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Venezuela criticises `market totalitarianism' at UN Millennium Development Goal summit

By Tamara Pearson, Merida

September 22, 2010 – Venezuelanalysis.com – In Venezuela, “social investment has become a national strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, said Jorge Valero, Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations, in his September 21 speech at the UN summit in New York analysing progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

In the year 2000, 189 countries agreed on Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. The current summit, which began on September 20 and closed on September 22, aimed to analyse countries' individual and global progress towards reaching those goals. Government representatives from 140 countries were present.

There are eight Millennium Development Goals, which 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. Global partnership for development

Also during the summit, Cuba's Bruno Rodriguez criticised the lack of collaboration by developed countries to achieve the goals and denounced the “exploitative” global financial system that favours developed countries. He criticised the fact that many countries have paid off their external debt countless times but their debt keeps multiplying. Rodriguez condemned the slow transference of technology from the global North to the South.

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, proposed a bank for countries of the “South”, or for the poorer countries, in order to “start to ... end with the blackmail of the International Monetary Fund”.

Ali Treki, president of the UN General Assembly, came to Venezuela on June 23 and 24, when Venezuela handed over its preliminary report on its achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, so that the president could verify and revise it. Treki said Venezuela was an “example to the world” for its compliance with the Millennium Development Goals.

“Venezuela has been recognised, despite all the accusations ... and the discredit campaign by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, as a leader and at the vanguard of reaching the Millennium Goals”, said ombudsman Gabriela Ramirez.

Elias Eljuri, president of the National Institute of Statistics, also commenting on Venezuela’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, said Venezuela’s extreme poverty has been reduced to 7.2%, 84% of students are finishing primary school (an increase of 70% since 1990), more women are attending university than men, and infant mortality reduced to 13.9 per 1000 children in 2008, a statistic which, to meet the goals, should be at 8.6 by 2015.

Eljuri said the goal Venezuela had to work hardest on was reducing maternal mortality, but for this the government had developed the Mission Baby Jesus, launched late last year. The mission aims to provide greater pre- and post-natal care.

Also, Venezuela, through Valero, took over the presidency of the Movement of New or Restored Democracies within the UN, from Qatar. One of the responsibilities of the position is organising the seventh International Conference of the Movement of Democracies sometime later this year.

The movement aims to foment cooperation between countries in order to resist threats to democracy and affirm the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in domestic issues.

* * *

Below is the full transcript of Jorge Valero's speech.

* * *

Ten years after the summit where the Millennium Development Goals were approved, the results are disappointing. The fulfilment of these goals is seriously threatened.

Most developed countries have not fulfilled the commitment of allocating 0.7% of their gross national product to official development assistance [aid].

The global economic and financial crisis of capitalism of recent years has created more poverty, more inequality and injustice.

The financial economy exercises hegemony in the world and increases the accumulation of billions of dollars without creating any good. It is the casino economy. It has subjected states, and intends to destroy the public sphere, privatising everything, from the public services to the war.

Market totalitarianism prevents the exercise of human rights and the right to development. In this context, there is no right to work or health care, only labour market adjustments, or private companies that provide health insurance. There is also no right to food, which depends on the international market that has turned food into objects of speculation through future transactions.

The reduction in social spending has affected the ability of states to ensure economic, social and cultural rights of the peoples. Not even the most vulnerable sectors of developed countries can escape the perverse effects of the capitalist crisis. A crisis caused by financial speculators, with the complicity of the world's most powerful governments and the Bretton Woods institutions [the International Monetary Fund and World Bank].

[Venezuela's] Bolivarian Revolution, under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez Frías, promotes an alternative model of development that is humanist and performs deep structural changes in favour of the excluded.

Although our country has not escaped the negative effects of the crisis of capitalism, social investment has increased and, today, more Venezuelans have better living conditions.

Social investment has become a national strategy to achieve sovereign and integral development and, therefore, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Sixty per cent of total tax revenue, between 1999 and 2009, has been earmarked for social investment. We are moving towards a universal social security system.

The social missions in favour of the most excluded sectors of society have helped to achieve, in a massive and rapid manner, social inclusion.

