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End of poverty possible in our generation: report

Jan 11, 2013

We seem to be finally gaining on absolute poverty, the report by an NGO asserts, even as we near the 2015 deadline of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom,” said Nelson Mandela/

A report that outlines the vision of an NGO, Save the Children, says that for the first time in history the ideal of ending hunger, destitution, preventable death and insecurity of children appears within reach. We seem to be finally gaining on absolute poverty, the report asserts, even as we near the 2015 deadline of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which binds nations around the world in a historically unifying mission of mercy.

The report sets out a new development framework for the creation of a world where all people everywhere realize their human rights within a generation. As a leading independent organization for children, Save the Children is focused on securing the post-2015 framework for the rights of all children at the global and national levels.

Save the Children’s post-2015 development vision emphasizes on universal and equitable development with human rights as its guiding principle and evidence as a foundation for its approaches underpinned with principles like universality, equality and inalienability. Now is the time to aim at no less than a zero target for absolute poverty reduction, hunger, preventable child and maternal deaths and those without safe drinking water and sanitation.

Clinching testimony to the success of the MDGs is the fact that we have successfully lifted 600 million people out of poverty since the end of the Cold War through global cooperation. Alongside, we have sent 56 million more children to school and, rescued extra 14,000 children from death every single day. These are sizeable achievements but there is still a great deal left to be done.

For this we must learn from the past and build on the strengths of the MDGs: the new framework should remain firmly focused on human development, highlight how an international agreement can make a difference, and limit itself to a limited number of measureable goals. To eradicate poverty we need to address some of the challenges from the MDG period.
Above all, the MDGs do not consistently confront inequality, arising out of age, gender, caste, disability, geography or income.

Our recent report Born Equal revealed that in 32 developing countries, a child in the richest 10% of households has as much as 35 times the effective available income of a child in the poorest 10% of households. The MDG fraction-target approach has encouraged many countries to focus on people closest to coming out of poverty widening the gap between this group and the very poorest people. At the same time the gap between the richest group in society and the poorest has also widened consistently.

If we now fail to attend to those at the bottom of the heap and reduce the gaps between the most and least favoured groups – the new framework will have only limited impact. Second, accountability is crucial to global development. But a robust effective accountability mechanism has been missing from the MDG framework, making it difficult to ensure transparent fulfillment of commitments and consequently consistent progress. Those countries with political will put resources in place to ensure implementation, but those which do not are not adequately held to account, underscoring the need for  accountability mechanisms.

Next, we need attention to synergies and systems. Many development issues are inextricably linked.
A hungry child won’t learn much in school, and shewon’t stay there long enough to benefit, if she has to work to pay for her sick father’s healthcare, or if she ;experiences violence. The structure of the MDGs may have exacerbated the tendency to create silos and inefficiencies in hard-pressed developing countries by tackling areas of human development one facet at a time.

A degree of singular focus may sometimes have been necessary to deliver immediate results. Finishing the job, however, will require a holistic approach that strengthens systems to improve human development outcomes.

Fourth, the MDGs’ strong emphasis on extending the breadth of coverage of a service and reaching more people was perfectly sensible a couple of decades ago when the breadth was extremely low. However, such an approach in the current context tends to mask some important issues: a service may be widely accessible but does that mean its aims are being realized? It would be erroneous to continue looking only at inputs and not outcomes particularly in areas like education: Success in getting children into school, however, sometimes masks failure to learn once they get there. And finally, since 2000 little has been achieved in improving the long-term sustainability of the natural resource base, despite the fact that human health and prosperity depend on it. Sustainability must underpin the new development consensus.

These challenges can be tackled, and should beintegrated across all goals in the new framework.The next development framework must retain a clear and unambiguous focus on poverty reduction, speeding up action to improve the quality of life of the world’s poorest andmost marginalized people. Save the Children believes goals on poverty, hunger, health, education, protection from violence and governance will be paramount, supported by goals which foster a supportive and sustainable environment for human development.

MGDs are common goals for all countries, but the specific issues within these common goals apply differently to countries at different stages of development. So, while the responsibility for the realisation of the goals could be common they also need to be differentiated, in which each country decides how best to achieve them.

We propose the achievement of the following six goals by 2030 within the new framework:

1.    Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and reduce relative poverty through inclusive growth and decent work
2.    Goal 2: Eradicate hunger,halve stunting, and ensure universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
3.    Goal 3: End preventable child and maternal mortality and provide basic healthcare for all
4.    Goal 4: Ensure children everywhere receive quality education and have good learning outcomes
5.    Goal 5: Ensure all children live a life free from all forms of violence, are protected in conflict and thrive in a safe family environment
6.    Goal 6: Will be more open, accountable and inclusive To provide a supportive environment for these goals we propose four more:
1.    Goal 7: By 2030 we will establish effective global partnerships for development
2.    Goal 8: By 2030 we will build disaster-resilient societies
3.    Goal 9: By 2030 we will ensure a sustainable, healthy and resilient environment for all
4.    Goal 10: By 2030 we will deliver sustainable energy to all

The ten development goals need to be embedded in global systems that will expedite their achievement. For support the following three accompanying mechanisms would be necessary: national financing strategies; a robust international accountability mechanism; and a data investment fund. Of course, the debate on the MDG successor framework is at an early stage and these proposals are offered as a contribution to a participative global conversation, not as a final word.

As 2015 approaches, we should feel a profound sense of obligation as well as opportunity. In the year 2000, the international community committed to dramatic change. We made the world’s biggest promise to its poorest people that we would tackle absolute poverty, child mortality and hunger – and that promise is only partially fulfilled. We need to renew and extend the promise.

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