UN Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

(Ancient Indian Proverb)

The UN target of ensuring environmental sustainability includes:  

– Integration of the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes, as well as reversement of the loss of environmental resources: 

=> Forests continue disappearing at an alarming rate

=> CO2 emissions have increased worldwide by more than 46 % since 1990

=> There has been a reduction of over 98 % in the consumption of ozone-depleting substances in the past three decades

– Reduction of biodiversity loss

=> An increase of 58 % in earth´s protected areas since 1990

=> In 2010, 12,7 % of the world´s land areas were protected, but only 1,6 % of ocean areas

– Halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation 

=> Target has been met five years ahead of schedule

=> More than 40 % of people without improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa

=> Still, 2.5 billion people in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities

– Achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

=> The target has been met, although the number of slum dwellers has grown

(UN MDG´s. Quoted 16.5.2014). 

Despite of continuous improvements in environmental sustainability, we are facing huge challenges that we are all responsible for, and that we need to respond to NOW: 

– According to forecasts, 2/3 of world population will live with water scarcity in 2025, 11 years from now. In 2025 world population will have grown to more than eight billion, meaning that more than five billion people will live with water scarcity. 

– Today, developed countries (20 % of all countries) use 80 % or more of all natural resources.

In Finland alone: if the total world population would consume as much as people in Finland, we would need three Earth´s instead of the ONE AND ONLY that we live in today. Despite of the excess usage of natural resources in Finland, there are other industrialized countries that are even worse in over-consumption. You can check the current situation in your country´s statistics for consumption, or visit WWF´s website for more information upon the topic.

YOU DON´T HAVE TO DECLARE YOURSELF GREEN TO ACT GREEN! PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT, FLORA AND FAUNA, IS SOMETHING WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR. 

NOT KNOWING OR NOT UNDERSTANDING ARE BAD EXCUSES. IF ONE DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE OR UNDERSTANDING, IT IS IN ONE´S RESPONSIBILITY TO EDUCATE ONESELF IN THESE MATTERS, AND TAKING ACTION!

UN Millennium Development Goal 5: Improvement of Maternal Health

Mother´s usually do a lot for their families, which is a very good reason to take care well of all mothers. 

“The goal of the UN is to decrease maternal mortality by 75 % by year 2015”. 

Facts about mothers worldwide: 

– Improvements in accessibility to maternal healthcare all over the world. 

– Healthcare and sufficient nutrition of significant value in preventing birth-related deaths. 

– Compared to mothers in Nordic countries, the risk of mothers dying during pregnancies and during childbirth is 500 times larger in development countries. 

– Every year almost 300.000 women die due to complications during pregnancies or when giving birth. 

– 99 % of all maternal deaths occur in development countries. 

– Despite of major improvements all over the world in the reduction of maternal mortality, there is still a lot to do before the goal has been reached. 

– In East Asia, North Africa and South Asia maternal mortality has decreased up to 2/3 in comparison to the situation in 1990. 

– In 2011, midwives/educated labor personnel was at hand only in 53 % of all child births in development countries. The percentage was 84 in urban areas. 

– Only half of all pregnant women in development countries have access to proper healthcare

(UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014).   

According to Save the Children´s “Surviving the first day – State of the World´s Mothers 2013” report, Finland is the best country in the world for mothers. Nice news for all mothers in Finland, especially with the upcoming Mother´s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday in May every year. Every child has the right to a mother, and every child needs a mother, is not that correct?

The same report indicates that the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa is the roughest state to be a mother. Save the Children´s report classifies 176 countries in terms of how these have succeeded and failed in supporting mothers. The index estimates mother´s welfare using measures such as a girl´s or woman´s risk of dying during pregnancy or during labor, children under the age of five mortality rates, the educational levels of children, national income levels, and the political status of women. Link to Save the Children´s “Surviving the first day – State of the World´s Mothers 2013” report: 

http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.9126825/k.3E86/Download_the_2014_SOWM_Report.htm

According to Save the Children, the high number of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa can be explained through the fact that mothers are often very young, and their bodies are not yet ready to give birth to children. Other reasons include the low amount of contraception, insufficient healthcare during childbirth and a huge lack of healthcare employees. (Save the Children Finland. Quoted 9.5.2014). 