The poverty rate fell from 49% in 1998 to 24.2% in late 2009. And extreme poverty fell dramatically from 29.8% in 2003 to 7.2% in 2009.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has recognised that Venezuela is the country that has reduced inequality the most in the region.

The unemployment rate in Venezuela fell from 15% in 1998 (before the start of the Bolivarian government) to 6.6% in December 2009.

The promotion of gender equality and greater involvement of women in economic and social matters in Venezuela has already been achieved. State policies entrench training and equal participation of women in public life. Four of the five public powers that exist in Venezuela are chaired by women: legislative, electoral, judicial and moral.

In 2001 Venezuela reached the goal of drinking water coverage. And in 2005 the target in the service of waste water collection was met.

In our country, we are advancing in the universalisation of rights related to identity, food, health, education and employment.

Venezuela was declared a territory free of illiteracy by UNESCO in 2005. Furthermore, Venezuela will achieve before 2015, universal primary education, a reduction in the mortality of children, a reduction of maternal mortality, a reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS and will reverse the incidence of malaria and dengue fever.

In Venezuela, we are moving toward a democracy of quality, focused on the interests, needs and hopes of our people. It is a participatory and protagonist democracy where political freedom is exercised and the benefits of development are enjoyed.

The Bolivarian government promotes Latin American and Caribbean integration, based on the principles of cooperation, solidarity and complementarity. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America (ALBA) and Petrocaribe contribute to the eradication of poverty and to overcoming inequalities and unemployment in our region. Venezuela contributes to sister countries in the continent in order for them to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Venezuela has regained full control of its natural resources. All basic services are considered basic human rights. The resources of our country, managed in a sovereign manner, have allowed for the creation of a Bank of the South and the Bank of ALBA. State policies have become instruments for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for the promotion of independent and autonomous development, without the tyranny of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Against neoliberal globalisation we propose the globalisation of justice and equity. Against the looting and the abuse of countries we propose fair trade, in a world in which we all win, through solidarity and partnership.

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has met most of the Millennium Development Goals. Within the framework of the full exercise of sovereignty and self-determination, we have opted for Venezuelan socialism, in order to create a society where justice, equality and solidarity reign, with full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms.

Mr president,

Our Bolivarian Revolution is geared towards the full realisation of social, economic and cultural guarantees, fully consistent with the view expressed by the Liberator Simon Bolivar at the Congress of Angostura in 1819: “The most perfect system of government is that which results in the greatest possible measure of happiness and the maximum social security and political stability.”

Comments

Millennium Development Goals for the Rich?

By David Sogge

http://www.tni.org/article/millennium-development-goals-rich

September 2010 -- The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are today’s global foreign aid agenda. Yet if we look at who's aiding whom, the world's pro-rich global agenda is rather more obvious.

Through many decades, declarations and mega-conferences, the United Nations and aid industry leaders have worked tirelessly to get governmental and non-governmental bodies and the media to sing from the same hymn book, to use the same discourse and tell the same story.  That story is about uplift for the poor, and admonitions toward the rich to be generous for those doing the lifting.  

Better than any previous proclamation of intentions, the MDGs have met needs for a single narrative.   It’s a liturgy for a broad church, encompassing a range of matters, from school attendance to clean water to the health of mothers and children.  Bundled together, these problems attract a diverse spectrum of issue-specific groups. The MDGs get them out of their silos and into a big policy coalition rallying under a single banner.  The approach matches mainstream media’s standard story line:  Someone is in distress. Help arrives. Distress is relieved.  All’s well that ends well.

Proclaimed at a major United Nations summit in 2000 and subsequently expanded in 2005, the MDGs’  neat packages of aims, sub-aims, indicators and timelines thus harness no-nonsense ‘results-based management’ of the neoliberals to the impalpable ‘human development’ goals of the social democrats. for pulling together policy coalitions, this has proven a good match.  Both approaches focus on descriptors of poverty, see practical problem-solving as the way to tackle poverty, and largely avoid crucial matters like inequality.  They keep troublesome political issues firmly off the table.  They are worthy and bland, a plain vanilla acceptable to everyone.

