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100 Metres. 9.58 seconds. How on earth would we know that Usain Bolt was the quickest man in the world if he didn't have a certain goal - a destination? We wouldn't. And he probably wouldn't have been able to run that fast. Achievement is often driven by ambition, by aspirations that can be measured - where at the end you can say: I've done that.
Well - the race is nearly run on the Millennium Development Goals. Set in 2000, their stated end is looming in 2015. Not all the goals and objectives have been achieved, but great progress has been made. Work to end extreme poverty will go on regardless of what we do. But the MDGs gave the international community - governments, NGOs, individuals, corporates - focus and an agenda, which helped us achieve massive gains in the search to extreme poverty.
So the question is - what next? The answer came from the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held last year in - wait for it - Rio. It announced that the world would work towards creating the snappily titled Sustainable Development Goals (you've got to love the UN marketing gurus!), which would set the post-2015 agenda until 2030. Massive efforts are underway, even this week with a meeting of governments and NGOs this week, to start defining these Goals to ensure that they are in place by January 2016.
They are being crafted in a world that is very different from the one in which the MDGs were born: the rise and reach of technology, systemic challenges that have become more entrenched, the ongoing impact of climate change, the multitude of actors that now play a more prominent role (the rise of China in Africa being one example).
These Goals will have a huge impact on what our world looks like in 15 years time. We have to get them right.
One voice is missing from the process: yours.
We want to know what you think to create a list of the top ten Sustainable Development Goals:
- what should the SDGs be?
- what factors do we have to consider as we start defining the SDGs?
We're using a revolutionary new crowd-sourced and crowd-curated collaboration tool for our entire network to develop the answer.
Logging in with your facebook or twitter, go to http://sdg.codigital.com and tell us what Goals we should set to change the world.
We need to win the next race to end extreme poverty, forever.
Tuberculosis is known to have been in existence since 4000BC but today is the cause of nearly two million deaths, every year.
The disease can affect any part of the body, but usually the lungs. In the past it has been called 'consumption' due to the way in which it consumed those who contracted it. There are treatments for it, but it often claims lives- especially in less developed countries where there isn't access to necessary treatment.
But recently, there has been major progress in preventing the disease.
Salmaan Keshavjee and Paul Farmer, two leading doctors who have been fighting tuberculosis for over ten years, sum it up well:
“The global AIDS effort of the past decade has shown how much can be accomplished in global health when effective diagnosis and care are matched with funding and political will.
Stinting on investments or on bold action against tuberculosis -- in all its forms -- will ensure that it remains a leading killer of people living in poverty in this decade and the next.”
We are now facing a problem. Increasingly, drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are found in Russia, India and China- but they are on the rise in the West too.
Underfunding has led to ineffective drugs being produced, which has catalysed the rise of these drug resistant strains. And it is these new variants of the disease which are causing so many deaths – and will continue to unless stopped.
This problem is particularly prevalent in India, which has one fifth of the world's cases. Drugs known to be resisted by the various strains of tuberculosis are being used-only making the problem worse.
Dr. Zarir Udwadia, a prominent scientist in the field, was particularly critical of the “futile exercise” India is embarking upon, which will; “serve to amplify resistance. It is morally and medically disastrous.”
To combat this, it has been advised that patients are tested for whether the drugs given to them would be resisted or not. But in India's case, there simply aren't enough clinics available to do this, due to the lack of investment. We are now reaping the disastrous consequences of not taking this issue seriously enough.
These problems just emphasise the need for much more investment- now- to fund research and increase effectiveness of treatment- to end this terrible disease.
Because if we don't, the problem will only get worse. If we don't, tuberculosis could turn into a pandemic once again.
There are not many people who can say that the last 12 months have been punctuated by an encounter with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and chair of Microsoft, but this is precisely what I can claim because of my first year as an Ambassador with the Global Poverty Project, UK.