With these words I want to wish my mother, and all other mothers, a happy Mother´s Day on Sunday, May 11th 2014. You rock.
 

UN Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduction of Child Mortality

UN Millennium Declaration:

“By the year 2015, we will have reduced under-five child mortality by two-thirds”.

Facts:

– Child mortality is decreasing

– Still, more than 20.000 children under the age of five die every day 

– Common causes for death: pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria

– Child mortality is high in 67 countries, of which only 10 can, with the current pace of change, achieve the goal set for 2015. 

– Child mortality is at its highest in sub-Saharan Africa. 

What affects child mortality: 

– Sufficient and healthy nutrition

– Access to clean water

– Hygiene

– Vaccinations and access to healthcare

– Lack of education for girls and women

(UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014). 

In Finland, child mortality today is one of the lowest in the world, thanks to national vaccination (campaigns). In the beginning of the 20th century, every second child born in Helsinki died before the age of five. In the late 1930´s almost every 10th born child in Finland died under the age of one. 40 % of these children died of birth-related injuries, development misplacements or innate weakness. Today, in Finland, only a few per mille children under the age of one die, most commonly due to inborn deformities. (UNA of Finland. 2014; Statistics Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

UNICEF, United Nations Children´s Fund, is the world´s most influential organization supporting children (under the age of 18) in need. Founded in 1946, after the 2nd world war, UNICEF focuses on helping children. A year after its foundation, the organization launched its first vaccination campaign. At that time, Finland was among the countries receiving aid from the UNICEF. In the year of the Helsinki Olympics, 1952, UNICEF began its battle against malaria, and in 1965 UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. In 1988, UNICEF is working on launching a worldwide society working on abolishing polio. Once again, in 1998, UNICEF rises up to continue the battle against malaria. In 2006, UNICEF is one of the most important emergency aid givers, despite of the fact that still 80 % of the fund´s budget can be used to long-term development work.

(UNICEF Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

To fully understand the universal rights of children (everyone under the age of 18), please visit:

UNITED NATIONS Human Rights => Convention on the Rights of the Child

Since we cannot assume that children under the age of 18 are (fully) aware of their rights as children, especially if living in conditions where they may not even have access to education, it is necessary for adults to protect the rights of children.

The world has long ago made a promise to do everything to protect and to promote the rights of children, their survival, learning and growth, and listening to children. Despite of much progress made, there are still problems all over the world concerning the rights of children, and in some regions the situation may even have gotten worse. 2014 has been declared as a year of innovation at UNICEF, whereby the fund activates change-makers everywhere to rethink and drive improved results. (UNICEF. Quoted 8.5.2014).

In addition to the many local offices of UNICEF around the world, there are other independent organizations working to improve the life of children worldwide. These include Plan, World Vision, Save the Children and many others.

 

UN Millennium Development Goals: III. Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women

The third UN MDG (Millennium Development Goal) is concerned with promoting gender equality and empowering women. As sad as it sounds, on both global and national levels, we are far from having reached this goal. On the current agenda, however, the empowerment of women around the world is in a key position.

The goal, in general, means:

-Improving girl ́s participation in education around the world

-Increasing the amount of women in work life

-Increasing the amount of women in parliaments

Currently, two-thirds of all illiterates globally are girls or women. Child mortality numbers are highest in countries where girl ́s educational levels are at their lowest.

  • The human rights declaration guarantees equal rights for both women and men.
  • Gender differences in primary schooling have narrowed down, however, gender equality at all educational levels worldwide has still not been reached.
  • Women account, on a global level, for about 40 % of all workforce involved in other than agricultural work.
  • The major part of unpaid household work, worldwide (even in developed countries), is taken care of by women.
  • 70 % of all poor worldwide are women.
  • Only 1 % of all wealth worldwide is currently in the hands of women.
  • Under 20 % of all leading positions worldwide are held by women.
  • The number of women in parliament is about 20 % worldwide => large regional differences.
  • At whole, the situation is at its worst in Southern and Western Asia and in Africa.

(Source: UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014).

