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Pledges yet to be fulfilled

11 April 2014

John Madeley inspects the MDGs' progress

Inherit the Earth? Millennium Development Goals - so near and yet so far
Barbara Butler
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland £18
Church Times Bookshop £16.20 (Use code CT127 )

IN 2000, 189 governments made visionary pledges at the United Nations in the form of Millennium Development Goals. These aim to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental stability, and develop global partnership.

The goals have raised awareness of the issues, and there is some progress. Child-mortality rates have fallen, more children attend school, and more people have access to water and improved sanitation services. But the goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 will not be reached.

The number of chronically hungry people remains obstinately high at nearly one billion, slightly more than in 2000. The number of the people living in extreme poverty is increasing in many sub-Saharan Africa countries. So, contrary to the book's subtitle, the world is far away rather than near the goals.

Barbara Butler of Christian Aware outlines the problems well, and the book is packed with inspiring stories of people who are striving to achieve the goals. Lacking, however, is critical analysis of how governments of both Western and developing countries have failed to devote sufficient resources and priority to achieving the goals. Aid from Western countries stood at 0.29 per cent of their combined gross national income in 2012, a long way short of the UN target of 0.7 per cent. They cannot blame it all on economic recession.

In 2005, and again in 2010, governments reviewed progress towards the goals, which was clearly not enough. But more resources to back the vision were not offered.Poverty is a scandal that can and must be overcome. It will happen only if people care enough.

John Madeley writes about economic and social-development issues.

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