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Time to End Poverty
Alex Steffen, 22 Jan 05

The NYT comes out strongly in favor of the UN's Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals:

"It is so easy to sit back in the affluence of our comfortable lives, protected from scourges like malaria and extreme poverty and hunger, and nitpick to death the United Nations' landmark action plan to eradicate poverty and hunger and the plagues they spawn. Indeed, no sooner had the long-awaited report, bearing the stamp of the Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, hit the street this week than some economists took shots. "Utopian central planning by global bureaucrats," carped one.

"There is certainly much to debate about the details of Mr. Sachs's report, which calls for rich countries like the United States to drastically increase foreign aid to poor countries in an effort to halve poverty in its many forms - hunger, illiteracy, disease - by 2015. But this is not a time for armchair quarterbacking. The United Nations report is a bold initiative that refuses to accept hunger as the inevitable fate of so many Africans, Latin Americans and Asians. There will be and should be a debate about it as world leaders prepare to meet in September on the antipoverty goals, but it is vital that it not turn into another excuse for inaction.

"Mr. Sachs's report lays out, in real terms, the myriad ways to help poor people. The beauty of his ideas is in their simplicity: Provide mosquito nets for children who live in malaria-infested regions. Eliminate school and uniform fees to ensure that poor children don't stay home because they can't afford to go to school. Provide farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with soil nutrients to ensure healthier crops. Reform and enforce legislation guaranteeing women and girls property and inheritance rights."

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I hate how people will always go: "Well, if you can't make everything perfect, why even try?"

Yes, medical doctors can't heal everybody, so they should just stop trying.

Vegetarians can't stop all animal suffering, so they should just eat ~80 animals a year like most people.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 23 Jan 05

I agree that poverty can be solved but not by agencies like the UN which spends so much time covering up scandals. This is the same organization that sends assessment team after assessment team to look for hotels with good catering and whines about how organizations that are providing real aid like USAID are not coordinating with them (in their hotels I guess) while untold numbers are suffering. The world needs to send its aid dollars to actual charities and development organizations.

The world must also follow the lessons being learned during the reconstruction process of Afghanistan and Iraq. (Media outlets like the ever biased incompetent NYT, which are trying to make up for not asking any questions about WMD claims, are now blacklisting any news about about Iraq that doesn't involve "insurgents") The Americans and Iraqi transitional government agencies have found that, in order to avoid sabotage and terror, they can concentrate on smaller distributed programs over all sectors of society and bring more improvement than a series of big projects can. Also, spending a bit more time and money to train local contractors to do the job yields more of a payoff during development than getting the best quote from an outside firm that will disappear when the job is done. These lessons could have been learned by the world a hundred times over in the last 2 or 3 decades. WTF?

One other lesson to come out of the reconstruction effort in Iraq (the one that the media doesn't believe exists): While solders take pride in risking their lives for their country, this is nothing compared to the pride they feel when they are allowed and encouraged to help a society. Listen to members of the Army Core of Engineers when they complete a project that helps bring needed infrastructure to a poor village or formerly destitute neighborhood or listen to the stories of soldiers that write home to their communities to ask them to send school supplies, sports equipment or whatever is needed to help the people that they are living amongst. Listen to how they feel when they give up their free time and labor to help out and how the people respond to this.

Why don't some of the nations with big militaries who are not involved in war at the moment, offer to send some troupes to willing countries to train locals, deliver equipment, and build and install systems and infrastructure at small local scales, just as is being done in Iraq and Afghanistan? It would give some of these kids who signed up to serve their country a chance to serve the world at a visible personal level. I guarantee they would find it incredibly rewarding and they would excel if given the opportunity. They would have to report on their successes themselves because the media only report on blood and death stories but with the Internet available, all their friends and family could follow their progress and might be inspired to help the way they often have been with regards to Iraq. They would also learn what developing countries need and don't need while putting some of the world's defense expenditures to work in service of global security instead of global tension.

The insight that soldiers could make peace instead of war lead to the concept of international peace keepers. Couldn't militaries also construct instead of demolish around the world and not just play clean up after wars? Europe could offer to use its military personal and equipment on a vast number of small and medium size development projects in the countries that they are getting immigrants from. The immigrant communities could offer cultural advice and constructive insights on the projects and help the families of the soldiers understand the cultures where they are stationed in.

Just a thought. Or we could just return the funding to the UN so they could do with it whatever they did in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Whatever that was.

Posted by: Vernor on 23 Jan 05



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