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motion for debate

Discussion / motion for debate

Millennium goals

The Millenium Development Goals give poor
people false hope


The motion proposed for debate in the next issue of the Endogenous Development Magazine is inspired by William Easterly's book The White Man's Burden.

In The White Man's Burden, Easterly criticises the dominant planners' approach, arguing in favour of what he calls the searchers' approach. According to Easterly, searchers are practical and favour solutions based on local knowledge and situations. They believe that poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional and technological factors, and problem-solving a learning process that thrives on competition and feedback. Planners on the other hand have great ambitions, long-term targets and work with foreign experts and knowledge models. In Easterly's view the UN Millennium Development Goals, including the pledge to halve poverty by 2015, are 'another example of our Western Planners approach, obsessed by figures and calculations with overambitious plans and targets. Most probably the UN will call for a new top conference in which the deadline will be postponed (and postponed, and postponed) without holding anyone responsible. A failure without consequences except for the poor'.

Reactions to motion:

Dr H K Ayuba
University of Maiduguri

Yes, I agree

While the MDGs are strategic for governments, they are top-down in approach. Most of the poor people do not even know what MDGs are all about, let alone hinging their hopes on them. Majority of the poor are still suffering from abject poverty, diseases of different magnitude,  morbidity and mortality rates are still quite high especially in subsaharan African countries. Evidence of environmental degradation abound everywhere in these areas.

We needed a Joseph in Egypt who would have gathered sufficient grain before now to prepare for the next 7 years (the MDGs are expected to be achieved in the next 7 years!) Many of the poor people have not seen this 'Joseph' in their Local, State or Federal Goverments yet. To them, the MDGs are still a mirage.


Yes, we agree

In general governments especially in the south have accepted the MDGs as their development framework just to satisfy the funding requirements from the north.

There is not sufficient commitment from the 'rich' countries to support programmes in the south.

The 'market' approach to education which is being pushed down the throats of governments in the south by the WB will impede any efforts at universal education for all.

With the current trends in climate change, the environmental situation can only worsen especially with regard to soil degradation which will affect any efforts at increasing or sustaining food production.

Majority of people in the south are still dependent on herbal medicine to meet their health needs. These herbs are however getting extinct either because of environmental degradation or complete neglect by national health policies in the south.

In relation to gender, culture changes slowly, therefore it will take more than a century to attain the gender balance promised by the MDGs.

Bert Peeters,

Yes, I agree that the millennium development goals may once more turn into a wordy challenge with little results for its target clientele.
Having been involved in development work, it feels frustrating how little space there is to get involved in the action on the ground or being listened to by policy makers.
Even if, through our organisation, we have made good results and in-roads on the goals with only small-scale, local initiatives, very little support has come from the local governments. There seems to be no budget for real activities that alleviate the plight of the poor. The ones in power still prefer to sponsor big, large-scale activities that tend to dry up before reaching their beneficiaries. It is high time to shift gear in the discussion on the development goals to:
- small-scale energy efficient initiatives
- locally relevant projects that are environment sensitive
- strengthening the natural resource base
- prioritizing efforts and involvement of the beneficiaries as active stakeholders instead of expensive money driven and engineered support

The end question is if we are sincere enough to change our own worldviews and consumption patterns. While we talk about the goals it has become clear that the affluent may have to implement some changes in their own lives. More time spent on debating over things will indeed only end up in false hope. Too many are eager to analyse what and how to change elsewhere, but few are willing to truly share our earth with all people living on it.
Maybe, the millennium development goals can still be achieved if all, in particular the affluent, start:
- caring for the people
- caring for the earth
- carefully consuming finite resources

Bern Guri,

Yes, I agree

I personally believe that the MDGs would give hope to the poor especially in the south only when the current globalization process opens windows for other cultural definitions of development. That will happen if national/international policies recognise and build on local perceptions of poverty and development. This means building on their indigenous institutions, natural assets, knowledge base, aspirations, cosmovision, etc. Is that not what we (COMPAS family) have been trying to do all these years?

