There is much that could be discussed about the UN’s Summit this week in New York to review the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In my post Tuesday, I (briefly) outlined what the MDGs are, where we stand on the long road to achieving them, and articulated a final, and perhaps the most important point: that these overwhelming numbers represent real human faces. It’s often easy to forget, even for me.
Today, though, I am pulled in many directions on how to report on the MDG Summit. The numbers paint a picture of our progress while world leaders and journalists alike acknowledge we can and we must do better, in particular for the maternal health target. But, there is a new theme recurring in the speeches of world leaders when they talk about global development. It goes beyond the acknowledgement that it must be sustainable, and it does more than recognize the need for girls’ primary and secondary education.
Both President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the empowerment of women, across sectors and in every nation, being an integral and necessary piece to meeting the global development challenge.
Props to Mr. Ban
Following the MDG Summit, Mr. Ban marked the beginning of the UN’s General Assembly meeting Thursday by calling on the 192 world leaders gathered before him to rise to the unique challenges across the globe (you can read the entire address here). Reflecting on the MDG Summit, Mr. Ban, on the heels of reiterating the importance of education, health, infrastructure, and green energy in sustainable development, said this: “… At the Summit, I welcomed the endorsement of our Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health.” And a moment later: “By empowering women, we empower societies.”
Mr. Ban also told the general assembly that this new initiative, this focus on women, is backed by billions of dollars from NGOs, governments, and businesses. “[This is] a tangible expression of global solidarity,” he reflected.
America’s New Strategy
There is more. On the final day of the MDG Summit, President Obama addressed his fellow world leaders and outlined a new strategy that is being implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“And today, I’m announcing our new U.S. Global Development Policy — the first of its kind by an American administration. It’s rooted in America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being … Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business.”
Long overdue though this change may be, it’s worth applauding that it is finally here. I am not going to outline the entire strategy but I will highlight two incredibly important points.
President Obama reports that USAID will focus on the true development of the world’s poorest nations. For too long “development” has been defined by the amount of money spent on food and medical aid, temporary solutions to a deep-rooted problem; the kind of assistance that drops out of the sky and maintains lives for the time being. The kind of assistance that is not sustainable.
“That’s not development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break.”
USAID is finally changing this tactic to a well-tested, sustainable one that will bring nation’s out of poverty and into prosperity. The strategy focuses on long-term change that can be sustained by the people of the villages we help without relying on the United States to deliver the goods.
This new direction also focuses on the economic growth of developing nations and, with that, the empowerment of women. President Obama reports that the approach invests in the health, education, and rights of women, recognizing “that countries are more likely to prosper when they tap the talents of all their people.”
It is a Movement
After decades of trial and error and countless studies from NGOs and government agencies alike, the world is adopting a new strategy, together. By placing the empowerment of women at the fore of the world’s battle against poverty, we are taking a step in the direction of a new brand of global leadership. One that recognizes a truth that is starting to be believed the world round: empowerment of women can result in the eradication of global poverty. Though this isn’t a novel idea, it is historic to hear world leaders acknowledge the necessity of implementing this approach that has proven not only effective but sustainable.
Something for Everyone
This is the change in the winds of which I speak. This is the recognition of a new movement. The UN and the US are finally leading the way. Become a part of it. Join organizations like CARE or Women Thrive Worldwide. Tell your friends about the change in global strategy. You’ll be ahead of most.