The 'capital letter' of the year, on 25th January 2012, was the Ambassador programme launch at the London School of Economics where Bill Gates shared the content of his Annual Letter and Hans Rosling explained some of the latest development statistics in his inimitable style. The 'full stop' was Bill Gates' presentation at last night's annual BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture at the Royal Institute in London. It was an honour to be at both of these events and, for a secondary school teacher from the Isle of Man (a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea), it verged on unbelievable.
In January last year I was interested to learn from Hans Rosling that a third of the world's population live off food grown on some 500 million small-hold farms. With the global population set to increase by a further 2 billion by 2050, efforts in improving food security and sustainable agriculture should be high priority. It is fantastic, therefore, in 2013 to be part of leading the IF campaign action on the Isle of Man in the run up to the G8 in June: acting to see the beginning of the end of hunger by calling on the Manx Government to increase its international aid contributions.
Last night Bill Gates also highlighted the importance of using technology and innovation to help improve the health of children in particular and his championing of the End of Polio campaign was prevalent. I was struck by his point that vast generosity is part of human nature but the issue is whether the people that need our generosity are visible or remain invisible. From the 1960's onwards, polio and its effects had reduced visibility for many in developing nations, however this does not reduce the need to respond. In fact, he sees ending polio as an opportunity to show what human beings are really capable of and with global efforts: funding, political commitment and resolve this could be achieved in the next six years.
I'm very proud of the fact that through the efforts Douglas Rotary Club on the Isle of Man and with the support of the Isle of Man International Development Committee, £29,000 has been raised by the Island towards the campaign vaccinating an estimated 145,000 children - not bad for an island with a population of 85,000! The support of the UK Government in the campaign has been essential and I hope, like Bill Gates highlighted, that they will continue to fulfil their commitment to the world's poorest.
In truth, however, (to extend my syntactical metaphor further) my most recent encounter with Bill Gates was not so much a 'full stop' to the year but a 'semi-colon' between years: an opportunity to reflect, take breath and forge on into the exciting year ahead. I am enjoying my role as an ambassador tremendously and I've caught the campaigning bug: the opportunity to be a leader in my community and to enable people, who are passionate about tackling the issues of poverty, disease, hunger and injustice, to take effective action is just such a privilege.
Thanks must go to the Co-operative and the Global Poverty Project team for helping me to gain the understanding and the confidence to play my part in seeing an end to extreme poverty within our generation. If you fancy joining me as an ambassador or would like to nominate someone as an ambassador within your local community in the UK or Northern Ireland, then please apply today (applications close on 20th February 2013). It would be a pleasure to work with you to create a movement that will change the world.
Prior to last week, if you were to ask the average person about the “situation in Mali,” you might only get a puzzled look. Indeed, until I was offered a job working for an agricultural NGO in Mali last fall, I had been mostly unaware about the military coup last March and the subsequent seizing of Mali’s northern half by Islamist extremists. But this little known country has captured global attention in the past week after French and African forces sent in thousands of troops in order to retake the northern regions from militant groups, some of which are known to have ties to al Qaida. And now all eyes have shifted to neighboring Algeria as well after a hostage crisis, which has definite connections to the Mali conflict, has ended in tragedy.
The fact that no one had heard much out of Mali until last week should come as no surprise, as it is emblematic of a larger problem with the way our politicians and news organizations treat Africa—the tendency is to ignore much of what happens on the continent until things are totally out of control. From an American perspective, the sole major political discussion of the Malian crisis I heard over the past year were the few lines Mitt Romney spoke during a presidential debate about the threat of extremism spreading across the Sahara. And the news stories coming out of Mali prior to the French invasion were about the imposition of harsh Sharia law in northern cities and the destruction of tombs inside the fabled city of Timbuktu. But while all tragic and appalling, not a single one of these discussions or stories gets to the heart of Mali’s troubles. At best, they reduce the narrative to a simplistic tale of good guys vs. bad guys.