Theo Ruyter,
the Netherlands

Yes, I agree

Mr.Easterly is right in discarding what he himself calls in his book 'the patronizing confidence' of the Planners that they know better how to solve other people's problems than they do. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are indeed another product of these Planners and as such they are not delusive only - giving false hope - but they are deliberately avoiding as well to call a spade a spade.

Unfortunately Easterly is too much of an economist to be fully aware of the political nature of the problems he is concerned about. The Searchers, an amorphous mass of people he puts his trust in instead, is no match for the Planners as a well-organized and well-integrated part of the political elite that's calling the tune in international politics. It's very unlikely the latter will sacrifice their vested interests to whatever the former may eventually find out. Over thirty years ago the world seemed to be heading for a state of justice, where universal human rights were both target and standard. Those days have gone, however, and for the time being we're left with a renewed survival of the fittest. No wonder charity and philanthropy have revived these days. The present 'international community' hasn't much more to offer. The MDGs bear witness to that.

Michael A.N Odula,

Yes, I do agree with the motion. Basing my points from African countries, the poor become poorer while the rich becomes richer, and the gap therefore becomes wider and wider. This was a mere political gimmick, unlikely to be achieved by 2015 as scheduled.

Poverty is a complicated issue which stems from several factors i.e the country’s politics, socio-economic circumstances, education, science and technology, institutional frameworks, historical backgrounds and so forth. And therefore, its reduction is an up-hill task. First of all, to tackle poverty, strong and effective policies must be put in place and adhered to in terms of implementation. Such new policies will work well if they are developed in consultations with relevant economic operators and stakeholders.

It is poignant to recall that some of the policies still applied by some African countries are out of date since they were inherited from their colonial masters.

Such new policies in order to be both effective and efficient must be incorporated in their National legislative frameworks to include such critical issues which from the bulk of poverty root causes, namely:-

  1. land policies applied are out dated and need urgent reforms.
  2. Equitable distribution of the country’s national resources on regional basis to avert some regions being isolated or marginalized in development program implementation and or denial to access sharing of national cake, plus some other social and economic considerations regionally without favoritism or corruption.
  3. Gender parity to include women maximum participation and involvement in the country’s development strategies owing to their numerical strengths and also their commitment to entrepreneurship and wealth creation, talents, skills and acumenship qualities.
  4. Scientific and technological revolutions, plus introduction of relevant educational systems and opportunities to be put in place.
  5. Good governance, transparency and accountability by the relevant governments and inclusion of the country’s local population, local NGOs, local authorities and many others to be included practically in poverty reduction efforts and in wealth mechanisms.

In conclusion many countries which have not done anything on above named anti-poverty programs, have thus plunged themselves into serious political turmoil, conflicts, wars etc for example DRC, Rwanda, Sudan, now in Kenya, to just mention a few examples in Africa. Thus in such circumstances women and children suffer the most and live in abject of poverty and consequently MDGs objectives to the poor can not be achieved, therefore a false hope.

Peter Musa, Cameroon

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a major step towards ensuring that all nations of the world arrive at a universally accepted level of development by 2015. This can checked by the level of education, social standards and living conditions, access to health care and a reduction in mortality, equal opportunities for everyone, freedom of expression and respect of basic human rights, democracy and good governance etc. At national levels, a lot of action is being undertaken globally. But is this national effort felt at the national level? This is a major problem. In July 2006, I organised a CreativeChange Workshop on the Millennium Development (MDGs) at the Musa Heritage Gallery (Mus'Art) in Kumbo, Cameroon for students, youths NGO leaders. As we did the publicity for the event, we realized that it was the first time for residents of the urban center with a population of over 100.000 (1987 population census) to have an event dedicated to the MDGs. A lot of people heard about the MDGs for the first time.

