As we are entering an era in which a set of new Millennium Development Goals are being explored and discussed, it might be worth looking not at what is being examined, but what is being left out of the discussion. It seems to me that the whole debate that revolves round the Goals – just as it was around the first set of Goals back before 2000 – consists of thing that the poor world, the global South, should be working towards solving, without very much being demanded of the rich world.
For example, we know that the main reason for the global warming is the amount of fossil fuels emitted by the richer nations and the richer people in the world, but what are we doing about it? According to the International Energy Agency, the subsidy amounted to $409 billion in 2010, the last year for which figures are available. Small arms, all of them manufactured in the richer parts of the world, are fuelling war and poverty in the poorer parts; should rich nations not do something about cutting off supply at the point of origin? What about the enormous amount of money that is moved round the world, in and out of tax havens, an enormous part of which is recycled through extremely proper channels in the City of London and on Wall Street in New York? Are any of these real big picture issues on anyone’s agenda or are they too political sensitive to governments to be excised from debates?
To solve fundamental problems, according to Einstein, one needs to move to a higher level than the level which caused them in the first instance. In the case of world poverty and world development, I would argue that we need to try to get out of the box in which we have been locked in and look at what we mean by development, growth, poverty reduction not through the prism of international organisations and academic research, but their meanings to the individual, the poorest member of society, someone who is, by definition, marginalised, unrepresented, outside the structures of the corporate world through which most decisions are taken. Then we would reduce development to its human dimensions, not to abstract theories.
I fully accept that we need to tackle the big issues; if you don’t, you scratch the surface. You might try to improve agriculture for a community, but if they are going to be washed away in the next flood, what good have you achieved? However, is the answer to be found in trying to have a global agreement on climate change reduction, which means the rich and poor worlds are forever confronting one another, with no solution in sight, or to try to deal with the situation in place? Surely both have to be dealt with and this what I propose to tackle in my series of blogs; that governments should be induced to govern better, but that organisations that are not formed of or by governments should adopt a different agenda. The first should aim to improve governments, the latter to empower individuals. Please let us not confuse the issues; we are not doing the poorest any service by so doing.