But in obfuscating causes, the MDGs don't get us much closer to eradicating the problems. The MDGs may draw attention to important facts about poverty and the stunting of human capabilities. They imply – and this is also one of their merits -- that those afflictions are preventable and can be radically reduced. Yet the MDGs fail to say anything meaningful about why they persist. As a trenchant new UNRISD report argues, the MDGs “focus on measuring things that people lack to the detriment of understanding why they lack them"[1].   In this sense the MDGs are a distraction.   

One reason for that silence may be the embarrassing fact that, as countries such as Vietnam have shown, success in reducing poverty stands a better chance where governments pursue disciplined development policies wholly at odds with the market fundamentalist kind required by donors in the past thirty years.

Praised in speeches, ignored in budgets

Governments of low-income countries pay MDGs no real attention, least of all when drawing up budgets.   Instead, leaderships pay attention to the IMF and others controlling the serious money.   And what does the IMF think about the MDGs?  As revealed in a recent study of MDG politics, IMF staff clearly don’t take them seriously, saying such things as, “we mention the MDGs in the introduction of reports but they don't change anything" [2].  Indeed there’s no evidence of any fundamental change.

Do donors take the MDGs seriously? Certainly they all sing hallelujah about them, and often use them to justify their aid budgets.  But they have yet to put more money where their mouths are.

Donor spending in the four aid priority sectors in MDG number eight -- basic education, basic health, nutrition and water/sanitation -- have changed hardly at all.  At the outset of the MDG era in 2001-03, those sectors accounted for about 10.4 percent of total rich country (OECD) aid;  whereas in the period 2006-08 they accounted for about 10.9 percent [3]. But then again, donors have been careful never to make any ironclad commitments. Everything is voluntary and at their discretion.  Nothing they promise, or refuse to do is politically or juridically enforceable.   By contrast, most aid recipients have to toe the donor line, or face unpleasant consequences.

Who is aiding whom?

But just who is aiding whom?  That question is rarely probed, but is vital to understanding why the IMF and its associates continue to promote market fundamentalism. For certain interests in rich countries, results of these policies have been hugely rewarding.  This is apparent if we follow the money.  Especially since the late 1990s, most global flows, after netting out foreign aid, foreign direct investment and remittances, have gone from poor to rich, as summarized in the following table.   

Yearly average net transfers of financial resources to lower-income world regions 2000 - 2008

Africa (negative) -$50 billion
East and South Asia (negative) -$239 billion
Western Asia (negative) -$105 billion
Latin America & Caribbean (negative) -$65 billion
Transition Economies (mainly former East Bloc (negative) -$75 billion
Total (negative) -$534 billion

Source:  UN-DESA, 2010, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2010, New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, table III.1, p. 73.  This compilation draws on data from IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2009; and IMF, Balance of Payments Statistics.   These are recorded flows; many illicit flows go unrecorded and are therefore not reflected here.    

It is worth recalling that in 2002 a team of World Bank economists [4] calculated that from $40 to $60 billion in extra aid outlays would be needed, alongside other measures, in order to achieve the MDGs – amounts equivalent to about one-tenth of those recorded as flowing from the poor to the rich.  The upward re-distribution of wealth to the rich has added to bottom lines in the financial sector, especially on Wall Street and in Offshore Financial Centres.  Other winners include poor country elites, whose wealth is commonly stashed in rich jurisdictions.

The prevailing relationship, therefore, is essentially predatory.  In it the MDGs and aid have merely compensatory functions, something with echoes of the past.  The essential relationship of feudalism, as described by the French historian Marc Bloch, was predation compensated by charity.   
 
Despite their new talk about ‘poverty reduction and growth’, the citadels of the aid system in Washington DC continue pushing the same formulas that frustrate equitable development in poor countries and facilitate the haemorrhage of resources and funds from them [5].  Under these conditions, trying to achieve the MDGs is like trying to walk up an escalator going down.

