TCS Daily


Decade Development Goals

By John Gardner - October 26, 2005 12:00 AM

The recent UN summit and associated meetings in New York gave rise to much discussion of the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are extremely ambitious and worthy objectives. Being "against" them has the flavor of being "against" motherhood and children. However, the MDGs rely too much on raising the level of "official" development contributions from Western government donors -- something which is probably unrealistic when both the US and EU face severe budgetary pressures and extra resources for the developing world are focused on responses to major disasters such as the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Stan, and the Pakistan earthquake.

This is a list of goals that really can be accomplished by the time of the 70th anniversary of the UN in 2015. It's my list and is necessarily subjective; others can propose other equally worthy projects. Like the MDGs, there are eight. Unlike the MDGs, these are achievable, with some political will in the developing world.

1. End international human trafficking.

Yes, this is doable. What President Bush refers to as this "modern form of slavery" can be beaten. Oh, but you will never end prostitution, say the nay-sayers; it's not called the "world's oldest profession" for nothing. Perhaps, but we can end or sharply reduce the international part of it -- Nepalis in Bombay, Burmese in Thailand, Russians in Western Europe. Traffickers and dishonest customs agents can be prosecuted, and we can encourage governments to follow through on their commitments to prosecute traffickers -- though it may take the courage to actually impose sanctions on some countries that are protecting the traffickers. And support for the victims of trafficking, through rural development, microfinance programs, mental health assistance, and the like needs to be encouraged. One remarkable organization working in this area from a Christian perspective is the International Justice Mission.

2. Reduce malaria deaths by 75%.

Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute has written eloquently about the scandalous refusal of Western donors to use DDT for Indoor Residual Spraying to kill malarial mosquitoes and save lives. Malaria kills more than a million people per year, mostly in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, an African child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. DDT can be sprayed in far smaller quantities now than when it was used to eradicate malaria from the American South. Bednets clearly have their place, but the policy choice here is obvious. South Africa and Zambia have taken a few courageous steps in this direction, and their efforts should be rewarded. The official goal of the Roll Back Malaria partnership is to "halve the malaria burden" by 2010, whatever that means. We can do better by adding DDT as a tool. A signal from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that grant applications may consider use of funding for DDT in Round 6 grants would change the global perspective on this dramatically.

3. Raise literacy rates to 75%.

This is almost the same as a Millennium Development Goal; MDG 2 is to "Achieve universal primary education." Getting this done will be hard. Not only will it take a revolution in cultural assumptions, especially in countries where girls do not routinely attend or finish school, but countries will have to find qualified teachers and build simple schools where none exist, equipping them with rudimentary supplies and textbooks. My goal, however, also focuses on adult literacy -- a very different challenge, with about 900 million illiterate adults in the developing world. The private sector has a strong role to play here if governments will let it -- after all, the private sector has a strong interest in an educated work force. There are efforts in this direction, such as Chevron's work with USAID in Angola; more needs to be done. Especially in Africa, AIDS is taking a toll among young professionals such as teachers.

Here's an idea: if a U.S. college graduate teaches children for two years in the developing world, will States agree to waive the normal teaching preparation courses and permit that person to enter into teaching once he or she returns home to the U.S.?

4. End famines.

The horrible examples of man-made famine in Zimbabwe, a former breadbasket of southern Africa, and in North Korea, which declines to accept food aid when it is subject to stringent monitoring rules to prevent diversion of food to the military, shows that famine and extreme hunger are not dependent on the weather and poor crops. If the UN Security Council exists for anything, surely mobilizing the force of international opinion against countries that refuse to feed all of their people, shifting resources to the government-favored few, should be top of its agenda.

The Famine Early Warning System is a useful tool for policymakers around the world. To get food to hungry children more quickly and build markets in the developing world, let's buy some food aid abroad and repeal the absurd and outdated cargo preference regulations that force most U.S. food aid -- which really means most world food aid -- to be carried in U.S. ships.

And a focus on sustainable agriculture and well-working food markets can help countries like Ethiopia avoid the cycle of famine followed by relief. Similarly, the EU needs to abandon its rules opposing biotech foods. Maize that's designed to grow in parched climates in Africa poses no threat to European consumers but does discourage countries like Zambia that want to access European agricultural markets from planting these innovative crops. Even the UN gets the policy right on this one. The solution here is disclosure, not a ban.

5. Free up farm trade. Let's be honest: it's far more likely than not that in 2015 agriculture will still be subsidized to some degree. But the world can still make giant strides towards freer trade in agriculture, leading to cheaper food and increased caloric intake in both the developing and developed world and more rational planting of crops. Unsurprisingly, for instance, cotton is more cheaply made in West Africa than in parts of the American South. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman's recent offer to cut "trade-distorting" farm subsidies is a great beginning. Now, it's time for the European Union and the major developing countries to respond in a significant way, by offering to cut subsidies and by reducing tariffs on agricultural products in time for a successful World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong in December.

6. Religious freedom.

This is one that should be easy with a little political will. Fortunately, so many developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia already have extremely high levels of religious freedom. Even China may be taking a few tentative steps in this direction. Success in the north-south peace agreement in Sudan would be a positive force for change on this issue. A focus by the international community, especially the US and EU, on this issue on the recalcitrants will have a positive effect on the lives of millions of people. And faith-based organizations of all faiths have a significant role to play in development and relief.

7. Internet freedom. We can even start by positing that many governments in the developing world (and the developed world) will want to have policies to block or discourage sites involving pornography, gambling, and possibly hate speech and also address piracy of intellectual property. But if we believe that free access to information is a force for good and contributes to both social and personal development and leads to richer lives for people, then we will need to promote Internet freedom across the globe.

We can measure the level of Internet freedom by considering freedom of access to international news sites; the freedom to set up and visit sites in a country focusing on that country's politics and social conditions; freedom of access to international sites about religion, entertainment, and commerce; and taxation policies that are not designed to restrict access to the Internet for both content providers and consumers. And the Internet should remain under private, not UN, control. The Internet was a tremendous gift from U.S. taxpayers to the world; let's keep it that way.

8. Raise financing for development to 1% of GNP among OECD countries.

At first glance, this is more ambitious than even the MDGs, which are predicated upon (but technically do not require) the target of 0.7% of Gross National Income being devoted to official development assistance adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970. But there's a catch. The UN figure is based on "Official Development Assistance" -- money given by rich country governments as part of development plans to foreign governments, international organizations (well, some of them), and civil society groups. That's right, the check you wrote to the Red Cross after the tsunami doesn't count. To get a truer measure of the developed world's engagement with the developing world, we need to change the yardstick to include both private contributions and remittances. The response to the tsunami showed the generosity of the American people. Let's have other governments encourage private donations as well -- and then compare to see whether private or government donations have a sharper rise. And a new measure for development assistance will include private capital flows, notably foreign direct investment (FDI). As developing countries change their policies and practices to encourage economic freedom and reduce corruption, FDI flows will increase, and financing for development will soar.

If these eight goals can be achieved, the world will be a better place, and millions of people will lead happier lives, no matter what happens or doesn't happen at international conferences. The world really would have something to celebrate in 2015.

John S. Gardner was General Counsel of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2001 to 2005. He also served as a Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush.

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