UN needs reality check

In 2000 when every member of the United Nations agreed to focus on eight areas of universal concern, such as poverty and hunger, healthcare, primary education and status of women, there was enthusiasm that developing nations, backed by rich countries, will be able to halve the scale of these problems by 2015. However, with five years left, the hope for a far better world with far less hunger, disease, illiteracy and gender discrimination stands vastly diminished. This is not necessarily on account of declining commitment to achieve the UN’s millennium goals, although most countries have wavered over the past decade. What has made the task difficult is the emergence of new problems. The World Development Report 2011, recently published by the World Bank, has identified some of them. For instance, last September’s review of progress on meeting the millennium goal targets has shown that the global economic recession, the spiralling cost of food, the rise in oil prices and the unchecked increase in population are some of the issues that have made the task difficult for most developing and poor nations. A decade ago, nobody anticipated these roadblocks, nor were factors like organised crime, human and drug trafficking, civil unrest and terrorism given due weightage: These could further thwart progress over the next five years and beyond.
Separate performers from habitual laggards
The report highlights the hugely negative impact of civilian conflict and political violence — which result in instability and poor governance — on development, especially in African countries. A similar impact cannot be ruled out in Arab states that have been witnessing political turmoil and uncertainty since January this year. Progress in other parts of the world is more likely to be negated by the drag-down effect of poor performance by Governments, such as they are, in strife-torn African nations that are twice likely to be poor with high mortality rates. In sharp contrast, China and India, which are politically stable and have been making impressive economic progress, will score well across most of the targets. There’s both a message and lesson in this for countries that have chosen a different path, overlooking the welfare of their masses while pursuing the interests of a few individuals. Although another five years are left before a full and final assessment can be done as to how far countries have succeeded in meeting the human development goals set during the historic Millennium Session of the UN, it is evident that many will be found to be straying far behind some who would have a better report card to flaunt. In a sense, this reality will also drive home the fact that it makes little sense to expect equal performance by every Government across the world. For, there are Governments that perform and there are those that steal. This simple fact is often lost on do-gooders at the UN.