UN Women and MDGs: UN Summit Assesses Progress

Read Part 1, UN Women: A New Entity Paves a New Path.

Part 2
MDG No. 5: Where Change is Most Needed

Last week brought the news that Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet would head UN Women with an unprecedented annual budget of 500 million dollars. Today marked the opening of the UN Summit of world leaders to assess the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thus, politicians, ambassadors, and Ministers of Health converged on Manhattan's East Side to take on the issues that as of ten years ago were named of utmost importance to humanity's well-being.

On the eve of the summit and with five years left to meet the 2015 goals, yesterday the The New York Times published MDGs for Beginners...and Finishers from U2's known humanitarian Bono to perhaps infuse the notion that everyone would be watching from rock star to NGO. For review, the MDGs are the following:

1. End Poverty and Hunger
2. Universal Education
3. Gender Equality
4. Child Health
5. Maternal Health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS
7. Environmental Sustainability
8. Global Partnership

When the meetings opened this morning, I listened in from Paris via the UN's Live Webcast while at the same time in Times Square, Amnesty International's death clock began to count off the passing of a woman's life lost during childbirth, thereby marking that every 1.5 minutes a woman dies while giving birth.

According to Women's eNew's U.N. to Ask $169 Billion Maternal Health Question the biggest hurdle still exists for mothers. "Millennium Development Goal No. 5 -- to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by two-thirds in 2015 from 1990 global-average levels of 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births -- is lagging the most out of eight major initiatives on poverty, health and equality adopted by the UN."

Yet as country representatives delivered opening speeches their messages moved between realistic and uplifting to outright robust, but what continuously overrode was how profound each country's desire to meet the MDGs. Bolivia shared that sport is a guide to keeping children on the right path. Kenya pushed for sustainable business while Guatemala cited that it still remains the top four country in the world most affected by climate change. Jordan's representative shared that development depends on peace, partnership, and global opportunity while Spain spoke of solidarity.

In Huffington Post's Revitalizing the Political Will to Achieve the Millennium Goals, Former UN Secretary General from 1997 to 2006 Kofi Annan shared his thoughts on what could be the best outcomes for the meetings. "Revitalizing the political will to achieve the MDGs and scaling up proven interventions is the linchpin to success. As instigator and guardian of the MDGs, the UN has an important role to play in this process and the High Level Advocacy Group created by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is a welcome step in the right direction. The primary responsibility, however, rests with national leaders. Their challenge is to re-articulate a compelling case for global solidarity and equitable growth -- one that embraces but goes beyond aid. One that addresses the growing inequalities between male and female, rural and urban, rich and poor. One that does not measure development and progress purely in terms of GDP but also of the quality and sustainability of growth. The message must be that MDG achievement is not optional, but an essential investment in a fairer, safer and more prosperous world."

In a recent interview, women's rights advocate and AIDS-Free World Co-Director Paula Donovan shared her own thoughts on the MDG Goals, "The Millennium Development Goals are useful, in the way that any goals can be useful, but they are no more than a set of time-bound measurements that act as incentives, and keep us focused on humankind’s shared aspirations of a world free of poverty, hardship, structural inequality, ignorance, environmental degradation and preventable diseases, including HIV."

With two more days left of the summit to evaluate where the MDGs stand and how best to meet them, it seems understood so far that political will and shared unification are two elements that will prove essential.

Photo credit: Amnesty International

Read Part 3 of Kate Stence's UN Women and MDGs posts about the UN Summit.