 

Footnotes:

  1. UNRISD 2010, Combating Poverty and Inequality. Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics, Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), p. 2 [ www.unrisd.org ]
  2. David Hulme 2010, ‘Governing Global Poverty? Global Ambivalence and the Millennium Development Goals’ in J. Clapp and R. Wilkinson (eds), Global Governance, Poverty and Inequality, London: Routledge
  3. OECD Stat.Extracts. ‘ODA by Sector’.  http://stats.oecd.org/   accessed 19 September 2010.   Note: because OECD data does not include the category “nutrition”, the category “Dev. food aid, Food Security ass.” has been used as a proxy.
  4. S. Devarajan, M. J. Miller and E. V. Swanson. 2002, Development Goals: History, Prospects and Costs. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. http://econ.worldbank.org/files/13269_wps2819.pdf
  5. International obstacles to the MDGs and how they can be removed are discussed in a clearly-argued paper: Third World Network, Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Requires Fundamental Reforms in the International Financial Architecture, TWN Briefing Paper, September 2010. [ www.twnside.org.sg ]

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Possible
title or supra-tag line:

Millennium Development Goals for the Rich?

 

Possible
sub-title:

 

 

 

by
David Sogge

 

Lacking
any visible competition, the Millennium Development Goals (
MDGs)
are today’s global anti-poverty agenda. Yet reviewing progress ten
years on the world's pro-rich global agenda is rather more obvious

 

Through
many decades, declarations and mega-conferences, the United Nations
and aid industry leaders have worked tirelessly to get governmental
and non-governmental bodies and the media to sing from the same hymn
book, to use the same discourse and tell the same story. That story
is about uplift for the poor, and admonitions toward the rich to be
generous for those doing the lifting.

 

Better
than any previous proclamation of intentions, the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs)have met needs for a single narrative. It’s
a liturgy for a broad church, encompassing a range of matters, from
school attendance to clean water to the health of mothers and
children. Bundled together, these problems attract a diverse
spectrum of issue-specific groups to get out of their silos and join
a big policy coalition rallying under a single banner. The approach
matches mainstream media’s standard story line: Someone is in
distress. Help arrives. Distress is relieved. All’s well that ends
well.

 

Proclaimed
at a major United Nations summit in 2000 and subsequently expanded in
2005, the MDGs’ neat packages of aims, sub-aims, indicators and
timelines thus harness no-nonsense ‘results-based management’ of
the neoliberals to the impalpable ‘human development’ goals of
the social democrats. for pulling together policy coalitions, this
has proven a good match. Both approaches focus on descriptors of
poverty, see practical problem-solving as the way to tackle poverty,
and largely avoid crucial matters like inequality [Link to
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/14/equality-un-millennium-development-agenda].
They keep troublesome political issues firmly off the table. They
are worthy and bland, a plain vanilla acceptable to everyone.

 

It
is this obfuscation of the causes that means that too often the MDGs
are part of the problem. The MDGs may draw attention to important
facts about poverty and the stunting of human capabilities. They
imply – and this is also one of their merits -- that those
afflictions are preventable and can be radically reduced. Yet the
MDGs fail to say anything meaningful about why they persist. As a
trenchant new UNRISD report argues, the MDGs “focus on measuring
things that people lack to the detriment of understanding why they
lack them"
1.
In this sense the MDGs are a distraction.

 

One reason for that
silence may be the embarrassing fact that, as countries such as
Vietnam have shown, success in reducing poverty stands a better
chance where governments pursue disciplined development policies
wholly different from the market fundamentalist kind required by
donors in the past thirty years.

 

Praised
in speeches, ignored in budgets

 

Governments of low-income
countries pay MDGs no real attention, least of all when drawing up
budgets. Instead, leaderships pay attention to the IMF and others
controlling the serious money. And what does the IMF think about
the MDGs? As revealed in a recent study of MDG politics, IMF staff
clearly don’t take them seriously, saying such things as, “we
mention the MDGs in the introduction of reports but they don't change
anything"
2.
Indeed there’s no evidence of any fundamental change.

 

Do
donors take the MDGs seriously? Certainly they all sing hallelujah
about them, and often use them to justify their aid budgets. But
have they put more money where their mouths are? It doesn’t seem
so.

 

Donor
spending in the four priority sectors in MDG number 8 -- basic
education, basic health, nutrition and water/sanitation -- have
changed hardly at all. At the outset of the MDG era in 2001-03,
those sectors accounted for about 10.4 percent of total rich country
(OECD) aid; whereas in the period 2006-08 they accounted for about
10.9 percent
3.
But then again, donors have been careful never to make any ironclad
commitments. Everything is voluntary and at their discretion.
Nothing they promise, or refuse to do is politically or juridically
enforceable. By contrast, most aid recipients have to toe the donor
line, or face unpleasant consequences.