Governments have a major task to inform and educate their citizens on the MDGS if we are going to achieve these lofty goals by 2015. One of the participants in my workshop mentioned above questioned 'Is the MDGs not another talk show as was the case with Health for All by the Year 2000.' People in the developing countries are tired of these promises by governments through the UN system. Huge sums of money are allocated to the realization of the MDGs but yet, the people whom achieving the goals are meant to change their lives seem or do not seem to feel any impact. What is wrong?

In my opinion, if our governments pay more attention to empowering their citizens through education and provision of skills, especially for poor people they would be doing a formidable job to alleviate poverty and uncertainty for a majority of the world's population. It will do us no good if we continue to rely on datelines we cannot fulfill. Do we need datelines to raise up our kids? But we make sure our kids must be healthy, eat well, go to school etc. These is how our governments especially in the developing countries should operate. It is their responsibility to take care of their citizens. Governments should give each citizen the right to nationality, good health, education, equal opportunities, security, respect for human rights, fairplay in democratic practice, hope to live happily in one's country of birth etc. Governments should not wait for the UN to force them to adhere to a set of goals and datelines they will never meet.

Our governments should empower the grassroots populations so that they can take responsibility in contributing to the development process if the MDGs must be achieved by 2015.

Richard Oscar Edet,
Ministry of Agriculture,

Yes,I agree

The Millennium Development Goals(MDGs)are all indispensable and they require complex, coordinated action, not mere policy declarations.

It's unfortunate that, despite all efforts, the MDGs have not made remarkable improvements in the lives of the worlds poor. Most of these people do not even understand the concept of the MDGs, let alone expect their benefits. It's obvious that most interventions, strategies and programs of governments targeted at the MDGs do not actually reach the poor who are often neglected, marginalized and excluded from the coverage of social protection mechanisms.

Evidence abound that, in most developing countries of the world, especially Sub-Saharan Africa where ultra poverty predominates, a greater proportion of the population still live below the poverty line of less than one US dollar per day(the internationally recognized poverty threshold). Besides, there is prevalence of child mortality, malnutrition, maternal deaths, environmental degradation amongst others in these areas.

It's rather disappointing that, seven years away from the target of 2015, we have not seen any concrete results of the MDGs and at the current pace of change, achieving the MDGs is sheer illusion. To the poor, the MDGs are unrealistic with no hope in sight.

Akingboye Kazeem,

That is true! The desire to half poverty by 2015 is a tall dream unrealisable going by the Nigerian experience which is akin to most African countries where poverty is endemic. The foci of the MDGs are quite in order as yardsticks to checkmate poverty and governments of most AFRICAN COUNTRIES being conscious of these make reference to them in their budgetary and fiscal policies without appreciable service-delivery at the implementation level. They only pay lip service although huge resources are allocated with juicy grants/aids, rather than being pro-active, the resources are either mis-managed or diverted into private pockets of the public officers expected to monitor the MDGs-targeted projects

Tandong Calistus Jong ,

Educating the Indigenous, the rural population and empowering them to the rational and sustainable use of natural resources is to help them increase their living standards and a fight to achieve the Millennium Development Goal.
As you know many indigenous and rural residents, farmers and those who reside in small towns across rural South west province of Cameroon are sensing that changes are underway, which will affect their lives positively. Some are concerned that many of the things which they value could be lost.
In such an environment there is the need to educate the people by talking to them, the importance to remember the need to think and talk about change, understand it and look for ways to influence both the direction and place of changes.
As well as understanding the impact of current changes, that individuals and communities are prepare to identify opportunities and action plans that will achieve their goals. It was with this in mind that AMYOFACIG-CAMEROON tours and conferences were geared towards identifying the problems faced by the indigenous and the rural communities and tried to help in educating them on some measures to tackle the identified problems.

Hans Eenhoorn,
The Netherlands economist

I don’t agree with the motion.