In order to accelerate the promotion of gender equality worldwide and the empowerment of women everywhere, the UN General Assembly created UN Women in 2010. UN Women comprises:

– Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)

– International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)

– Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)

– United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

and its main roles are:

– Supporting inter-governmental bodies

– Helping member states in the implementation of these standards

– Holding the UN system accountable for its own commitments

Despite of the hard work and the progress in improving the lives of women worldwide, there is still a huge amount of work ahead in helping women all over the world e.g. in getting access to decent work and in abolishing violence and discrimination.

(UN Women. Quoted 7.5.2014).

According to Helsingin Sanomat (25.10.2013) and the World Economic Forum (Quoted 7.5.2014), the world’s most equal countries (top 10) are currently:

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Philippines
  6. Ireland
  7. New Zealand
  8. Denmark
  9. Switzerland
  10. Nicaragua

(World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report 2013. Quoted 7.5.2014).

According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2013, progress in gender equality has been made in 80 % of the 136 countries researched. The top most equal countries are, however, still 20 % behind from full gender equality. Indicators include: participation in politics, economic equality, rights to participate in education and access to healthcare. Progress in equality was not made in the Middle-East and North Africa: especially in Yemen the situation for women, according to the WEF, is bad. (Helsingin Sanomat 25.10.2013. Quoted 7.5.2014).

Global Finland, the platform for development communication of the Foreign Ministry of Finland, indicates that development does not take place without gender equality. Women are needed throughout societies in order to operate with full efficiency. Educating and employing women enhances the welfare of families and accelerate the growth of prosperous societies. Scary enough, more women between the ages 15-44 get killed and become disabled by violence than by cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and wars together. 80 % of all human trafficking victims are women, and they usually end up becoming sex slaves or prostitutes. (Global Finland. Quoted 7.5.2014).

There are enormous problems, sometimes deeply rooted in cultural behavior, that still need to be solved before the world is fully equal for both sexes. Luckily, the UN, many other organizations and people work hard to enhance gender equality.

  • Can you think of ways to improve conditions on a regional and national level?
  • What actions can you take to make sure that this basic human right of gender equality is fulfilled?

WHEN EACH ONE OF US (BOTH MEN AND WOMEN) COMMITS TO TAKING THE NECESSARY ACTIONS TOWARDS REACHING GENDER EQUALITY, WE WILL REACH THE GOAL. 

 

UN Millenium Development Goals 2000: II. Achievement of Universal Primary Education

“We will ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.” (UN Millennium Declaration)

One third of the total world population are children. In 2010, 90 % of all children in development countries were attending primary school. In 2011, the amount of children of primary school age out of school had dropped to 57 million from 102 million. Thus, the number of children not attending primary school is still high.

Gender gaps are narrowing, however, girls still drop out of school on the average after four years, for different reasons. More than half of all children out of school live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the number of illiterate young people between the age 15-24 is 123 million (61 % are girls). More than 250 million children between 4-15 years of age are forced to work. 50 % of these children work full-time. (UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014; United Nations Millennium Development Goals. UN. Quoted 29.4.2014).

Despite of the huge improvements in this target, the goal cannot be reached by 2015 with the current pace of change.

One of the main challenges in many less developed countries is the lack of professional teachers, educational facilities, and equipment. According to UNESCO´s research, the shortage of teachers is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain Arab States.

The shortage of primary teachers is reality everywhere on our globe, but critical only in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1/3 of all countries suffer from teacher shortages. (UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2011; UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Global Teacher Shortage. Quoted 29.4.2014.)

There are several reasons behind high poverty levels in Africa, including the cost of schooling, non-affordable for poor families, who also look at the lost value of their child´s work at home. Most often girls are the one´s who need to stay at home.

