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The world’s failure to fulfill its goals

The Guardian reports that the world is not on track for meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal to halt and reverse the increase in Malaria by 2015. While the funding for malaria prevention has increased up to $1 bn per annum, this is not enough to meet the declared goal. Indeed, while the figure sounds high, it is only $1 per person at risk or 0.002% of world GDP, which is not much for one of the UN’s major poverty reduction targets. Scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute estimate that 50% to 450% more funding is required to make the target. Sadly this situation with the malaria target is not unusual: the current estimates are that we will fail to meet every single one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs were agreed upon in 2000 by every country in the United Nations. They set an impressive target for reduction in poverty by the year 2015. However, they are not going to be met. They are heading towards being just one more unkept promise in a long series of unkept promises by the rich countries. The most notable of these was the declaration in 1970 that the countries in the OECD would bring official development aid up to 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) by the mid 1970s. No country met this target and 38 years later, after universal recommitment to the target, only five countries have met it (all of which are the usual good guys in northern Europe), and many are far below the mark (see here). The US, for instance, is only at 0.16% and even counting private giving it is at less than 0.5%.

The continued making and breaking of these international promises is a very interesting phenomenon. We all know that the world has truly remarkable inequality between its countries, and that the status quo is at best morally dubious. The rich countries seem to know this too, as they consistently try to calculate the minimum acceptable amount for them to do for the world. What is puzzling is that most of them then fail to achieve even their own self-declared standards. With the cycle of unmet promises, the rich countries are exposing their own failure to live up to their minimum standards.

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