I just got back from New York City where I participated in meetings connected with the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. The UN corridor in mid-town Manhattan was under heightened security as 130 Heads of States (including President Obama) participated in the Assembly.
A big focus of this gathering was a review of the progress made toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to end poverty by 2015. According to the UN’s Development Policy and Analysis Division, the news is not very good:
“In its 2012 Report, the MDG Gap Task Force has had difficulty identifying areas of significant new progress towards delivering on commitments to the Global Partnership for Development, and for the first time there are signs of backsliding. The volume of official development assistance (ODA) fell for the first time in many years, obstacles to exports from developing countries are on the rise, and numerous developing countries are facing debt difficulties. With less than three years until 2015, there is no apparent commitment by donor Governments to reverse the trend in time, and it is likely that fewer MDGs will be reached in fewer countries as a result.”
That’s pretty discouraging news. With that being said:
Is there anything to rejoice about?
The short answer is yes. When the MDGs were laid out in the early 1990s, there were over 35,000 children under the age of 5 dying every day from preventable causes. Just last week, that number was reported at below 19,000–a reduction of almost half in just over 20 years.
The longer answer is that we still have a long way to go to reach the MDG of a 67% reduction by 2015. The reality is that it is highly unlikely that the goal will be achieved in that timeframe. The trajectory is good, and we can be encouraged by the progress made. And we can continue to work and pray for the day in which no child dies from preventable causes.
In one of the meetings I attended, an update was given on the U.S. Government-led New Alliance for Food Security in Africa.
The UN Needs Organizations Like FH
Several new countries have begun programming, including Mozambique and Ethiopia, where Food for the Hungry (FH) has been working for decades and is well-positioned to be an excellent partner in this initiative. Unfortunately, we are finding it difficult to enter into partnerships in this New Alliance as the emphasis has been almost entirely on leveraging the strength of for-profit agribusinesses. While that is a good strategy, we believe that the missing ingredient for success is a robust participation of U.S.-based NGOs such as FH. After all, we are the ones that have deep and broad relationships with hundreds of poor and vulnerable communities where governments and for-profits have no reach. To that end, we made our voice heard in New York City this week and are hopeful that the tide will turn and we will become viable partners in this Alliance.
At the end of the day, I had the privilege of meeting with a senior UN official to discuss the various partnerships that FH has on the field with UN agencies such as OCHA, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and FAO. My parting comment to him was that we would like to grow these partnerships, but do so in a way that really makes sense for us and the communities that we serve. The UN really does need partners like us to bridge the gap that exists between the global and the local. It’s the only way that the “19,000” will eventually fall to “zero.”