 

Who
is aiding whom?

But just who is aiding whom?
That question is rarely probed, but is vital to understanding why the
IMF and its associates continue to promote
market
fundamentalism. For certain interests in rich countries, results of
these policies have been hugely rewarding. This is apparent if we
follow the money. Especially since the late 1990s, most global
flows, after netting out foreign aid, foreign direct investment and
remittances, have gone from poor to rich, as summarized in the
following table.

Net
transfer of financial resources to lower-income world regions, 2000 -
2008


Region

Average annual
nettransfer in US $

Africa

negative
50 billion

East
& South Asia

negative
239 billion

Western
Asia

negative
105 billion

Latin
America & the Caribbean

negative
65 billion

Transition
Economies (mainly former East Bloc)

negative
75 billion

Total

negative
534 billion

Source:
UN-DESA, 2010,
World
Economic Situation and Prospects 2010
,
New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, table III.1,
p. 73. This compilation draws on data from IMF, World Economic
Outlook Database, October 2009; and IMF, Balance of Payments
Statistics. These are recorded flows; many illicit flows go
unrecorded and are therefore not reflected here.

It is worth recalling that in
2002 a team of World Bank economists
4
calculated that from $40 to $60 billion in extra aid outlays would be
needed, alongside other measures, in order to achieve the MDGs –
amounts equivalent to about
one-tenth
of those recorded as flowing from the poor to the rich.
Thredistribution of wealth to the rich has added to bottom lines in
the financial sector, especially on Wall Street and in Offshore
Financial Centres. Other winners include poor country elites, whose
wealth is commonly stashed in rich jurisdictions.

The prevailing relationship,
therefore, is essentially predatory. In it the MDGs and aid have
merely compensatory functions, something with echoes of the past.
The essential relationship of feudalism, as described by the French
historian Marc Bloch, was predation compensated by charity.

 

Despite
their new talk about ‘poverty reduction and growth’, the citadels
of the aid system in Washington DC continue pushing the same formulas
that frustrate equitable development in poor countries and facilitate
the haemorrhage of resources and funds from them
5.
Under these conditions, trying to achieve the MDGs is like trying to
walk up an escalator going down.

1
UNRISD 2010,
Combating
Poverty and Inequality. Structural Change, Social Policy and
Politics
, Geneva:
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD),
p. 2 [ www.unrisd.org ]

2
David
Hulme 2010, ‘
Governing
Global Poverty? Global Ambivalence and the Millennium Development
Goals’ in J. Clapp and R. Wilkinson (eds),
Global
Governance, Poverty and Inequality
,
London: Routledge

3
OECD Stat.Extracts. ‘ODA by Sector’.
http://stats.oecd.org/
accessed 19 September 2010. Note: because OECD data does not
include the category “nutrition”, the category “Dev. food aid,
Food Security ass.” has been used as a proxy.

4
S. Devarajan, M. J. Miller and E. V. Swanson. 2002,
Development
Goals: History, Prospects and Costs.

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper.
http://econ.worldbank.org/files/13269_wps2819.pdf

5
International
obstacles to the MDGs and how they can be removed are discussed in a
clearly-argued paper: Third World Network,
Achieving
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Requires Fundamental Reforms
in the International Financial Architecture
,
TWN Briefing Paper, September 2010. [
www.twnside.org.sg
]

 

Independent Consultant

Transnational Institute Board member, David works as an independent advisor for grant-making agencies, specialising in civil society. Research and other professional activities in Africa provided a basis for books and articles on Angola and Mozambique and many unpublished reports on South Africa. More recently, evaluative research assignments have taken him to Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union. Trained at Harvard, David earned his graduate degrees from Princeton and the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague.

Cuba: `Under present system, MDGs cannot be achieved'

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52902

By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS) - "I am not pessimistic, but I am realistic. Under present conditions and the prevailing system of world government, the Millennium Development Goals simply cannot be achieved," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno said in an interview with IPS.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit taking place Sept. 20-22 at United Nations headquarters in New York is assessing progress towards the targets just five years ahead of the deadline.

