Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Man-on-the-Street View on the Progress of the MDGs

Yesterday, I missed out on TEDxAccra, one of the TEDxChange events being organised worldwide to mark the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I followed TEDxAccra through tweets from Oluniyi, Daisy, MacJordan and a few other people who were present at the event. While waiting for reviews from the event's attendees, I'd like to share my man-on-the-street views on the MDGs.

So what are the Millennium Development Goals?
The MDGs are eight broad goals, to be reached by 2015, set by the United Nations (UN), to address the issues of poverty, illiteracy, poor quality of health, gender inequality and environmental degradation a global scale. Each goal has set targets as well as indicators for measuring progress. Former UN Chief Mr Kofi Annan, writing in yesterday's issue of Ghana's most popular newspaper, The Daily Graphic, sums up the importance of these eight goals thus:
There is no doubt that the eight Millennium Development Goals and their framework of accountability have served the world well. They have not only provided a much-needed sense of direction to national plans and international cooperation-they have also delivered measurable results. we have seen primary school enrollment rates double in Ethiopia and Tanzania and countries like Malawi and Algeria transform themselves from food importers to food exporters.
Have they really impacted significantly on the man on the street?
Let's go through the goals one-by-one to find out:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
The working definition of poor is living on less than a dollar a day, making this goal seem trivial. But that is not the case. Wars in areas such as Darfur, Sudan, Somalia and other parts of Africa have ensured that no real progress has been made in the area of poverty reduction. Even in countries such as Ghana, where statistics have been showcased to indicate phenomenal success in poverty reduction, massive graduate unemployment abounds. How can there be development when those who are supposed to develop into leadership positions are themselves wallowing in the quagmire of unemployment and hence poverty.

2. Achieve universal primary education
As indicated by Mr Annan's submission primary education is now more widely available to more children than before. In Ghana, introduction of programmes such as Capitation Grant, School Feeding, distribution of free school uniforms and books, among others, has incentivised many children to come knocking on school doors. But is high school attendance at the basic level the only answer to combating the looming threat of illiteracy? What consideration is being given to the quality of teaching in schools? Specifically, what is being done about primary 6 pupils who are unable to make simple sentences in the English Language or are learning ICT without access to even the most basic devices? Is only primary education enough for the youth of developing countries?

3. Promote gender equality and empower women
Female enrollment in educational institutions has been increasing steadily, with women enjoying preference over men, in what is called "affirmative action", for admissions to higher educational institutions. In this way, women are now better equipped for good-paying jobs that will enable them to contribute greatly to their family's upkeep. However, in Ghana and many developing nations, women are still largely at the backstage when it comes to political leadership, although the mass media has been vociferous about the merits of electing female leaders. There's also not much to be said for violence against women as this unfortunate incidence keeps rearing its ugly head in our country's families.

To Be Continued...

What do you know about the MDGs? Do you think some progress has been made with respect to their implementation? What should be done in order to speed up their implementation? Should they be scrapped completely? Speak your mind!

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