A SHEPHERD SPEAKS

Bishop Fred Henry

April 23, 2012

In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. The pledge became the eight Millennium Development Goals:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • Achieve universal primary education;
  • Promote gender equality and empower women;
  • Reduce child mortality;
  • Improve maternal health;
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
  • Ensure environmental sustainability; and
  • Develop a global partnership for development.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the MDG have failed to make progress on environmental sustainability, putting any progress made in danger of reversal; they have not addressed all the symptoms of poverty; nor have they effectively tackled the systems that are keeping people poor.

The very poorest in each country have made the least progress and the current system is not working for the common good. If those who currently have no voice are not brought into the debate, any adjusted or new framework will lack moral authority, political legitimacy and practical impact.

A snapshot of three of the millennium goals is revealing.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health:

The maternal health goal is one of the MDGs furthest off track. More than 350,000 women and girls still die annually from complications during pregnancy and childbirth, almost all of them - 99 per cent - in developing countries.

Safe drinking water eludes these children who live in corrugated metal and wood shacks without running water, electricity or a sewage system in Nairobi, Kenya.

CNS PHOTO | NANCY WIECHEC

Safe drinking water eludes these children who live in corrugated metal and wood shacks without running water, electricity or a sewage system in Nairobi, Kenya.

Gains made during the 1990s to reduce adolescent pregnancies - and the accompanying health risks - have stalled or reversed in many regions, even where overall fertility has declined. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest birth rate among young women aged 15 to 19 (12.2 per cent) and this has changed little over the years.

AVOIDABLE MATERNAL DEATHS

Most maternal deaths, as well as injuries and disabilities caused by pregnancy and child birth, could be avoided with simple medicine, equipment or health care. Some regions have made major gains in terms of increasing the numbers of skilled health personnel attending births, especially in Northern Africa and Southern Asia.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

The target for access to safe drinking water has already been reached worldwide although the poorest people still encounter the most difficulties in gaining access. Access to basic sanitation has slightly increased but the target is still a long way from being met.

Forests are still disappearing rapidly although slightly more slowly than before, while Asia has registered a net gain.

Even though the percentage of slum dwellers is declining, the absolute number is rising due to rapid population increase in urban areas, with slum improvements failing to keep pace.

DISASTEROUS GLOBAL WARMING

Rich countries are not cutting greenhouse gas emissions fast enough or deep enough. The world is currently on course for a +4 degree global increase in temperatures.

The biodiversity target has fallen abysmally short and the loss of species is likely to continue throughout this century. Over-fishing of the oceans continues to rise.

Goal 8: Developing a global partnership for development apparently isn't even on the radar screen of our federal government.

Canada's aid relative to its Gross National Income (GNI) will tumble 10 points between 2010 and 2015, from 0.34 per cent to 0.24 per cent. This drop in the Oversea Development Aid will put Canada among the lowest performers in the developed world.

For many years, CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) partnered with a number of NGOs, such as KAIROS, Project Ploughshares, the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), to name but a few, to help the plight of the less fortunate in different countries of the world.

However, the landscape has changed, and defunding and cutbacks are the order of the day. From 2006 to 2011, CCODP's regular program, (excluding emergency relief/humanitarian aid programs, for example, Haiti), received $44.6 million in CIDA funding.

On Feb. 8, CIDA cut back the funding by 68 per cent and will only make a contribution of $14.5 million to CCODP's program over a five-year period. Of course, it cannot or will not tell how or why it slashed the funding.

Feedback to CCODP came in the form of a letter stating: "Project components in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines were assessed as most likely to deliver strong, sustainable results."

The CIDA letter did not address deficiencies in CCODP's proposals for any other countries.

WAR MONGERING NATION

The image of Canada is changing in many parts of the world and not for the good. We are no longer perceived as a peacemaking nation but one of war.

Our government is supporting NGOs internationally that are twinning with Canadian mining companies that often leave the lives of villagers and land worse off than before the companies arrived. It seems that for our present government, trade and profit have trumped human need and suffering.

But we will obtain, maintain and proudly operate 65 F-35 jet fighters for a "little" more than $25 billion which will bring us neither peace nor development.