January 20, 2010
Eight ways to change the world: Sounds simple enough to achieve, but countries around the planet are not keeping their promises to form international partnerships and fight global inequality. The leaders of 189 countries attending the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 established the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), setting a 15-year deadline to narrow the economic divide between the rich and poor, and guarantee basic human rights to food, education and well-being.
The goals, says Peace Boat’s MDGs campaign coordinator Takayama Yoko, are an issue of human security and dignity.
“They cut across many different issues,” she says, “A sustainable society and peaceful future cannot be achieved without tackling all of these issues and without realizing they’re all very deeply intertwined.”
Peace Boat, Yoko adds, is trying to develop a “human-to-human connection” through its travels around the world and activities in ports of call, in hopes of broadening awareness of the MDGs and creating a push in civil society to achieve them by the deadline.
At an onboard press conference in Mombasa, Ms Takayama introduced two projects Peace Boat staff and participants are carrying out during the 68th Global Voyage: The African Youth MDGs Forum and the MDGs Dance Project.
The African Youth Forum, running Jan. 19-28, is a cooperative effort between Peace Boat and the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), and the second such forum to be held.
Eight participants from NGOs and youth organizations in countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi boarded the ship in Mombasa to discuss youth-related issues such as training, capacity building and the concept of “decent work.”
“People need not just employment, but they need employment that offers better remuneration packages and better social protection mechanisms,” says UNMC representative Mwaura Kaara, who joined the forum as a facilitator.
The participants will go back to their countries, after the ship arrives in Cape Town, with an action agenda to present to their national governments: Peace Boat will also deliver the document to the government of Japan.
Japan’s position as one of the world’s largest economies, says Yoko, means that Japan has the responsibility to contribute a higher quality and quantity of official development assistance (ODA).
Until now, many donor countries have been falling short on their promised support: By 2008, in Africa alone, governments were US$20 billion short of what they had promised in aid three years prior.
The UNMC, in its 2009 annual report on the MDGs, says the current financial crisis is a major obstacle in achieving the goals in the next five years.
“Progress towards the goals,” the report says, “is now threatened by sluggish — or even negative — economic growth, diminished resources, fewer trade opportunities for the developing countries, and possible reductions in aid flows from donor nations.”
Young people and those working on a local level, says one forum participant, will make the biggest push to reach the goals.
“One of the key outcomes,” says Emmanuel Edudzie of Youth Empowerment Synergies (YES) Ghana, “will be this regional framework which will reflect what youth are doing in their various regions.” By uniting young people to demand governments work harder to achieve the MDGs, Mr Edudzie believes it’s possible to make more progress in the next five years than has been made in the last decade.
Peace Boat created its MDGs Dance Project – under the direction of staff member Kim Heechon – to encourage discussion of the goals, not just among youth in countries visited around the world, but also between the young Japanese participants onboard. “Through learning this dance, (the participants) are eager to learn more about the MDGs,” Ms Kim says, “Many didn’t know anything about the MDGs at the start.” Dancers, when not practicing, are taking part in study sessions about the goals and how the campaign is progressing.
This report can also be read at Peace Boat’s official website.
(Nick Logan, 68th voyage web reporter)