At its core, the current upheaval in Mali—a country that was until very recently one of the most stable African democracies—is not about religious extremism or global terrorism. It is about extreme poverty and an absence of any means to rise above it. Indeed, this could be said about any number of countries that have had vast swaths of territory usurped by militant groups, Islamist or otherwise. We have seen all over the world in recent years that extremism is thriving because large populations of uneducated, poor, frustrated and powerless young men all of a sudden find themselves very powerful indeed once given weapons and a target upon which they can unleash their frustrations.
So despite all of the headlines and political grandstanding over the past week about the West’s fight with radical Islam, the crisis in Mali is actually rooted in the tensions between a secular movement of ethnic Tuareg people and the central government in Bamako. Although the Tuareg people belong to a number of different countries, Malian Tuaregs specifically have fought with Bamako for decades, attempting in vain to establish their own independent state (which they call “Azawad”). So what is the chief source of the Tuareg animosity toward the government?--a total lack of economic opportunity.
Malian Tuaregs have faced a variety of economic challenges over the years, most often connected to drought and desertification brought on by climate change, as well as the inevitable famines and refugee crises that ensue. Meanwhile, the central government in Bamako has either failed to provide economic support or intentionally marginalized the Tuaregs (depending on who you ask). Either way, in the absence of any relief from a state of perpetual poverty, many Tuareg groups have turned their frustration into concerted political action by banding together into separatist groups, such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
After the MNLA launched attacks to drive out the Malian army from the northern regions in early 2012, capturing several key cities, Malian armed forces then overthrew the central government in a coup, angered by Bamako’s failure to suppress the Tuareg rebellion. It was only after this point that radical Islamist groups were able to co-opt the secular Tuareg rebellion, turning northern Mali into center stage for the “war on terror” with the deployment of French and African soldiers (who have been in turn supported by American, Canadian and European intelligence, weapons and financing).
In response to the French-led intervention, news reports and op-eds hinting that Mali could become the next Afghanistan have sprung up all over. If one thing is accurate about that comparison, it is this: If the military forces leading the charge don’t go beyond bombing campaigns and ground assaults—that is, if they don’t stay for the long and arduous haul of helping to rebuild livelihoods after the dust settles—then Mali could very well become Afghanistan 2.0.
Here’s why: In the early 1980s, the U.S. government helped to arm the mujahideen to oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan—and then they left, creating a power vacuum that many argue allowed for the rise of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. As a result, Afghanistan today is a floundering state at best, where the most profitable economic venture for the average citizen is in the production and smuggling of opium.
In Mali, reports have already begun to surface warning that the country is on the verge of a total refugee crisis; over 200,000 Malians have already fled the fighting in the north, and as many as 700,000 more could be displaced in the coming weeks. This is an issue that must be dealt with swiftly and deliberately, though the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that it is barely one-third toward its fundraising needs of $150 million for the necessary emergency operation. The UN World Food Program is also struggling to operate in northern areas because of a heightened risk of violence and kidnappings. And these are just the relief efforts, to say nothing of the rebuilding of livelihoods that must follow.
But the conflict isn’t only causing problems in the north. Even in Bamako, hundreds of miles from the fighting, the threat of violence against Westerners has forced many aid organizations to suspend vital operations and evacuate staff—which is why I am writing this post from a friend’s apartment in Senegal, and not from my house in Mali.
Last week, when I was checking in at the airport for my hasty flight to Dakar, the woman at the counter asked me, “Are you abandoning Mali?” A bit taken aback by this question, I simply answered that I was going to Senegal for business and would be back in a few weeks—I sincerely hope that’s true.
But once the fighting stops, if people aren’t able to return to their homes, if schools don’t open their doors, if the government doesn’t invest in its people (with the support of the West), and if the feelings of hopelessness and frustration amongst the Tuaregs aren’t remedied, then we all know how the story ends: militant groups will continue to exploit the conditions of extreme poverty, more kidnappings and hostage crises like that in Algeria are bound to occur, NGOs and other relief and aid organizations will be forced to evacuate again, and even beautiful Dakar might cease to be a safe place to lay low.
This is a guest blog by Daniel Skallman.
*Pictures attribution respectively: Emilio Labrador, Alfred Weidinger