This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, September 10, 2010

UN Seeks to End Poverty by 2015

The United Nations has organized a summit of world leaders later this month to address progress on the Millennium Development Goals. The website created for the summit even has the audacity to suggest that "We Can End Poverty in 2015." I am certain that everyone wishes that were possible, but there is nothing in the draft report prepared for the summit that would lead you to believe so, as Oxfam has already pointed out. For example, Paragraph 4 states that:

Our challenge today is to agree on an action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. With five years to go to the target date of 2015, the prospect of falling short of achieving the Goals because of a lack of commitment is very real. This would be an unacceptable failure from both the moral and the practical standpoint. If we fail, the dangers in the world — instability, violence, epidemic diseases, environmental degradation, runaway population growth — will all be multiplied.
And Paragraph 81 points out that:

Cities in developing countries around the world are home to rising numbers of poor people and do not have the capacity to create jobs to sustainably absorb the population influx and achieve the necessary progress needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. In the face of rapid urbanization, these challenges will only become more acute unless adequate corrective actions are taken. These measures should include sound urban planning, which is essential for the sustainable growth of urban centres.

In between those paragraphs are many others detailing the genuinely sad state of affairs in many parts of the world. I agree that it is important to reassert the importance of these goals in the midst of the worldwide recession, but I'm not so sure that overhyping the expectations is the way to do it.

3 comments:

  1. I think it's great that there is an effort to end poverty in 2015! Goals are great to have to motivate people to work for a cause, but they must be attainable. I read Jeffery Sachs' End of Poverty and he seems to suggest that there is enough wealth in the world to do it, it is just a matter of the wealthy nations caring enough to invest in developing or underdeveloped nations. It is hard for me to see this occurring because we do not have the motivation to change our consumption or divert our investments to help others in places we have no connection to.

    At least in the U.S., we are taught to consume. It's good for the economy, and you aren't that important if you don't have that new car or the new Iphone or Droid. The focus is consuming for ourselves, not on improving life for the common good. We could barely get health care reform passed, and when it was, it was not in its most progressive form that would have provided a public option. Does one really think that people in the world's wealthiest nation who cannot work together for something as simple as widening access to health care, will work to eliminate poverty on a global scale. To improve someone's life on the other side of the world? Especially when we are having difficulty recovering our own economy.
    As far as development in creating jobs abroad, the U.S. had a hard time adhering to the KYOTO protocol even though I am quite sure we could have easily done it. Building factories for cheap labor in India is one thing, doing it in an environmentally or socially sustainable manner is quite another.
    It will take a major change in attitude, and usually changing thought of the masses takes more than 5 years. Or perhaps we need another catastrophe to motivate change.

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  2. I dont believe its impossible. The capabilities of man are limitless. It simply comes down to whether people want it to happen or not. And the problem is not the masses. If you asked the billions of people throughout the world living in poverty if they'd like it to end and had the will to work toward change, they'd jump aboard in a heartbeat. If you asked the select few in control of most of the worlds wealth the same questions, you'd see a much weaker sense of urgency. And that is really the only hold up. Money is power in the system we've designed, and people's lives revolve around it. The greedy people of the world unfortunately come to power in capitalistic society, and regardless of what the masses really want, these people will invest their money and power in the most efficient way possible to keep the masses fooled into thinking that they are getting what they want, all while keeping things as close to the same as possible. This results in no real effort for change. The problem is rooted in the capitalistic system, and untill we modify and regulate that, any form of change unbeneficial to the wealthy will always be slow to develope.

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  3. Although the intentions of this goal are admirable, a goal without concrete and specific plans is difficult to put into action. Making this claim, that we will end poverty in 2015, certainly grabs people’s attention; however, it does not hold their attention. Without offering ways that people could help solve this crisis, people’s interest wanes, and this goal will fall short. With only 5 years left to reach this goal, speculation and broad outlines of a plan are not very helpful or practical. I think that, because many people want to help this cause, a specific program in which people could donate their time or money should be set up to help create jobs in poverty-ridden areas. Although it is true that a few people with the most money do control what happens, if enough people speak up about this and show their true desire to help with this cause, anything is possible. Compassion and a sincere willingness to help will outweigh the few in power if enough people illustrate their desire for change.

    -Brielle Martell

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