The MDGs, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000, are to halve the proportion of hungry and extremely poor people, guarantee universal primary education, promote gender equality and reduce child and maternal mortality, all by 2015 and taking 1990 levels as the baseline.

They also include combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and creating a world partnership for development.

But for many countries in the developing South, meeting the MDGs is still a distant and uncertain prospect, while aid promised by industrialised nations has shrunk in real terms.

Cuba sent a delegation led by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and deputy Foreign Minister Moreno to attend the meeting in New York, although the govenment is critical of the MDGs, which it regards as overly modest.

Moreno said it is "almost a mockery" to propose halving the percentage of people living on incomes of less than one dollar a day, when there are now at least 150 million more hungry people in the world than there were in 2000.

"What about the other half: are they doomed to continue to live in poverty and suffer hunger?" he asked.

"We live in a world in which extreme poverty is increasing instead of declining, and where millions of children die each year around the world because they lack access to medicines and health care," he said.

Moreno contrasted this dire reality with the billions of dollars the world spends on arms, while in spite of the urgency of the human problems and "the pursuit of these meagre goals, the resources industrialised countries are supposed to devote to development aid have declined in real terms."

"The rich nations say they have increased their aid, but they have done so only nominally. In 1970 they committed themselves to giving 0.7 percent of GDP in the form of official development aid, but they are not living up to that promise," he said. The eighth MDG, "developing a global partnership for development," includes among its targets "addressing the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states," and "dealing comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries."

"If the 'haves' are not committed to fulfilling what they themselves approved, what's left? The issue is one of political will, not of technology or methodology," stressed Moreno, who said that the fault lies not in the MDGs themselves, but in the system that makes them necessary.

Moreno insisted that "the problems of hunger, disease, poverty and lack of basic services will not be solved as long as today's unjust international economic order remains," in which once poor countries have paid off their debt, they find themselves more indebted than ever.

"This order needs to be changed. We need to get rid of selfishness, and devise policies for real solidarity," he said.

Moreno added that Cuba is on track to achieve most of the MDGs, and is attending the U.N. meeting as an example of what can be done by a developing country that is being blockaded by the United States and is poor in natural resources, but which has social policies that benefit the population.

"The few countries that have made real progress towards fulfilling the MDGs have done so by their own efforts, impelled by their own motivation," the deputy foreign minister said.

Treatment Action Campaign (S.Africa): `Replenish or MDGs perish'

TAC press statement

22 September 2010

Replenish or MDGs perish

Maternal health and child mortality Millennium Development Goals in many countries can only be met if AIDS, TB and malaria are addressed and the Global Fund replenished with $20 billion over the next two weeks, say activists.

Activists to call a Day of Action on Tuesday September 28 in at least 20 African cities, and supported by groups around the world, to fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Wednesday September 22 (Nairobi, Washington)--World leaders have two weeks left to find the $20billion the Global Fund needs to set the world on track to meet the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), activists said today at the start of a week of activism which culminates in a Global Day of Action next Tuesday September 28 to advocate for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

At the recently concluded MDG Summit in New York UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared that the MDGs are achievable, and called on donors to open their pockets at the Global Fund Replenishment meeting he is chairing 4-5 October.

“We are delighted that the world has woken up to the fact that efforts to tackle child mortality and maternal health (MDGs 4 and 5) are off-track – but politicians are making a grave and foolish error if they think they can deal with this at the expense of the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (MDG 6),” said Rachel Ong, Chair of the Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+) and one of the initiators of the Global Fund replenishment campaign. “Maternal health and child mortality goals have no place being pitted in competition with action to tackle AIDS, TB and malaria.”

In South Africa AIDS is the main cause of death among women and children, and throughout Africa AIDS, TB and malaria are killing millions of children and women every year.

“The choice is simple: replenish or the MDGs will perish,” said Vuyiseka Dubula, the HIV+ Secretary General of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), one of the leading forces behind the Global Week of Action. “If leaders have decided that maternal and child mortality are the problem, then they must know that finding $20billion for the Fund is a big part of the solution.”

In less than a decade the Global Fund has saved nearly 6 million lives and the organisation is highly regarded as a responsible steward of donor money, already proving itself capable of handling traditional aid and innovative financing.

