The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)…
- Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Create global partnership(s) for development
The facts as the Sustainable Development Goals are being implemented…
- Global poverty is declining.
- More children attend primary school than ever before.
- Child mortality has drastically decreased.
- Clean water is increasingly available.
- There have been numerous disease interventions that have saved millions of people all around the world.
But what about…
- Better education?
- Better healthcare? Better access to healthcare?
- Markedly increasing equality between men and women?
- Increasing the availability of more affordable and nutritious food?
- The stigma associated with some illnesses and/or diseases?
How can we measure success? Is a ‘little bit’ enough? What is the significance of an end date? How can we sustain the MDG momentum? What or who has been neglected? How can you balance the need for clarity in setting goals and still adequately reflect the complexities of development? Have we asked developing nations what their goals are? I’m reminded of the Nestle baby milk scandal. How could we better represent the concerns of low and middle-income countries? How can we move towards a less top-down approach? Are we missing crucial dimensions of development? Are these our aid dollars? How many Canadian tax dollars are allocated to the UN, to aid, to development? Are we on par with other member nations? Were we in 1990 or 2000? 10 years ago? 5 years ago? What is our role!? My role?
These are just a few of the questions I had going into my second meeting with my mentor, Dr. Loh.
Dr. Loh, Nina Nguyen (a medical student from Université de Sherbrooke) and I had a very productive and stimulating discussion. We were able to discuss some strengths and weaknesses of the goals and brainstorm not only what the MDGs could look like beyond 2015, but what helped develop (and perhaps sustain) their momentum from the 1990s onwards. Branching off from there, we discussed the context and bigger picture of the goals; calling attention to some of the ways LMIC’s could have more of an equal yet tangible role. I think Dr. Loh summed it up pretty well by saying that “perhaps we should try and privilege the input of countries that haven’t had as much of a say, but often carry much of the burden, rather than just leaving the discussion forum open; the current structure unfortunately tends to prioritize the views of the bigger players.”
It was also interesting to discuss Canada’s role… I didn’t think that Canada allocated much funding (for foreign aid) and that our relationship with the UN could be ‘better’. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true or not, if that’s changed since March 2015 (when this conversation took place), or if it will perhaps be changing in the future. Should Canada strive to match the funding of other [developed] nations? I’m a little unsure what my personal role is, but as I mentioned to Dr. Loh and Nina, for now it’s spreading awareness about the millennium and sustainable development goals, and being real about both their strengths and their weaknesses. I feel as if keeping up with the post 2015 plan and tracking it’s progress, perhaps learning more about Canada’s involvement, is a good place to start.