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UN Millennium Development Goals Summit (part 1)

September 22, 2010

2015_people Overwhelmed. That's how one feels if s/he is in New York City this week and trying to cover the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, or events at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge at the 92nd St Y. The sessions are non-stop, the traffic brutal, and security is tighter than a tick.

Fortunately, I've been able to attend multiple sessions at all three venues thanks to the Web and the miracle of streaming technology. Right now, for example, I'm watching a keynote session from the Y setting the stage for the announcement of "Every Woman, Every Child," the UN's new strategy to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015 and improve the health of women and children around the world. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon will formally announce the strategy -- and $40 billion in commitments to support it -- at 2:30 EST. (You can watch a live stream of the speech here.) After Ban's speech, President Obama will address the general assembly and, among other things, will unveil a new U.S. development strategy for meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

That strategy, as described in Celebrate, Innovate & Sustain: Toward 2015 and Beyond (34 pages, PDF), "fully embraces the MDGs" and recognizes development as "a moral, strategic, and economc imperative." It will focus the U.S. government

on achieving sustainable development outcomes by making broad-based economic growth and democratic governance top priorities, investing in game-changing innovations that have the potential to solve long-standing development challenges, and building effective public sector capacity to provide basic services over the long term. The policy also puts a premium on selectivity, on leveraging the expertise and resources of others, on empowering governments, and on driving our investments with evidence of impact....

The multilateral approach to development exemplified by the MDGs has long had critics who decry its top-down nature and lack of accountability mechanisms. Just an hour ago, for instance, Oxfam, the UK-based humanitarian organization, blasted the UN's announcement of $40 billion in commitments for the three health-related MDGs (with a focus on women and children):

Looking at the numbers so far, it’s clear that rich countries are putting old promises with a seemingly big price tag in a new shiny UN wrapper, rather than announcing anything new for the world’s poorest people. Almost half of the cash has already been pledged elsewhere, including at the G8 Summit in Canada this year. At a crucial turning point for the MDGs, we can’t be distracted by a big figure, and we need details now on where countries are going to find this money and how they will spend it to save lives....

Debate is healthy, and we'd all like to see details -- now and as efforts to meet the MDGs by 2015 are ramped up. In that spirit, we'll try to dive a little deeper into some of these issues over the next day or two. Stay tuned.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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