“All countries should play their role. Contributions are needed from all governments, including lower-income countries, who have a duty to prioritise health. But the urgent priority right now is to replenish the Global Fund to put the world on track to meet the health MDGs,” said Paula Akugizibwe from the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA). “The establishment of the Global Fund was an unprecedented show of unified political will to respond to pressing global health crises. If governments turn their backs on their own commitments now after all the progress that has been made, they are sending the clear message that they view health – and hence, basic human development – as optional, depending on the price tag.”

Ong Akugizibwe and Dubula are among a global coalition of activists who have convened a week of activism culminating in a Global Day of Action to demand that the Global Fund gets the funds it needs. The week of action started on Monday 20 September with marches in Paris, France and outside the UN MDG Summit in New York.

It culminates on Tuesday 28 September in dozens of marches, press conferences and other actions organised by community groups across the African region taking place in Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Mali, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria. At the same time a viral video campaign will be launched across 30 Asian countries, and supportive actions will take place in Canada, Italy, Russia and other places.

Further information:

Vuyiseka Dubula, General Secretary, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa
+27 82 763 005 / +27 83 532 4511

Paula Akugizibwe
Advocacy Coordinator, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)
+27 83 627 1317 / +27 78 511 9439

More information on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria can be found at http://www.theglobalfund.org

More information on the Global Week of Action can be found at
http://www.globalfundreplenishment.org

Africans must not rely on the so-called millennium goals

By Cameron Duodu

2010-09-23, Issue 497

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/67184

In the next few days, many sweet words will once again be issued from the UN about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, given the special summit being held in New York.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the United States, who is not normally uncritical of the performance of the G8 when it comes to their attitude towards the eradication of poverty in Africa, is quite upbeat about the possibilities available to rich nations before the 2015 landmark for achieving the MDGs arrives.

Writing in the London Guardian on 21 September 2010, Sachs declared: ‘The Millennium Development Goals have triggered the largest cooperative effort in world history to fight poverty, hunger, and disease. They have become a rallying cry in poor and rich countries alike. Ten years after their adoption, they are alive and stronger than ever, inspiring breakthroughs around the globe. The world wants them to work. We are just five years from the target year 2015. If we aim high, great outcomes are within reach.

‘Africa can achieve food security; all boys and girls can complete primary education, and millions more, secondary education; solar and other energy sources can bring electricity into remote villages and primary healthcare can prevent millions of deaths annually and encourage families to have fewer children in the confidence they will stay alive. We can choose, in short, to achieve the millennium development goals, and look beyond 2015 to the end of extreme poverty in our generation.’

It is tempting to mock Sachs for having been infected with a mild form of euphoria by the proximity of so many heads of state in the UN building, all brandishing well-researched papers enthusing about what will be happening by 2015; what can be done and what is projected to be achieved.

In fact, Sachs himself, in an earlier article published in the Guardian on 4 July 2010 gave the G8 a ‘fail’ mark when he juxtaposed the promises they had made, especially at the Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005, with the achievements - or non-achievements - recorded in development since then. The United Kingdom government was the only one that passed the Sachs ‘accountability test’. Of the rest, he found that not only were some not attempting to achieve goals they had themselves pledged to achieve, but also that some of them were deliberately fudging figures to give the wrong impression.

For instance, figures were at times badly stated in today's money and had not taken account of how inflation had eaten into them since they were pledged five years ago. The ‘most important pledge of all the G8's promises,’ Sachs wrote, was ‘the Gleneagles one which stated that by 2010, they would increase the yearly development assistance to the world's poor, by $50bn, relative to 2004. Half of the increase, or $25bn per year, would go to Africa, the G8 said.’

But the G8, says Sachs, ‘fell far short of this goal, especially with respect to Africa... Aid to Africa rose by $10bn-$15bn per year, rather than $25bn. The properly measured shortfall is even greater, because the promises that were made in 2005 should be adjusted for inflation. Re-stating those commitments in real terms...aid to Africa should have risen by around $30bn. In effect, the G8 fulfilled only half of its promise to Africa - roughly $15bn in increased aid rather than $30bn.’

