10 Steps to Millennium Development Goals

EDITORIAL, 8 Sep 2008

#23 | Johan Galtung

The Millennium goals by 2015 are well chosen, even laudable:

[1]Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; reducing by one half those wholive on less than $1 a day and those who are starving.

[2] Ensure that all boys and girls complete elementary school.

[3] Promote gender equality and empower women; removing the proportion difference of girls and boys in elementary school.

[4] Reduce child mortality; reduce by two thirds the proportion of children who die before they are five years old.

[5] Improve maternal Health; reducing by three fourths the proportion of women who die in connection with pregnancy.

[6] Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria; reversing the deadly diseases.

[7]Ensure environmental sustainability; reducing by one half the peoplewho live without access to safe water and improving the livingconditions for at least 100 million living in slums.

[8] Develop a global partnership for development; increasing development assistance, just trade, and debt forgiveness.

Theyaddress the basic human needs; privilege the most needy; stronglyemphasize gender parity; focus on environment and global equity.  Thereis no “growth first, then distribution” as never-happening “tricklingdown”, when “time is ripe”. Right on target.

The only problem is that they are unachievablegiven the disconnect between MDG and an absurd economic system thatproduces 125,000 deaths a day from starvation and preventable-curablediseases.  One has to yield.  So far it has been the basic needs.

And yet it can be done, to wit:

* For basic needs:

* For foodmaybe best at the local level of federations of neighbor municipalitieswith both the means to grow the food needed, on publicly owned butprivately used land, and the means to produce the means of production,minimizing transportation distance for a sustainable environment,combining old and new technologies;

* For water, also by distillation of ocean water by solar energy and focused mirrors, and pipelines for humans, not only cars;

* For housingby easily assembled and dis-assembled inexpensive building blocs usinglocal materials, for reconstruction depending on a family’s need, onpublicly owned and privately used land;

* For healthby combining a dense network of polyclinics–like clean water availableto all–“barefoot” doctors-nurses, generic medicines; with regionalhospitals and helicopter ambulances;

* For educationby focusing on everybody, not only children, and on alphabetizationfirst, for dignity and effective membership in society, by mobilizingstudents or officers to live one year or so in needy villages, and adense network of internet-connected schools; with regional secondaryschools, and bus transportation.

* For a focus on the most needy:seek and help–not destroy; being victims of social disasters they maybe unable to come themselves like the many living in misery in UStrailer camps.

* For a focus on gender parity:education is a proven approach; making it obligatory (and beyondelementary school) assumes that it also is free, and in principleguarantees parity.

* For a focus on the environment:energy being a key point for sustainability, a massive switch isneeded, from depleting-polluting oil-gas-coal based technologies tosun-wind-water-bio- geo- and hydro-thermic based energy conversion,with fines and incentives, and with profiles ensuring equal access tolocally (federations of municipalities again) produced energy all over.

* For a focus on global equity: increased local, national and regional self-reliancein the production of goods for basic needs and normal consumption,necessities and normalities, not luxuries, intra- rather thaninter-sector (resources against resources, processed against processed,services against services) for equity, tariff protection for weaksectors, and canceling (not “forgiving”) debts not primarily intendedto meet basic needs and incurred non-democratically.  Development aidto provide employment for the poor for work in the basic needs sectors.

* For more than $1 per day(that measure has to be changed to a more stable currency): by aminimum living income for everybody, or for only those in povertycategories, or as a cash stimulus (like in the USA) for everybody, evenif below living income; particularly given ubiquitous increasing ratesof unemployment.
All of this by cooperating local-state-regional-global actors.
What stands in the way?  Serious conflicts, unfortunately:

Economically:financial resources, invested in capital-intensive, quick, high returnactivities, may be unavailable for slow, low return from basic needsfor the most needy with no buying power.

Politically: there are several factors, such as:

*Democracy may work for decision-making if the majority is poor(although India is not a case), but as the majority in many countriesbecome middle class solidarity with the poor decreases;

*An ideological bonding to the market system, demanding that basic needsare met by needy buyers buying goods and services, and what is neededfor their production, from private sellers.

Socially: many factors, beyond prejudice and discrimination:

*A wish to keep some people down partly for fear that when coming higherup “they will treat us as badly as we have treated them” (likewhite-nonwhite, dominant or not nation, men-women);

*Those higher up may enjoy having more, not just having, relative notabsolute status, and feel threatened when the gap narrows;

*Small minorities afraid of losing their privileges, particularly whentheir wealth depends on the poverty of others (exploitation);

* Vertical structural violence: resilient correlations between assets and class-race-nation carried by racism and nationalism;

* Rank disequilibrium: those low down may demand much more when permitted to rise on one dimension, like educated non-whites;

* Rank discordance:those lower down may come up and even pass in income, education, healththose higher up, creating major tensions like men threatened by womencatching up and overtaking;

Militarily: misery-poverty alone leads to suffering in silence rather than to violence, but combined with such obstacles may

* Lead to armed efforts from below in order to progress quickly;

* That struggle may engender armed efforts by those higher up to halt and reverse that progress;

*That internal war may mobilize countries globally to intervenemilitarily, in favor or against moves toward equality and equity;

Culturally: people are different, and different to some means unequal with no room for the category “different and equal”.

These obstacles often lead to two conclusions, drawn by many:
* Domestically: a revolution. Turning society upside-down, to give the bottom half a chance unimpeded by the upper half; and/or

* Globally: opting out of the dominant system, creating their own.
The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Iraq and Venezuelacome to mind, with remarkable achievements in terms of basic needs forthe most needy and gender parity, but with serious costs indemocracy-human rights terms and from US-West attacks.
The MDG are deliberate alternatives to revolution, bringing tomind Western European welfare states, and East Asia led by Japan,spreading to South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong–now to Chinaitself–based on Kaname Akamatsu economics. Evolution rather thanrevolution, but sacrificing a generation before taking roots.
Revolutions are too threatening to status quo, evolution is tooslow.  Work on all goals by all means without threatening those high uptoo much?  Yes, but they on their side have to learn to accommodate toa society with parity, and to people around them of both genders,older, middle-aged and younger, and many nations, not only male,middle-aged from one dominant nation?
And maybe that is a key negative factor?  We have focused on thepoor and forgotten to prepare the rich and privileged not only for theinevitable, but also for the pleasures of living in a more diverse andmore egalitarian world?  Time to start is right now.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 Sep 2008.

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