The Millennium Development Goals: Real Family Values

Presentation by Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute,
delivered at the Millennium Development Goals Awards Ceremony

General Assembly, United Nations
March 17, 2009

The human family is one.

Like any family it needs a home, a place to come together.

The UN aspires to be that home.

That is why it is such an honor to be at the General Assembly tonight. Here one can say we and really mean everyone – everyone, all of us, without boundaries of race, religion, nation, or gender.

This is a place for real family values and policies that serve this one varied, fascinating and funny human family.

In our family tonight there are mothers who must choose which of their children will have enough calories to be alive tomorrow and which might not. Our aunts, our sisters, our mothers should not be in this plight.

We hear so much about Wall Street’s needs and the crisis on Main Street. But for nearly half the human family, their crisis relates to no street. For them, crushing poverty is a dead end.

Saadi, the Persian poet of the 13th Century sang:

The human family is one body with many parts
Creations arising from one unseen essence
Any harm to any part summons an awakening
A dis-ease and a healing response from all parts
Without feeling the suffering of others how can we call ourselves truly human?

Mahatma Gandhi said that to make good political policies one need only place before oneself the image of the poorest person and decide whether the policy will or will not help that person. Jesus said that what we do to the hungry and the least amongst us we do to him.

If we do not respond to the fact that nearly a third of humanity is without safe clean water, that half of our family is living on less than $2 per day, that thousands of children die each day from preventable diseases and starvation, and that the failure to protect the environment hits these innocent victims the hardest we are contributing to a gross injustice of enormous proportions. From such injustice only the whirlwind of chaos will be reaped.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) do address this crisis in our humanity. They are a landmark of compassion and justice in action. For the first time in human history all the nations of the world have committed to a set of interconnected goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.
    • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.
    • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
  2. Achieve universal primary education
    • Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
    • Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.
  4. Reduce child mortality
    • Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.
  5. Improve maternal health
    • Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
    • Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
    • Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
    • Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.
    • Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
    • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources.
    • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
    • Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
    • By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers.
  8. Develop a global partnership for development
    • Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally.
    • Address the special needs of the least developed countries. This includes tariff and quota free access for their exports; enhanced program of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction.
    • Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States.
    • Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.
    • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
    • In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

Fulfilling these commitments is far less expensive than war. The funds are there to accomplish this. It is for us to generate the political will. Each year about $1.3 Trillion dollars goes into military coffers. The best estimates are that a ten year commitment of around $76 billion per year, less than 7% of military expenditures, would lead to the MDG’s fulfillment.

If the method of war and militarism led to real human security I would say, terrific, spend away, but it does not. In fact, with respect to one weapons system, the more it is perfected the less security is obtained. That is why I believe in the abolition of nuclear weapons.

But there is another reason. Bridges of cooperation are needed to conquer poverty, protect the oceans, the climate and the rains forests. To address AIDS and other virus that do not carry passports, we need unity of purpose and practice. In the same way as apartheid in South Africa was a wall to human unity that Reverend Tutu helped tear down, in the same way as the Berlin Wall was a wall that divided the world, nuclear apartheid is a wall and its time to come down is now.

Whether the wall is racism, nuclear apartheid, or poverty, it is time we came together. It is time we separated from ourselves that which separates us from one another.

The MDGs are more than just the pursuit of human security. They help tell us who we are.

Our grand parents did not have two icons we take for granted. One, the mushroom cloud tells us about the abuse of science and technology and the end result of human arrogance, death to all we hold dear. The other, the image of planet earth from outer space reminds us of how wondrous, majestic, precious and miraculous every life actually is. It sits in infinite space, a home where we can learn the secret of life, to love and care for one another.

The Millennium Development Goals show us a way to express and learn that secret. Let us be the one’s who stand up and honor the family that lives in our one home, planet earth.

Thank you for your commitments. Thank you

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