WEBDESK: At their annual gathering at the UN world leaders adopted new sustainable development goals aimed at ending extreme poverty within the next 15 years in place of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that run out in the current year.
Applying to both developed and developing nations, the revised agenda is designed to make the world a better place in the next 15 years by ending poverty, improving healthcare, promoting education and combating climate change at a cost of $3.5-$5 trillion per year.
The rich countries are to share the cost with $3.5-$5 trillion in development funds. As Pope Francis – who made a moving speech at the UN raising issues that affect ordinary people everywhere in the world – pointed out “solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step towards solutions.”
There are numerous instances where affluent nations failed to keep their commitments, the latest example being that of humanitarian help they had promised for the Syrians who have taken refuge in some of the neighbouring countries, and delivered only a fifth of the $6.5 billion asked by the UN.
In fact, they bear part of the responsibility for destroying the economies and disrupting the lives of hundreds of millions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is bearing the brunt of Syrian refugees, was exactly right when welcoming the new agenda she averred that peace was a “key prerequisite” for development. Millions of refugees, she said, are fleeing “raw terror and violence”, and that “we must tackle the causes of flight”. Considering that Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and to some extent Pakistan, are a mess because of wars imposed by Western countries one would like to add that they must avoid creating such causes in future.
That though is a vain hope, at least for now. Each year, the US, France, Britain and Russia, leaders in arms trade, earn big money by selling ever new weapons to favoured countries in the Middle East and other Third World nations to be used by governments to suppress their own people and incite proxy wars for the advancement of their -western countries – regional interests. It is no coincident that at present Saudi Arabia and India are the world’s two largest arms importers.
Sadly, governments in most developing countries are indifferent to the needs of their people. Pakistan for one has failed to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals. One obvious reason is the cost of an ongoing war – a spillover of the US’ Afghan war – in the tribal areas. However, a huge drain on resources is also corruption. An estimated $200 billion have been siphoned into Swiss banks, and many more invested in pricey properties and businesses in prosperous countries.
And privileged sections of society do not pay their dues to the state. If only the stolen money had stayed in the country, the revenue collection was improved, and the government had its priorities right, the same resources devoted to education, healthcare, and employment generation and uplift schemes could have transformed lives of many, many people living under the poverty line.
The required political will obviously is missing. That said, there is hope that the new goals set by the UN would still be helpful as a yardstick for the people with which to measure governments’ performance and hold them to account for acts of omission and commission.