In the year 2000, the United Nations set eight goals to reduce by half the number of people living in dire poverty worldwide. The achievements and failures in the past ten years were reviewed a few weeks ago by world leaders meeting in The UN headquarters in New York.
The setting of the goals were welcomed by development workers and all people working to reduce world hunger and poverty as a great step forward when the governments of the developed and rich nations in the 1990’s had forgotten the billion people that were starving and two billion barely surviving on two dollars a day. That was a time when globalization spread and too many people believed the dictum: “to get rich is glorious” and “greed is good”, “love yourself and forget the rest”.
They forgot the most important values of all – equality, justice and freedom from hunger and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, “love your neighbor as yourself” and “act towards others as you would want them to behave towards you”. Well, that forgetfulness and the pursuit of selfishness have led the world to the brink of economic disaster. World hunger, child mortality, HIV-AIDS were spreading and something had to be done. The millennium goals were the outcome of vigorous lobbying and social action by people of conscience concerned about world poverty, hunger, and illiteracy.
While there have been spectacular achievements in several developing countries such as Ghana, where hunger has been cut by 75% and child malnutrition has been halved, likewise in Ethiopia where famines were regular devastating catastrophes, the reports show only 40% of the people go hungry from a high of 71% in 1990.The Philippines has made little progress in meeting the goals and government statistics are questioned as to veracity.
In Vietnam, there have been spectacular changes as the poverty rate dropped hugely and child mortality and malnutrition is down. Millions more children in Africa are going to school now and child mortality has dropped significantly. The availability of clean water has jumped also and the goal set to halve the number of people without water will be met. Many more achievements can be found in the reports submitted to the UN.
While the dreams of many are being met basic and simple needs as they are, they are basic human rights anyway; but it’s too early to dance for joy. The hopes and dreams of billions are still waiting to be realized. They just await the chance and opportunity to get out of poverty by getting a job and being paid a living-wage for working hard for 12 hours a day at backbreaking labor for example.
True development will come when the internal inequality and exploitation, corruption and bad government within the developing countries themselves are greatly reduced. These terrible social inequalities, the poverty of the urban poor, the indigenous people and the social evils that exploit the poor have to be seriously addressed. Criminal activities like trafficking of persons is largely ignored in several developing countries or even aided and abetted by corrupt police or government officials. Corruption and bloated government payrolls of ineffective employees doing nothing all day besides looking in desktop mirrors or wall mounted televisions set are setting back progress and causing untold suffering and harm, especially to children.
The dream of 13 year-old Maria, who was taken from her poverty-stricken rural village, sold to brothel in Manila and raped and made pregnant by a sex tourist, was that her baby, John Paul, who was saved from forced abortion, would have a happier childhood than she had.
When rescued by Preda social workers and now safe, she told the therapist, “My hope is for John Paul, my baby, I hope that life will be happier and more beautiful for him and he would not be poor like me.”
Maria speaks for almost an estimated million children in Asia that are sexually- abused and government lets it happen. The real goals of the millennium such as social justice and 50% reduction in poverty will not be achieved when there is government inaction, corruption & incompetence prevails. In the Philippines, there is great hope that the new administration of President Aquino will turn this around. All people of good will need to act in a just and right way to end corruption and see justice done especially for abused children.