Utopia On Earth?

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Imagine living in a world where the worst poverty and hunger had ended. Imagine that every child around the world, even in the poorest country or family, was able to go to school and receive an education—and girls were just as well-educated as boys.

Imagine we could promise mothers everywhere that from now on they would be less likely to die during childbirth and their babies would be more likely to be born healthy and survive early childhood. Imagine health officials around the world making a joint commitment to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and other major diseases.

Imagine a world where every country promised to find ways to protect the environment’s resources and make sure more people had access to clean, safe drinking water and living accommodations. And imagine a world where larger, wealthier countries committed to working together with smaller, poorer ones to create stronger economies around the globe.

Does this sound like a utopia? Actually, this vision of the world isn’t a fantasy at all. This is the vision that all 191 United Nations Member States have promised to create by the year 2015, by pledging to meet the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Goals aren’t just a set of nice ideals. As the U.N. explains it, “They are also basic human rights—the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security as pledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Millennium Declaration.� And leaders around the world have committed to reaching these goals because they know they are achievable.

The first goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by cutting in half the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. By achieving this goal, more than 500 million people would be lifted out of extreme poverty and more than 300 million would no longer go hungry. The second goal is ensuring universal primary education, making sure every boy and girl completes a full course of primary schooling.

The third goal pledges to promote gender equality and empower women by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by the end of this year, and at all levels by 2015. When these two education goals are achieved, hundreds of millions more girls and women around the world will be able to go to school, giving them access to many new opportunities.

The next two goals are to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five years old, and to reduce by three-fourths the maternal mortality rate. Together, those goals would save the lives of 30 million children and more than 2 million mothers. The sixth goal is to stop and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the occurrence of malaria and other major diseases, a dramatic commitment to improving health and increasing life expectancy around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The seventh goal would focus on making sustainable development a priority in country policies and programs, which would include reversing the loss of environmental resources, reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water—meaning bringing safe water to 350 million people—and achieving significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. And the final Millennium Goal is to develop a global partnership for development, which would include strengthening fair trading and financial systems, debt relief, and giving more countries and people access to affordable essential drugs and important new technologies, especially information and communications technologies.

These eight goals are all very big ideas. But it’s thrilling to know the resources and technology exist to make all of these big ideas reality and that nations all over the world have already pledged to make this happen. The U.N. recently released a major new report on the specific steps countries need to be taking right now in order to reach the Millennium Goals. The promises are there. The practical roadmaps to realize them are there. Now every nation just needs to focus on living up to its promise. I hope the United States will lead the world in giving people the tools of life.

Black Star columnist Wright Edelman is Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund and its Action Council, Leave No Child Behind. For more articles and reports please click on "subscribe" on our homepage or call 212-481-7745 for the newsstand edition of The Black Star News.

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