In order to understand the amount of work needed to develop the economies in sub-Saharan Africa:

50 % of Africa is rural with no access to electricity. The continent currently generates less than 0.6 % of global market share. Hence, many countries are affected by power shortages. At the time being, some Asian countries are actively driving power projects across the African continent. E.g. China is training tens of thousands of technicians in the use of solar energy, which is part of the China-Africa science and technology cooperation agreement (2003). Funded by the AfDB and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund, NEPAD is developing an integrated, continent-wide energy strategy, with a focus on:

– Sustainability

– Involvement of cross-border dimension and/or regional impact

– Involvement of both public and private capital

– Contribution to poverty alleviation and economic development

– Involvement of at least one country in sub-Saharan Africa

The lack of infrastructure in developing countries is one of the most significant reasons slowing down economic growth and achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, infrastructure investments contributed to more than half of Africa´s improved growth performance between the years 1990 and 2005. Hence, increased investment is essential to economic growth and in tackling poverty. The ROI in infrastructure can be significant. (Wikipedia. Sub-Saharan Africa. Quoted 29.4.2014).

Other factors slowing down economic development include malaria and other major diseases. As an example, the influence of malaria alone on economic growth has been estimated to be at around 1.3 % on a yearly average, caused by illness including costs of treatment and prevention measures. According to statistical research undertaken by the World Bank, GDP in sub-Sahara would have been 32 % higher in 2003 compared to the situation in 1960, had malaria been eradicated.

Sub-Saharan African countries are also home to the highest fertility rates worldwide, with a current growth rate of 2.3 %, predicted by the UN to rise up to 1.5 billion in 2050. More than 40 % of total population is under the age of 15 (except South Africa), and the region has serious overpopulation problems. Child mortality, mainly due to malaria infection, is common: 15 % of all children die before the age of five (situation in 2007).

40 % of African scientists live in OECD countries, mainly in Europe, the USA and Canada. Despite of the so-called African “brain drain”, enrolments in sub-Saharan African universities tripled between 1991 and 2005, with an annual expansion rate of 8.7 %, being one of the highest in the world. Sub-Saharan Africans are commonly the most educated immigrant group in many OECD countries. The expenditure on science and technology in sub-Saharan African countries accounted for an average of 0.3 % of their GDP in 2007, an increase of 50 % compared to the situation in 2002.

In short, following problems need to be tackled in order to improve general conditions for primary education in sub-Saharan Africa:

– Major improvements in infrastructure

– Eradication/minimization of major diseases and thus reducing child mortality

– Building capacity for (primary school) teaching (educating/finding enough teachers)

– Minimizing price of education (free of charge?)

In a developmental process, local conditions must be taken into consideration, and the usage of local resources should be maximized. Bench-marking from countries with successful educational models is a way of improving local conditions.

Finland created and built a strong, productive educational system in only a few decades. Climbing rapidly to the top of international rankings, such as PISA (Program for International Student Assessments), Finland is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of education. The current education system in Finland is modern, publicly financed, accessible and free of charge (including free school meals!) to all national children/students.

In Finland, more than 99 % of students complete compulsory basic education, and an average of 90 % finish upper secondary school. 2/3 of graduates enroll in universities or polytechnics. 98 % of educational costs at all levels is covered by government (tax payments). The success of the Finnish educational system is a result of reforms undertaken in the 1980s. Investments in teacher education have been intense: teachers are highly educated and trained.

The core principles of the Finnish educational system include:

– Resources for all, and those who need them most

– High standards and supports for specific needs

– Highly qualified teachers

– Evaluation of education

– Balancing decentralization and centralization

(Laukkanen. 2008, p. 319)

In the past decades, Finland has moved into a more localized system with lean national standards. Implementation takes place through equitable funding and extensive preparation for all teachers. The development has been grounded on equal opportunities for all, equitable distribution of resources, early interventions, and building trust.

Finnish schools are generally small in size (including class sizes), and well equipped. School meals are free of charge, as well as free health care, transportation, learning materials, and counseling.

The main purpose of assessing students, according to the Finnish National Board of Education, is to

guide and encourage students’ own reflection and self-assessment. Inquiry is a major focus of learning in Finland. Active learning skills are cultivated through posing open-ended questions and helping students in addressing them.

(Finnish National Board of Education. Quoted 5.5.2014).

 

UN Millennium Development Goals 2000: I. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty

Previously I wrote general facts about the UN as the world ́s most important co-operational organization. Now, and in my upcoming posts, I will focus on the current main strategic goals of the UN.

