World leaders are nowhere near achieving their goals on reducing global poverty, the United Nations (UN) admitted last week.
The UN agreed eight “millennium development goals” (MDGs) at a summit in 2000. These include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, providing universal primary education, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality by 2015.
The UN warned at a summit last week that progress is behind schedule and the goals will only be met if radical changes are made.
Countries at the summit pledged $16 billion towards meeting the goals. But this is a drop in the ocean. Development agencies argue that over $70 billion will be needed to have any hope of achieving the MDGs.
Over three billion people – nearly half the world’s population – live on less than $2.50 a day. Unicef estimates that between 26,500 and 30,000 children die every day because of poverty.
One million people die every year from malaria – the vast majority in Africa.
The latest UN summit saw $3 billion committed to a programme to tackle malaria.
It says that this programme would save over 4.2 million lives between 2008 and 2015. This means that 2.8 million people would still die.
However, there is a wider problem with the MDGs.
The idea that aid from richer countries to poorer ones is the solution to poverty masks the processes that keep global inequality in place.
Our leaders refuse to cancel Third World debt, which keeps poor countries in ever-growing poverty as they struggle to repay the debts while the interest grows. In 1970 the world’s poorest countries owed $25 billion in debt. By 2002 it was $523 billion.
Neoliberal policies, such as trade liberalisation and deregulation, shore up the profits of multinationals while impoverishing millions.
The rich countries may pay lip service to eliminating poverty. They may put forward some money for the MDGs.
But the fact that their aid for the world’s poor is a pittance compared with their aid for the rich lays bare the priorities of capitalism – and shows that our rulers have no solution to global poverty.