Our last chance

When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by world leaders in 2000, they were unprecedented in their scope and ambition.

And the progress that has been made over the past ten years to tackle extreme poverty, provide clean water, immunise children and fight diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS has proven that the goals were indeed a catalyst in mobilising global efforts to improve the life chances of the poorest people in the world.

It has also highlighted what is possible when the world comes together for a common cause.

Figures published yesterday by the World Health Organization and other agencies show that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth decreased by one third between 1990 and 2008. The fact that nearly 200,000 more women now survive every year is something to be celebrated.

But while the progress is indisputable, it is also clear that, as things stand, the vast majority of goals will not be met by the 2015 deadline.

The MDGs Summit in New York on 20-22 September is seen by many as the last chance to renew the global drive to tackle poverty and injustice, and in doing so improve the life chances of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

But if there is to be any hope of reaching the goals, progress must be massively accelerated. In the context of rising food prices, climate change and the effects of the financial crisis this is going to be a challenge that some will see as insurmountable. The increasingly acrimonious debate about the effectiveness of aid threatens to derail the process yet further.

With all these challenges it is hard to be sure of the outcome.

What is guaranteed, though, is that the campaigners will keep fighting to secure commitment to the goals, while the naysayers go to great lengths to prove that the efforts of donor countries are being wasted.

It’ll be interesting to see whose voices are louder.

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