Global Governance of Poverty and Millennium Development Goals

게시 날짜: 7월 9, 2010, 카테고리: International Political Economy

There are actually many ways to deal with the obvious disparity of wealth distribution around the world. However, many of them do not qualify as the “neoliberal way” per se, considering that some of those ‘choices’ can accompany violence or other kind of ugliness derived from human nature. Therefore, we are left with a handful of options that can be pursued in our globalized world, one of which is shown in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that all United Nations Member States have agreed to achieve by 2015. It comprises of 8 international development goals including reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics (ex. AIDS), and developing a global partnership for development.[1] The very first goal of 8, the MDG 1, is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”, and specific targets are 1) to halve the proportion of people on less than $1 a day, 2) to achieve descent employment for women, men, and young people, 3) and to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

To be honest, MDGs immediately came across my mind regarding ‘global governance of poverty’, partly because as of this moment I am playing a part in Model United Nations as a delegate for Nigeria and working on a Resolution related to MDG 3—“promote gender equality and empower women”—(which is such a relief since Nigeria is in hell regarding MDG 1), and partly because it is obvious that since year 2001 the most significant international organization of all has been putting in effort to solve the global poverty problems. There are a lot of non-intergovernmental options to deal with so-called “North South issues” other than MDGs. Some benevolent Transnational Corporations (TNCs) might come forward to quench the thirst of the poor around the world, or voluntary workers, doctors, or any kind of experts can find their skills and resources useful to those in desperate need. However, even these seemingly non-governmental aids are in many cases supported by funding from a specific state or a group of them. Especially concerning MDGs, some countries simply do not have means or resources to pursue them, and are desperately in need of outside aids.

Many of the UN Member States have already achieved MDGs far beyond the criteria, but there are also many countries that are not even close to accomplishing them. To accelerate progress towards the MDGs, the G8 Finance Ministers met in London in June 2005 (in preparation for the G8 Gleneagles Summit in July) and reached an agreement to provide enough funds to the World Bank, the IMF, and the African Development Bank (ADB) to cancel an additional $40–55 billion debt owed by members of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). This would allow impoverished countries to re-channel the resources saved from the forgiven debt to social programs for improving health and education and for alleviating poverty. Backed by G8 funding, the World Bank, the IMF, and the ADB each endorsed the Gleneagles plan and implemented the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to effectuate the debt cancellations. The MDRI supplements HIPC by providing each country that reaches the HIPC completion point 100% forgiveness of its multilateral debt.[2]

Unfortunately in spite of these gestures, the progress of achieving MDGs in poor countries is not getting any better. The reasons why these nations still have difficulty in improving their citizens’ well beings are complex, but one can point out a few. Firstly, since the global financial crisis that ignited in 2008 is lagging the whole global economy behind even until now, it is difficult to sponsor the financial aids for poor countries. More fundamentally, the ideological need or benefit of financial aids for poor countries has seriously declined since the end of Cold War. (Even though the Carter administration sent out Peace Corps around the world to ‘improve’ the lives and rights of people in poor countries, it was mainly to reduce the attractiveness of Communism driven out of severe poverty, not because he was an advocate of human rights diplomacy.) Secondly, even though descent amounts of direct financial supports or cancellation of debts are set up for the poor countries, it is no use if those nations are in the form of predatory states. Financial support for these kinds of predatory states is frustrating, since they are not capable of redistributing the aid funds to equitably benefit their citizens. (One can note the undisputable example of North Korean poverty issues and President Kim Dae-Jung’s Sunshine Policy.)

In sub-Saharan Africa, many nations fall into the category of the predatory state. (Nigeria, which I am representing at Model UN, is a little bit better than many extreme cases, but it is no exception in general sense.) The question is, that how can we go around funding the predatory government and respond to the actual need of its desperate people. In an allopathic sense, the aids can be delivered under the direct supervision of each respective international organization, so that the predatory government or other political entities of sort cannot take a single piece from them. UN and UNICEF have been applying this tactic in Africa and the Middle East during the past few decades. However, the cost and manpower needed to provide such supervision are way too expensive to be truly effective, and even though they are provided properly, not every poverty problems in those nations can be resolved.

The fundamental reason for the poverty (well, besides the obvious explanation following the logic of Friedrich List or Chang Ha-Joon that the imposed virtue of free trade has entangled and lagged the developing countries’ economies and we are enjoying our prosperity at the expense of 3rd world laborers who live by less than $1 a day) is lack of systematic infrastructures in poor countries. To be fair, one cannot expect any descent social, economic, or educational infrastructure in a predatory state, and this is the most crucial factor blocking the way. The general picture starts to resemble a typical vicious cycle when one realizes that we cannot build up these infrastructures for them in a day or by support of leftover funding from developed countries (and of course, by mere cancellation of debt). Either we like it or not, their own governments should be able to provide economic stability and fair redistribution system, and to help them in the process substantial amount of funding is bound to fall into their hands. The cycle runs a few more rounds and even before we know it, we are sending in troops and medical aids to salvage the ones who survived the breakdown.

What we need is a supranational entity that surpasses the idea of intergovernmentalism, which can manage the budget and human resources in guiding and supervising each state’s building of the infrastructure. It is not possible, at least in our ‘current’ globalized neoliberal world economy, to fundamentally correct the causes of poverty issue. MDGs are almost flawless in its spirit, but the lack of enforceability and too much reliance on respective nations to solve their own problem made a lot of people questioning the viability of these sets of goals. (On top of that, the global issues have transformed since the resolution of 2001, leading to a need of redirecting the goals even before 2015.) It takes more than an ideal and passive assistance to achieve them. It would not be easy, especially concerning the reluctant case of European Union, but I believe it is the only way under our global economic regime.


[1] Background page, United Nations Millennium Development Goals website

[2] E. Carrasco, C.McClellan, & J. Ro (2007), “Foreign Debt: Forgiveness and Repudiation” University of Iowa Center for International Finance and Development

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