Amid an orgy of hypocrisy and photo-opportunities, the world’s political and business elite gathered in New York in September this year for a summit on the Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs, as they are known, are eight development targets for poorer countries which include the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger. A stunt dreamt up in the 1990s by the UN, the MDG project now looks like it will miss all or most of its targets. Secretary – General Ban Ki-moon admitted that “the agreed deadline of 2015 is fast approaching and there is still much to be done”, sentiments echoed by every speaker. However, they spent most of the summit talking up the MDGs’ achievements so far – perhaps intending to distract from the fact that the summit produced no ideas on how to accelerate the MDGs’ sluggish progress or how to halt their slide backwards.
Africa, judging by progress so far, will not reach its MDGs for another 150 years. This is according to a calculation made in 2006, even before crises in finance, food and fuel drove tens of millions more into hunger and extreme poverty. Meanwhile East Asia, and China in particular, account for the vast bulk of the statistics loudly trumpeted at the summit. The unsustainable booms of some Asian countries, which have temporarily and very unequally raised living standards, owe nothing to the MDG project, though the UN happily claim the figures as their own.
Even if they were somehow achieved, the MDGs are pathetically modest targets. They in no way reflect the potential or the problems of the world. For example, Africa alone contains enough food to feed the entire world many times over- yet by 2015 half of its inhabitants will be going hungry. The problem is that greed-driven market forces, which under Capitalism decide the distribution of wealth and goods throughout the world, cannot link up demand with need. That is why projects like the MDGs should be dismissed as stunts. Any real redistribution demands systemic change, not lists of vague aspirations from corrupt institutions like the UN.
The disgusting history of imperialism, the neo-liberal pillaging of resources and services by the World Bank and the IMF, the black hole of debt, the continued ownership of the “developing” world’s resources and markets by foreign capital and the profiteering that drives up prices for the poorest while enriching financial sharks are only a few crimes among many that show us how the interests of capitalism and those of the “developing” world are totally opposed. Meanwhile, the culprits, are the very same governments and institutions that are patting themselves on the back for pursuing the Millennium Development Goals.
Inequality and hunger are an essential part of a system that is very profitable for the most powerful people in the world. There is no way to save the impoverished majority of the human race while most of the world’s wealth remains in the hands of a few hundred companies, to be invested only for individual profit or occasional charity. If the UN really wanted to end poverty, the goal it would endorse would be the seizure of resources and multinational companies by ordinary people in richer and poorer countries alike. In this way the world economy and the distribution of wealth would be run democratically by elected workers on the average wage, rather than by bosses’ politicians or gamblers.