The first UN Millennium Development Goal is the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty. The UN, in cooperation with nations worldwide, has already managed to reach this goal.

However, the work against hunger and poverty still continues:

– In the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in decreasing poverty, especially in East Asia.

– Still, about 1,4 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty => with under 1 € (1,25 USD) per day. Some 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Every day.

– Most of the people living in hunger and poverty are children and youth.

– 70 % of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

– Global food prices doubled in 2006-2008. Although prices have gone down afterwards, they are still on a higher level than before the food crisis. High food prices exacerbates the situation of the poor.

– Decreasing/removing poverty obliges wealthy and growing/emerging economies to act more selflessly, e.g. through equalizing the rules of world trade. Developing countries, on the other hand, have to commit to good governance, the eradication of corruption, and respecting human rights.

(Source: UNA of Finland booklet. 2011).

Furthermore, the differences between different countries, regions, rural and urban areas vary largely. Still, every fifth person worldwide suffers from extreme poverty, and each 3,5 seconds one person dies from hunger. Imagine that. Sad numbers, despite the progress that has been made: worldwide, 700 million people less live in extreme poverty, in comparison with the situation in 1990. In numbers, the amount of people living in extreme poverty went down from 2 billion to 1,4 billion between 1990-2008. And the percentage of the poor decreased from 47 % to 24 % during the same period of time.

Still, every 8th person on our planet goes to bed hungry. The number of undernourished worldwide is about 842 million people. Every 6th child worldwide is undernourished, of whom every 4th suffer from severe health and mental developmental disorders. (UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014).

How can individuals and states be helpful in removing worldwide hunger and poverty? Very often us who do not face these problems directly in our daily lives forget about, or at least neglect, these severe problems that more than a billion people worldwide have to face in their daily lives. Many of whom are children. Do we have tunnel vision? Are we blind to face reality?

I remember a hot Summer evening, walking back to my accommodation in the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. A small local boy ran after me, begging for money, claiming that he needed one dollar so that he could buy milk for his little sister. He continued following me, reaching out his hand so that I would give him the money he asked for.

Actually, most part of the journey was the same. Everywhere I went, people were begging for money. I didn’t count, but afterwards I thought I should have calculated how many beggars went by during my stay in Cambodia. Some I gave money, but had I given every beggar what they asked for, I would have run out of money in no time. Realizing that, and seeing the behavior of other tourists, I sometimes felt heartless. I was not able to help them all, at least not in the way they wanted me to.

Yet, in some way I helped. I traveled all the way to their country, supporting the growing tourism industry of Cambodia. And now I am sharing some of my experiences through writing, which I hope will influence at least some people.

The beggars and the poor in different countries and regions are not begging for fun. They need help, and support. If they had other means, and knew better ways of improving their lives, they would act differently. But like in Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, and hierarchy of needs, we all need to be able to fulfill our very basic needs first: to get enough water and food to survive. As long as this need is neglected, an individual will use whatever possibilities he or she knows to satisfy the very basic needs of life, clean water and enough nourishing food, in order to survive.

Us who have never experienced the lack of clean water or food can not really understand those who suffer every day. If we claimed to really understand what it feels like to be hungry every day, and not having enough to eat, we’d be lying.

So, how can each one of us help in eradicating poverty?

According to macroeconomics, the best way to eradicate poverty is to create employment. Poverty alleviation through sustainable strategic business models, with an emphasis on the word sustainable, is certainly one way of helping the poor. Giving people the opportunity to work themselves out of poverty, with a fair pay. I ́m not going to get into depth with this issue in this post, but we all know that sustainable and ethical business takes care of labor rights, and does not employ children.

There are many other ways of helping the poor: supporting reliable organizations that employ professional staff involved in different kinds of projects aimed at removing poverty and improving the lives of the poor(est).

Micro-lending, direct support, and money sent home by family members working in other countries are also ways of helping. Adopting a child from a poor country (can be a long and difficult process).

There are many ways to help, and help is always possible. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Can you come up with others than those already mentioned in this post?

“It’s impossible, said pride.

It’s risky, said experience.

It’s pointless, said reason.

Give it a try, whispered the heart”.