have moved backwards in the last 15 years.
* The cumulative effect of failing to reach the target for cutting child deaths would mean 41 million extra and avoidable deaths over the next decade.
"Leaders have last chance to save poor"
The Report goes on to add that:
"The U.N. summit provides a critical opportunity to adopt the bold action plans needed not just to get back on track for 2015 but to overcome the deep inequalities that divide humanity."
So... where does the U.S. stand on the issue of the Millennium Development Goals?
President Bush was one of many heads of state to sign the Millennium Declaration which pledged foreign-aid increases as part of a comprehensive approach to eradicate global poverty. Now, however, the Bush Administration has withdrawn its support for the Millennium Development Goals.
For the upcoming World Summit, UN representatives spent nine months negotiating, creating, and editing a draft proposal designed to reform and strengthen the United Nations. The draft also addresses the issues of aid and development, with a particular emphasis on implementing the Millennium Development Goals.
The final 39 page document reflected the hopes for eradicating poverty world-wide and building a global community.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration decided to sabotage that effort.
John Bolton (Bush's controversial appointee as America's ambassador to the U.N) waited until the last minute to present the administration's objections to the document. 750 objections, to be exact.
The U.S. proposal package is designed to force the world to accept as its own the U.S. strategy of abandoning impoverished nations and peoples, rejecting international law, privileging ruthless market forces over any attempted regulation, sidelining the role of international institutions except for the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, and weakening, perhaps fatally, the United Nations itself.
It begins by systematically deleting every one of the 35 specific references to the Millennium Development Goals. Every reference to concrete obligations for implementation of commitments is deleted.
Setting a target figure of just 0.7 percent of GNP (Gross National Product) for wealthy countries to spend on aid?
Increasing aid for agriculture and trade opportunities in poor countries?
Helping the poorest countries, especially those in Africa, to deal with the impact of climate change?
On migration, the original language focused on enhancing international cooperation, linking migrant worker issues and development, and the human rights of migrants. The U.S. wants to scrap it all, replacing it with "the sovereign right of states to formulate and enforce national migration policies". Human rights were deleted altogether.
"A Declaration Of War"
Here's what Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, had to say in an interview about the US attempt to derail the process:
Q. John Bolton is now saying that, if there isn't agreement, you'll have to settle for a statement of principles - or different sections agreed by different countries.
A: You cannot negotiate on that basis. I went to New York last week and I met the member states and I told them that no country is going to get everything that it wants.
Q: But John Bolton says that, if he doesn't get what he wants, he's not going to sign. There is a risk of failure.
A: I think this is one of the things that frustrates me about the United Nations. We have tended to define consensus as unanimity. Where you have a large majority of members who want something, one should not allow a small minority to withhold their consent unreasonably.
Q: But you can't have a global commitment to fighting poverty if the United States isn't on board on all the key issues, can you?
A: To some extent - let's say it will be more difficult. I will not say it will be impossible - I will say it will be slower. I would also say that I will be surprised if the US would want to place themselves in that box, in that situation, of being the ones who are seen to be against the interests of the poor - as being the ones who want to ignore the needs and the human dignity of others.
"Kofi Annan's BBC interview"
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, renowned economist, professor, and "father" of the Millennium Development Goals was even harsher in his criticism of the Bush administration:
First of all, the United Status government doesn't want to take responsibility for -- nor spend money on -- assisting the poor. And Bolton was very clear when he said that his country had a particular problem with goal #8 (calling for a global partnership for development).
Additionally, the Bush administration is seeking to sabotage this moment, a moment in which these goals have become a means for social and political mobilization.
What's difficult for me to understand is why the United States has spent 500 billion dollars on military expenditures this year, and less than 20 billion dollars on development aid. This country spends 5% of the GNP on the military and 0.16% on helping the poor.
I want to people to understand that the United States, the world's greatest superpower, only donates 3.2 billion dollars, 0.03% of its economy, to Africa. The same amount that the Pentagon spends in two days.
"EU no quiere cumplir su promesa a los pobres"
Well, I don't want to leave you with such a bleak outlook for the future of this consensus document, the World Summit, the United Nations, and indeed, for the poor of the world.
International pressure has finally forced Bolton & Bush to back off of some of their original, outrageous demands.
Three "compromises" have recently been reached:
* Bolton said the United States was ready to accept the use of the phase "Millennium development Goals" throughout the text "provided it can be properly defined."
* Bolton also claimed that while the U.S. does not accept targeting 0.7% of the GNP for development aid, it recognizes that other countries do and now accepts the importance of including a reference in the final document.
* Finally, Bolton said the United States is now willing to allow language on climate change that emphasizes the need for all countries to meet the commitments they have undertaken, "including, for many of us, the Kyoto Protocol", a treaty the Bush administration adamantly opposes.
"U.S. offers compromise on summit document"
As I've been writing this journal entry I've been hanging by my fingertips on the very sharp edge of the chasm of sarcasm. With the breaking news of these "compromises" I feel that I can finally let go.
And as I drop into the darkness below I'd like to shout out: "Thank-you Johnny Bolton... you've made me proud to be an American!"
Tomorrow: I'll take a closer look at the fascinating 2005 Human Development Report. Check back here to see where your country ranks on the Development Index. (Hint: for those of you in the U.S., you're not in the #1 slot... or even in the top 5!)
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
The Human Development Report 2005
The UN Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Project
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs (.pdf)
The Bolton backfire: Weaken UN, imperil Americans
Posted by elcanche at September 7, 2005 07:20 PM
Tags: United Nations, Bolton, Millennium, Development, Poverty