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Bac G1 - G2 2009 Oral Exam: The Millennium Development Goals (MDG): The Realities

Make poverty history is a compelling slogan. Halve it by 2015, in contrast, is a. measurable commitment. That is the logic behind the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS), a host of targets in the struggle against global deprivation, disease and illiteracy, set by the world's leaders at a United Nations conference in 2000.

The goals claim to convert campaign slogans into bankable resolutions, complete with a number and a date. The world for example, resolved to cut the rate at which mothers die from childbirth by three-quarters from 1990 to 2015. The percentage of people without safe water will fall by half; infant mortality by a third. Quick to spot a resonant date in the calendar, the UN has declared Jul 7th (07/07/07, you understand) the official halfway point towards these 2015 deadlines.

Some goals cannot be met, others cannot even be measured. Poor countries collect no reliable numbers on deaths from malaria or from childbirth - although the goals are helping to stir a welcome interest in generating better figures. And sometimes what is measured (number of children enrolled in school) is not what counts (the number of those who learn anything).
-The goals are supposed to be everyone's responsibility, which means they are no one's. Poor countries can blame rich ones for not stumping up enough cash; rich governments can accuse poor ones of failing to deserve more money.

Some MDG zealots think the responsibility for achieving them is more clear-cut. They work out what needs to be done to meet the goals; add up the costs; then demand that the world's rich governments foot the bill. Only a lack of generosity separates poor countries from the 2015 targets, they argue.

But foreign cash does not always produce results; and some results do not require much money. Brazil is four times richer than Sri Lanka, but its children are more than twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday. Improving sanitation is about breaking habits as much as building latrines. And although aid money can send a doctor to the countryside, it cannot make him show up to work. The social progress envisaged in the 2015 targets requires the kind of nationwide attention that only an accountable domestic government, not a distant foreign donor, can sustain.

Adapted from The Economist, 2007.
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