The Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals Should Seek a World Free of Poverty
The MDGs represent the global vision of reducing poverty in its various dimensions. We need continued attention to all the goals, since we can hardly declare “mission accomplished” in any of the dimensions of poverty they seek to address.
As the discussion around the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework gains momentum, I also want to add my meek voice to the growing buzz, which is likely to reach a crescendo in September this year.
The MDGs represent the global vision of reducing poverty in its various dimensions. Needless to say, we need continued attention to all the goals, since we can hardly declare “mission accomplished” in any of the dimensions of poverty they seek to address. Reduction, and in fact elimination, of the most pernicious aspects of deprivation in all its forms should be the goal of the human race in the years to come. No one should be deprived of basic human needs, decent livelihood, health, education and human dignity.
Reducing inequities will also help in reducing social tensions, deepening social capital and improving peace and order, all of which are needed for improving the welfare of people and reducing poverty.
In the same vein, no one should also be deprived of opportunities to grow and realize their potential. In other words, we need to expand the MDG agenda to focus not only on absolute poverty but also on relative poverty stemming from inequalities of opportunities.
We want to live in a world that provides a level playing field to all. A girl child born in a poor family in the rural area should have an equal probability of surviving, going to school, finding gainful employment later in life, and realizing her potential as a future citizen. We should not be satisfied with fulfilling everyone's basic human needs. We should strive for equality of opportunity for everyone to maximize their capabilities and realize their potential.
Reduction of inequalities should be a new goal in the post-2015 framework. This is even more important in the context of the growing inequalities we see in Asia and the Pacific over the last few years. This goal should also apply to all countries and not only developing countries.
Inequalities need to be addressed as a moral issue, since they represent systematic and unfair discrimination against a specific sub-group of humanity based on factors that are beyond their control, including their sex, socio-economic background, ethnicity, religion and place of residence, just to name a few.
Reduction of inequalities will also have strong economic pay-offs and will, in fact, help in reducing poverty in its various dimensions. If left unaddressed, inequalities reduce the impact of economic growth on poverty reduction. Conversely, reduced inequalities will increase the efficacy of poverty reduction efforts. Our research shows that, if inequalities had not worsened between 1990 and 2010 in Asia and the Pacific, 240 million additional people would have been lifted out of poverty.
Inequalities also have a negative impact on economic growth itself. Research by colleagues at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that unequal societies and countries can achieve high levels of growth but cannot sustain it. Addressing inequalities will help in achieving growth, a pre-requisite for reducing poverty.
Finally, reducing inequities will also help in reducing social tensions, deepening social capital and improving peace and order, all of which are needed for improving the welfare of people and reducing poverty.
I know there are several other critical development issues that deserve to be included in the fold of the post 2015 MDG framework. However, reducing inequalities should be on the top of the list, in my view.