You see why I am surprised at the optimism with which Sachs views the possibilities opened by the UN summit on the MDGs? People's future behaviour is usually predicated upon their past behaviour. If, in spite of the hopes aroused by the G8 at Gleneagles to, in the words of one of the campaigning groups, ‘make poverty history’, only 50 per cent of aid pledged to Africa materialised, why should anyone take what the G8 say at the New York summit seriously?

One of the more penetrating observations made by Sachs in his accounting of G8 pledges of aid and delivery, was his detection of the fact that ‘much’ of the overall G8 increase in aid ‘went to Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of the US-led war effort, rather than to Africa’.

(However, in case anyone is tempted to believe that any country that wants increased aid would be best advised to invite the US to invade it, the true situation should be known: much of the ‘aid’ to Iraq and Afghanistan usually goes into the pockets of American companies which carry out contract work for the US military. The rest mainly consists of arms to the client governments of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is wrongly classified as ‘aid’, because, in Iraq, for instance, seven years after the Americans landed there, electricity has not been generally restored and health facilities and schools bombed to the ground remain in that state.)

Expanding on his charge that the G8 manipulate aid figures, Sachs describes what is in effect a sleight of hand by the G8 (though he fails to call the practice by its correct name). He writes:

‘Since the G8 was off track in its aid commitments for many years, I long wondered what the G8 would say in 2010, when the commitments actually fell due. In fact, the G8 displayed two approaches. First, in an “accountability report”, the G8 stated the 2005 commitments in current dollars rather, than in inflation-adjusted dollars, in order to minimise the size of the reported shortfall.

‘Second, the G8…simply did not mention the unmet commitments at all. In other words, the G8 accountability principle became: if the G8 fails to meet an important target, stop mentioning the target - a cynical stance, especially at a summit (Canada 2010) heralded for “accountability.”’

Sachs adds: ‘The G8 did not fail because of the current financial crisis. Even before the crisis, the G8 countries were not taking serious steps to meet their pledges to Africa.’ Giving praise where praise is due, Sachs points out that this year, despite a ‘massive budget crisis, the UK government has heroically honoured its aid commitments, showing that other countries could have done so if they had tried.’

What this situations tells every government in Africa is that they must understand, even more clearly than before, that we in Africa are our own saviours and that we should stop spending money on stupid things, such as purchasing luxury aircraft for presidential flights, while our children are dying from curable diseases, or from sheer malnutrition.

I noticed that recently precious money was expended in Ghana to hold a conference to ‘brand Ghana’. Even as the conference was taking place, a correspondent who visited Ghana five years ago went back to see the progress that had been made since his last visit. He chose to visit a little girl who was born exactly five years ago.

He met the girl, Hannah Klutsey, running from her family's single-room house with tears in her eyes. A mouthful of bread had lodged in her throat and her eyes were bloodshot and bulging.

Her mother, Mary, dropped the bundle of firewood she had carried into the dusty compound and rushed to the huge plastic water pot in front of their ramshackle kitchen. She came back with a plastic cup of water, which Hannah gulped down. Only later, when the youngster was recovering on her mother's knee, did they notice the mosquito larvae at the bottom of the cup, ‘half a dozen wormlike creatures writhing in the water’.

‘The pot must have been left open for mosquitoes to lay eggs in the water,’ said the mother, whose immediate concern was that her only daughter, who had recently recovered from severe skin rashes, could fall ill again. ‘She survived her recent sickness by miracle: another illness could kill her,’ said the girl's father. There is no running water in Kpobiman, the poverty-stricken community outside Accra in which the family live. Like most of their neighbours, the household use water from a shallow borehole. ‘Others are forced to draw water from stagnant pools, where germs and parasites are abundant.’ Added the correspondent: ‘The water is so bad you can't imagine this community is just a stone's throw from the capital city of Ghana, Accra.’

Need I say that if the money used yearly to send delegations to listen to sweet words at the UN (sleep through them would be a more accurate description of what happens) had been used to improve life in the village visited by the correspondent, he would have contributed to ‘branding’ Ghana as a country in which progress is being made, not as one where life is getting worse for some people. Oh, and by the way, that type of ‘branding’ would not have cost the Ghanaian taxpayer a single penny.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.

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