Dear GCAP friends and activists,
We are delighted to present you our new publication, which is based on experiences in Bangladesh, DR Congo, Nicaragua and Zambia.
Learning from the MDGs for the Sustainable Development Agenda
As world leaders have endorsed a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - and largely declared its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be a success - it's imperative to understand the extent to which the MDGs did and did not eradicate poverty in the Global South.
A frank assessment of the past fifteen years, based on grassroots analysis and inputs from the most vulnerable and marginalised communities is essential if the world is going to be able to realise the SDGs and truly ensure a Life of Dignity for All.
The Millennium Development Goals (pictured) eight interlinked concrete time-bound targets to halve extreme poverty by 2015 and eradicate it by 2025; however, latter target was dropped along the way. The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) mobilized hundreds of millions of people across the globe to demand accountability from their governments, declaring that governments must “keep their promises” to achieve and exceed the MDGs.
GCAP has now brought together constituents from four countries, across three continents to reflect on the implementation of the MDGs and their impact. Representatives from Bangladesh, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua and Zambia share their analysis and discussions with people from affected communities. It is clear that many problems and challenges persist, particularly the inclusion of the most marginalised and socially-excluded individuals and communities.
GCAP's renewed approach of building participatory reports from facts and evidences at local and national level constitute an alternative report to official statistics and analysis by international institutions. While there is no doubt that the MDGs have been partly achieved, there is major need for improvements. An inclusive and transparent learning from MDGs should be the basis for the upcoming implementation of the United Nations' new Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). MDGs – The Pyrrhic Victory Representatives of governments, the UN and its many specialized agencies declared the success of the MDGs. Although all the goals have not been met, we acknowledge that in general terms, extreme poverty has been reduced by half and progress has been made on other goals, such as the access to drinking water and education for all genders has significantly improved.
But despite these and other partial successes, we must question why this agenda has not been effective in addressing structural causes of poverty – particularly inequalities. A current example of a major challenge are the high number of refugees and internally displaced people – in 2015 the biggest numbers that the world has known since the Second World War.Income inequality continues to grow and the world's 85 richest people are worth as much as the poorest 3.5 billion - which equates to half of the globe's population. Moreover, 20% of the world's population - representing the rich and the so-called “middle class” worldwide - consume 80% of the planet's ecological resources which emphasises a global state of inequality and which also causes direct harm to people and planet.
The fundamental human rights of more than 1 billion people, including the rights to education, health, water, sanitation, food, and a safe clean environment, are denied daily. Man made discrimination and unequal treatment deny the rights of women and socially excluded communities, often relegating them to lives of exploitation and poverty. 70% of people who live in extreme poverty are women.
Greed for money, power and natural resources directly cause armed conflicts and violence in nearly one out of every three countries, preventing their inhabitants from enjoying peaceful lives.
Farmers in Uganda
Over 700 million people live on less than $1.25 a day (extreme poverty, in 2005 prices, a ceiling which in itself is questionable) and over three billion people (almost half of the world population) live with less than $2.50 a day. Those people are mainly women, young people and members of communities that are excluded or marginalised due to caste, gender, race, sexual orientation or migrant status. A Financial Transactions Tax of just 0.05% could raise upwards of $400 billion a year.
Can we still deny or postpone the urgency to address the structural and systemic causes of exclusions and inequalities when current economic and political models lead to such levels of poverty, violence and insecurity? Our reply as GCAP to this question is loud and clear: NO!
A fair picture of the current global situation has been described in the communiqué issued at the GCAP Global Assembly in September 2015, New York: “An unsustainable development model – obsessed with the market and economic growth – is driving rising and untenable inequalities, man- made climate change and the further exclusion of socially and economically marginalised communities. The concentration of wealth and political power in fewer hands is detrimental to society, as is the discrimination and unequal treatment that mostly affects women, girls and minority communities. Across the globe, billions of people are suffering.”
Sustainable Development Goals Move Forward
The recently adopted international Agenda 2030 with the ‘Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change go far beyond the MDGs and offer the hope of a future where people will live in harmony on a safe and sustainable planet. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs include goals related to inequalities, peace, decent work, justice and transparency, while also vowing to end violence against women and children, human trafficking and dangerous climate change. While we welcome the adoption of the SDGs, we are worried by the weakness of the discussion on the structural and root causes of inequalities and poverty. In addition, there is no critical assessment of the role of the private sector (especially multinationals) which is exclusively portrayed within the SDGs as part of the solution, even though businesses often exacerbate inequalities, including gender inequality, poverty and climate change.
History Will Judge Us
In his opening speech of the UN summit for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said: “The new (SDG) Agenda has laid out our vision of where we believe the world should be in 2030. History will judge us – and hold us accountable for achieving the esults that we owe our children. And their children.”
This current report is a modest, but honest contribution to the learning on MDGs and the forward looking needed to implement the new agenda with a special focus on most vulnerable groups. This report shows that the most critical point is the collaboration among all actors at the local and national level, any action but be tailored towards the needs and capacities of people and their organisations and institutions. If this case study contributes to a better integration of the vulnerable and marginalized groups in future development initiatives, we will be able to conclude that this piece of work has met its initial ambition.
The EU and other donors including NGOs need to learn from this report, go beyond the superficial positive narrative of nice words to create a reality where Nobody is left behind. Nelson Mandela, who accompanied the GCAP's launch in 2005, told the anti-poverty campaigners:
“Sometimes, it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
But the victory is still far away. And we have no choice but to keep trying to find ways to fairness, dignity, and equal rights for all. It is not just a question of altruism and help for people suffering somewhere far away, but also a practical decision to protect our freedoms.
Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Tomáš Tožička, GCAP Czech Republic, and Ingo Ritz, GCAP Global Secretariat
You can read the introduction and the reports from Bangladesh and the DRC on the GCAP website. Just follow this link