The work required of UN members, that of maintaining peace and stability for the entire world, is indeed a humongous mandate. Leaders of nations around the world are demanding attention for problems people face, especially as a result of climate change, war, exploitative trade, environmental degradation, decreasing water supplies, and under-resourced education systems. The poorest people on the planet are also the most vulnerable and most affected by these adverse circumstances. In response, the UN has developed 8 Millennium Development Goals, set forth in a challenge levied to the international community in 2000, to reduce extreme poverty by 2015. Given that this was a decree set forth to the world at large, it may be helpful for more of us to know about them. The UN actually held a contest this year (with spokespeople including Stevie Wonder and Angelique Kidjo) inviting folks like you and I, people of the world, to make a statement to world leaders regarding the pursuit of the MDGs. I MISSED THE MEMO!!! DID YOU?
The winners of the contest, 6 of them representing all of us, were given the honorary title Citizen Ambassadors. If only it were so easy. More on these winners later. In subsequent articles, I’ll highlight some of the details of the MDGs and their success measures, according to the UN.
The Millennium Development Goals are:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development
These are amazing goals. More people should be aware of them. We should be challenging ourselves and our communities to achieve the dream ourselves, and help others along the way. Yet, that these valiant goals have not been crystallized in the American consciousness is due in part to our overall lack of education about world relations, and in par do to the lack of democratic representation of & for the people in the UN. There is no House of Representatives for the UN governing body, and therefore the average world citizen does not have a direct impact on the workings of the UN, its goals or policies. Yet, they do impact us, where our tax dollars are appointed, and how we might think about creating a more peaceful world.
Have you ever wondered how it came to be that the UN became the keepers of world peace? If you’re not aware of the background, it’s worth a read. The UN stands in as the worlds oldest international governmental institution. It was founded by Roosevelt along with Churchill and Stalin, as a solution to maintaining “peace and stability,” in otherwords, an international security system (military) and economic apparatuses including the World Trade organization and International Monetary Fund. The UN now functions in arenas which are now termed “international development”, that is, from a Western perspective. It would not be international, it if were your home being developed. If you were on the receiving side of UN policies, would you want to make sure you had voting rights? Even as benefactors in the US, I want to have more of a say in the participation style of the US. Just last year, the US staged a walk-out from the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This, under a Black president! Would this have been the will of the majority who voted for Obama? That is why it is important that ordinary citizens, like the December 12th Movement of activists for reparations, must organize themselves in delegations and movements to make our voices and concerns heard among these world leaders. Ultimately, we need a stronger system of public accountability, such as a people’s assembly to keep world leaders on course in word and deed according to the priorities of public peace and security. Until then, public engagement remains token.
Nearly 30 Billion people, or almost 50% around the world live in what is described as extreme poverty. These are our brothers and sisters that live on less than $2.5 dollars a day, who can barely feed themselves or their children, own little to no land, not transportation, and disadvantaged regarding education, work, wage, or housing. These are the folks whose lives the UN and Millennium Development Goals propose to benefit.
The UN is a system of governance that operates more like club for ambassadors and diplomats. Our President in the US appoints UN delegates at the behest of the Senate. We the people actually have no say in who represents America in the foremost international governing body. And the same is true for the 50% of the world, many in Haiti for instance, who find themselves the hosts, guinea pigs, and recipients of UN development policies and programs. The UN is a democracy among governments, not among people.
Yet the UN proposes that we as individuals demand more from it, that we participate in creating more peace and stability in the world, ourselves. We don’t need the lens of MDG’s to begin the process of creating peace and stability. We know mothers are the anchor for the home and for the education of her family. We know that water is essential and must be clean, and available to all. That diseases must be slowed, avoided, eradicated. That our lives can help achieve environmental sustainability or hinder it. This is the work we must engage in on behalf of all humanity, whether the UN dictates it or not.