Even though it is likely that many poor people have never heard of the Millennium Development Goals, there is a chance that by 2015 halve of the poor do not experience extreme hunger. Halving the hunger in 2015 is possible if there is global commitment (as proclaimed by the UN through the MDGs) and if politicians make achieving MDGs their political choice. My proposal is to improve food security of sub-subsistence small scale family farms. Jeffrey Sachs in his book ‘The End of Poverty’ pleads for macro-economic planning interventions to get the poor out of their poverty trap. William Easterly in his book ‘The Whiteman’s Burden’ preaches that only the search for micro-economic progress will help the poor. Both are right. The Searcher-Planner controversy is artificial. Sachs is right that many African countries are caught in an economic and socio-political poverty trap, thus needing external support. Easterly is right that you cannot get out of such a trap via a big external push alone. Sachs is right that in order to get the rural poor out of their misery, some external help on the route to food security is needed. A successful route to achieve food security requires technical and marketing assistance, capital input and a change of mindset in order to make the helpless poor independent, to transform farmers into entrepreneurs, to master the negative effects of socio-cultural systems, and to move to an investment driven society. Food security improvement must start at the local level but macro-economic circumstances play a critical role in success or failure. If there is commitment to improve smallholder agriculture and if we make markets work for the poor, that’s the quickest way to food security and to achieve MDG 1.

Adetoro Rasheed,

Millennium Development Goals agenda in Africa is a farce because it is another attempt of enriching the ever corrupt leadership with pseudo-global economic agenda. Indeed, the African leaders use it as a cover-up for creating millennium exploitation of the masses through unexecuted and poorly executed contracts. The resultant effect is that while the poor gets poorer, the rich gets richer and roams the street freely with his/her illgotten wealth. At the end of the day, the poor who were the target of this program continues to wallow in abject poverty with shortened lifespan. What is needed is a direct intervention in the endogenous lifestyle of the masses, not another governmental spend-drift in the name of the millennium slogan.

Mantha V Sharma, India

MDGs of the UN is not suitable for all countries

MDG 1: Extreme poverty and hunger cannot be overcome even after 100 years in the case of least developing countries as well as other developing countries. Each and every country has different problems, should find and adopt individual ways to reduce poverty & corruption.
MDG 2: When there is no possibility of poverty reduction the primary education will have little impact on people and the country.
MDG 3: Women have basic duties of controlling their homes and responsible for rearing their kids as good socially acceptable citizens of their countries with their acquired education.
MDGs 4 & 5 are for under developed countries only.
MDG 6: The vagaries of sex, sex education in schools, the boom of Viagra, no control on prostitution, the porn internet world are few prime culprits of HIV/AIDS. Malaria and other diseases can be cured with clean environment, good food habits and natural medicaments.
MDG 7: This can be achieved with proper education and practical adaptation of natural mother earth gifts.
MDG 8: The first criterion must be Moral Education and self sufficiency for each country.  Populous countries do not need more cars and computers, but need more cheaper healthy foods, low cost preventive health supplements, utilization of natural and human resources and so on….. Then only the One World Concept will work.

Finally Millennium Development Goals for each country must be derived based on their tradition, culture, morals, population, etc,.

Sunday Kateya

 "Where Elephants fight the Grass suffers".

Great efforts by the rich people have been made trying to help Poor people get out of poverty. Have these efforts been beneficial the poor? In the first place, who plans to help the poor? Most of the people we have seen bringing the Projects targeted at helping the poor come with people who are not part of the Target Group. These are the people who hide the truth part of what the poor are supposed to get out of the Project.

Although this submission is late, my view could have been as follows:

  1. Those who plan to assist the poor should in the first place know where the poor are and the root causes of their poverty.
  2. Do they sit with the poor when planning to assist them? If not so then this makes them strangers to this assistance hence non active participation in the execution of the Project.
  3. The instruments or tools for monitoring and evaluation should be worked out together with poor.This makes them be part of the process.It is their interest to know where they are and where they intend to be after a certain period of time.
  4. It is most advisable to work with people who understand their own problems as Project Officers who are almost part of the poor. Employment seekers would normally be interested salaries at the end of the day even though the assistance does not get to the poor.Communication and local cultural understanding would be promoted.