One of the events taking place this week in conjunction with the opening of the 68th General Assembly is on the follow-up efforts made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In his report to the assembly, entitled “A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the UN development agenda beyond 2015,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon states:
The world has changed radically since the turn of the millennium. New economic powers have emerged, new technologies are reshaping our societies, and new patterns of human settlement and activity are heightening the pressures on our Planet. Inequality is rising in rich and poor countries alike. A new era demands a new vision and responsive framework. Sustainable development… must become our global guiding principle… Ours is the first generation with the resources and the know-how to end extreme poverty and put our Planet on a sustainable course before it is too late.
As we move closer to the 2015 targeted deadline for the completion of the MDGs, it is abundantly clear that while modest progress has been made, we are a long way from eliminating the scourge of poverty and creating a more stable, peaceful and flourishing world for ourselves and for future generations. However, I actually have a sense that the representatives of the 193 UN Member States are acknowledging this in a new way. The president of the 68th General Assembly, Ambassador John W. Ashe from the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, has spoken of the need for collective transformation and a degree of collaboration unlike ever before, due to the “urgency and shared magnitude of the task.” Among the priorities he has outlined for this 68th General Assembly are:
- The importance of the voices of women, youth and civil society in developing the new Development agenda; the need to incorporate human rights and the Rule of Law as essential elements in the post-2015 development era;
- The critical need to build stabile, peaceful societies – without which sustainable development is doomed; and the need to address the persistent challenges of clean water, sanitation and a warming planet.
Besides the points outlined by Ambassador Ashe, there is also a challenge from UNWomen to address the structural causes of gender-based discrimination and support a true transformation in gender relations. To this end, the report, entitled “The Future Women Want,” proposes an integrated approach that addresses three critical areas:
- Freedom from violence against women and girls;
- Increased capabilities in the areas of knowledge and good health and access to resources and opportunities, including land, decent work, equal pay; and finally
- Equality in decision-making power in both public and private institutions.
Freeing the untapped potential of women and girls is an essential element is promoting a sustainable future.
Finally, another reality that will play a pivotal role in the Post-2015 Development conversations is that of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). These are countries with special needs and vulnerabilities due to environmental devastation, low income, weak economic assets, political instability and conflict. Out of the 49 LDCs today, 34 are in Sub-Saharan Africa; 1 in the Caribbean; 14 in Asia-Pacific; 17 are land-locked developing countries (LLDCs); 10 are small island developing states (SIDS); and 20 are mountain countries. LDCs are home to 880 million people, with 53 percent living in extreme poverty; 260 million are under-nourished; 79 percent have no access to electricity; and they are bearing the brunt of changing global patterns that have been triggered by the fossil fuel mode of development upon which much of the world is still dependent.
And to make it a bit more personal, there is a Dominican presence in Least Developed Countries… like Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Haiti, Samoa, Solomon islands, East Timor… among others. So while our eyes may glaze-over with the technicalities of much of the discussion regarding the Post-2015 Development Agenda, it is good to remember that at the end of the day, lives are held in the balance. As the Secretary General has said, “A new era demands a new vision and responsive framework. Sustainable development… must become our global guiding principle… Ours is the first generation with the resources and the know-how to end extreme poverty and put our Planet on a sustainable course before it is too late.”
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