Before we get started on our New Year’s resolutions, it’s worth evaluating past promises. In the year 2000, the UN began a 15-year period of “Millennium Development Goals”, and 2015 was the last year of that period. The eight goals included eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing infant mortality, and promoting universal primary education. Progress has been patchy, with some countries meeting their goals and others doing poorly.
The UN has hailed the Millennium Development Goals as the “most successful anti-poverty campaign in history”. Worldwide, the number of people living in extreme poverty has indeed declined by more than half since 1990. However, robust economic growth in China arguably did more to lift people out of poverty. And not everybody has benefited; there is significant inequality between the poorest and richest, and between urban and rural areas.
We had a comment sent in by Christos asking why progress is so uneven. Specifically, he wants to know why more progress hasn’t been made in reducing poverty in Africa, despite it being one of the most oil and mineral rich continents on the planet. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen since 2000, but much more slowly than in other regions, and it continues to hover at around 48%.
To get a reaction, we took Christos’ comment to Erik Solheim, former Norwegian Minister of International Development (2005-2012) and current Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. He responded by outlining what he believed were the steps needed to tackle poverty in many African countries:
Number one, Africa needs full integration into the global economy. Many African countries still need to industrialise, and not enough progress has been made on this front. Second, there needs to be a very heavy focus on education. The experience of East Asia is a great success story in this respect. Thirdly, you need peace. If you don’t have peace, it’s not possible to develop. Teachers trained today may be killed tomorrow.
Resources on their own are no guarantee for success. In fact, they can be a barrier to development. The biggest success stories on the planet are resource-poor countries. There are no significant raw materials in South Korea, for example.
To get another perspective, we also put Christos’ comment to Tamira Gunzburg, Brussels Director of ONE, an international organisation campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. What would she say?
Supporters of the Millennium Development Goals argue that they did help to focus minds, and to put poverty and related issues on the global political agenda. So a new set of 17 goals has been set for 2030 – the “Sustainable Development Goals” – which aim to promote economic and human development whilst also combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests. Will they be successful?
We had a comment from Yannick, who questioned just how accurate the word “sustainable” was in the Sustainable Development Goals. What was Tamira Gunzburg’s opinion?
What’s the most effective way to fight global poverty? Why hasn’t more progress been made in reducing poverty in Africa, despite it being one of the most oil and mineral rich continents on the planet? And how “sustainable” are the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!