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‘The world is in a state of development emergency’

Sep 18, 2008

Minar Pimple, Deputy Director Asia, Millennium Campaign feels that India’s development glass is still half full. With the UN High-Level Event on MDGs round the corner, he urges for greater citizen activism to make the government implement its commitments.

Here he speaks to OneWorld South Asia.

OWSA: What is the role of UNMC? How does it work in India to fulfill the MDGs?

Minar Pimple: UNMC was launched by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2002 to work across different countries and educate citizens on Millennium Development Goals. The objective is to hold the world leaders and governments accountable towards fulfilling certain promises in areas of food, health, education and environment.

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UNMC engages with diverse sections of society including political representatives, civil society organisations, youth groups, and media to spread awareness on the state of progress on MDGs. The idea is to seek their help in ensuring speedy action on fulfilling these commitments.

In India, the Millennium Campaign is working to bring together civil society networks, faith based orgainsartions to assert their voices for MDGs.

The focus is on the minorities, dalits, nomadic tribes and other socially marginalised groups. The UNMC aggregates relevant data and compiles reports to throw light on the staus of these vulnerable sections of society who have been left out of the mainstream. 

The Campaign is striving hard to bring these communities forward as they have the first right to development 

OWSA: What has been the progress of India towards the MDGs? What is India's progress in comparison to other South Asian countries?

MP: According to the latest India Country Report on MDGs, we are still off track on most of the health related MDGs like infant mortality, maternal health, malnutrition and in reducing malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Same is the state of sanitation in the country. However, India has made considerable progress on primary education, improving poverty indicators and increasing access to safe drinking water.

Therefore, it’s a glass half full. In collaboration with the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, UNMC has been actively involved in the monitoring process of the three flagship programmes launched by the government – National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

On comparing India’s state of progress with our neighboring countries, for instance, Bangladesh, we find a perceptible difference. Bangladesh has performed fairly well in narrowing the gender gap in education. Also, in reducing infant maternal mortality rate, the country takes a notable lead.

The reason is that as compared to India, Bangladesh has put greater emphasis on women’s education that has contributed in achieving better indicators in all these sectors.

India lags being other South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka when it comes to social indicators. For instance, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate in some of the most backward regions of the country is even higher than that in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, we can learn a lot from our neighboring nations.

OWSA: What has been the role of the Indian government? What are the challenges?

MP: The biggest challenge before India is that of implememation. There is no dearth of laws, policies, programmes, welfare schemes and resources. What needs to be strengthened is the delivery mechanism and resource utilisation. Special focus needs to be given to dalits, minorities, and adivasis else they would still remain deprived of the larger benefits.

It is, therefore, very essential to empower those for whom these MDGs are actually meant. For that, we need to create a demand side pressure and can rightfully assert for their rights.

To spearhead this movement, WNTA is playing a catalytic role in mobilising people across India. Initiatives like Shikha Adhikar Yatra by National Confederation of Dalit Organisations, Rozgar yatra by WNTA have proved to be steps in the right direction. The government too is assisting in the information dissemination process through measures like Right to Information Act and social auditing.

Although we are midway in achieving the 2015 deadline, I believe such efforts can surely pave the way for further progress on MDGs.

OWSA: In this context, what is the significance of the High-Level Meeting on September 25 in New York? How will it contribute to the fulfillment of the MDGs?

MP: As we all know that the upcoming High-Level Event on MDGs would mark a gathering of world leaders, civil society and the private sector to translate existing commitments into action, to identify lacunae and announce concrete efforts, resources and mechanisms to bridge the gaps.

From India, Ila Bhatt from Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Ashok Bharti (NACDOR) and Lysa John (WNTA) would be participating in the assembly. It will be an occasion to build further momentum on this issue of development emergency and call upon the leadership to take new concrete actions.

OWSA: What can citizens do to take this process forward for the fulfillment of the MDGs?

MP: For citizens in the developed countries, the challenge is to pressurise their respective governments to act upon fulfillment of Goal 8 i.e. building a global partnership for development. In addition to waiving off debts of developing nations, the promise of giving 0.7% of their GNP must be fulfilled without any conditionality by the developed nations.

It is quite ironic that a European cow enjoys a subsidy of $4 per day while the international poverty line is $ 1.25 a day. This implies that a cow of the developed world is more important than the human lives in low income countries.

Every thirty second a child dies, with more girls dying than boys. Today, we have adequate capacity and resources to eliminate poverty and disease. Still, out of every five persons in the world, one or two are living below poverty line.

To rectify these ills, some countries even lack the necessary democratic political institutions. So, the onus lies on citizens of both developing and developed world to make the authorities accountable. Today, we have formed a Global Coalition against Poverty working across 90 countries around the world.

From October 17-19, UNMC is launching the ‘Stand up and Take Action against Poverty’ campaign which witnessed the participation of 43 million in 2007. This year, even if 1% of the 60 billion of the world’s population stand up and speak in one voice, I guess the scenario would change.

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