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When the Millennium Development Goals first emerged in 2000, they were like a shiny new toy given to our world leaders to play around with. There was excitement in every country that had contributed to the Millennium Summit of the United Nations; here, they believed, they had found the much sought after answer to the problem of global poverty. But now, with the deadline of 2015 fast approaching, are these goals even remotely attainable in the brief two years we have left? Has much even been done so far towards reaching these targets? Perhaps most importantly, how effective have the MDGs genuinely been?

Their aim was simple: the MDGs were to reduce the number of people living in unacceptable and impoverished conditions, and they were to do this under the pressure of a deadline – 2015. In theory the MDGs were a declaration, a promise from our world leaders that they would do something to address the issues of inequality. By giving themselves a deadline to work towards, they made solving these injustices a priority.  Looking back on this date now, I genuinely wonder if we were being a little too idealistic in our expectations. Examining the annual MDG progress reports, it seems we have worked hard towards attaining these targets, and yet far more is still needed if we are to come anywhere close to the 2015 demands.

In brief, there were eight goals for each country to act upon: Eradicate poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDs and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Two years from the deadline, progress is not quite reaching the level we had expected. It seems as if we have lost the urgency that once drove us to create the MDGs – the initial importance and pressure for immediate action has gradually been shelved in a manner typical of an “out of sight out of mind” attitude.  This attitude can no longer be tolerated as the deadline rapidly approaches.

As we close in on our MDG finish line, it is clear that there has been significant progress in areas such as combating poverty and increased equality in education. Although this is an incredibly positive sign, we need look no further than our home country to prove that global progress isn’t always translatable on a local scale.

In recent years, Ireland cannot claim to have achieved great success in combating poverty – quite the opposite I should think, given statistics provided by the Department of Social Protection which state that an estimated 6% of our nation live in consistent poverty  with another 15% at risk of such.

With these statistics in mind, it is difficult to foster hope for the MDGs in Ireland.

As a student, a personal concern of mine is the increased number of graduates who find themselves out of college with no work. Although even more people attend third-level education, there has been a fall in demand for this educated workforce and we are forced to face the reality that our country is dealing with a worryingly high level of emigration and youth unemployment. Although youth employment was not specifically mentioned in the MDGs, a flaw no doubt on our part, we need to recognise that this is quickly becoming one of our main personal barriers to reaching our targets.

It is also worth noting that despite significant progress, we still have a massive problem with inequality in Ireland. Although this problem should have been eliminated decades ago in a modern country such as ours, as the reports have shown, it still exists. If we are ever to stay on target for achieving the MDGs, gender equality is undoubtedly key. Globally, discrimination against women in access to education, work and participation in government still undermines efforts to further equality between the sexes. Our own national government is one workplace where the uneven gender balance is particularly striking.

These are not the only MDGs which we are currently not living up to.  Maternal health, for example, is improving but at a rate so slow that reaching our MDG target seems near impossible. Increasing access to water supplies is also an issue of concern. There has been significant progress in this area but given the lack of emphasis on safety, reliability and sustainability used in tracking progress, we may well be overestimating how many people actually have access to drinkable water.

I can’t say for sure that I believe we will achieve our targets by 2015, but I do think that problems will not be solved and our goals will not be achieved if we count our wins before examining the finer details of our work. This is something I hope the MDGs do not turn out to be – a glued together promise, not quite as durable as we need.


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