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Opinions of Sunday, 29 June 2008

Columnist: Asomaning, Hannah

The Millennium Development Goals and Awareness

The question of whether people really knew about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) arose during the launch of the Global Monitoring Report, 2008, a programme that sought to monitor the progress or achievement of the MDGs. The programme on the theme: 'MDGs and the Environment – Agenda for Inclusive and Sustainable Development,' organized by the Christian Council of Ghana in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, Ghana Office brought together policy makers, civil society groups, Lawyers, Journalists, university students and other educated people.

Judging from the calibre of people at the meeting, one would have thought that awareness about the MDGs would not be a problem or would not be mentioned as a concern, but there we were arguing as to whether it was important that people got to identify with the MDGs or not.

I guessed the problem of awareness arose after Mrs Bernice Sam; a legal practitioner discussed what the real situation was with the achievement of the MDGs and how far Ghana had come as a country.

The thoughtfulness of her argument made people whisper among themselves. A gentleman sitting behind me at the forum asked the question in a soft voice: “But do people really know about the MDGs?” perhaps that was what was causing the little whispers.

Mrs Sam’s discussion was based on the fact that in Ghana the quality of health care was nothing to write home about, she cited incidence where sick people lay on the bare floor for medication.

Dwelling on the poverty situation in the country, she again cited instances where some people in the villages suffer even to get one good meal a day and how children were dying of malnutrition.

She also mentioned how waste especially plastic waste got choked in gutters and spilled over everywhere.

Mrs Sam talked about the high maternal mortality rate in the country and the level of gender disparity everywhere in the country.

But what at all are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? From what the writer deduced from the meeting, the MDGs are a set of rules or standard set by the United Nations to be achieved by the year 2015, about 189 countries signed the MDGs agreement in September 2000.

The MDGs says that these 189 developing and least developed countries including Ghana should endeavour to eradicate extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, eliminate gender disparity, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global rule-based, non discriminatory trading and financial system and partnership for development.

Mr Daouda Toure, UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, said the MDGs were only a set of objectives that is meant to help all people in the world live with minimum dignity.

If the MDGs are about people then there is the need to involve people, the individual must be made to understand and know about the MDGs but Toure thinks otherwise.

He thinks it is not suppose to be a slogan that could be recited by everybody, but again does awareness only means being able to recite?

A good example about awareness is the HIV/AIDS menace, one can confidently say that people are aware about HIV and AIDS and so those who believe would take steps to prevent themselves from being infected with AIDS.

Market women in Ghana, high class traders and business men, civil servants, students, politicians, dressmakers, security personnel all know about the HIV/AIDS menace because the disease is about people.

Exactly why all these people should know about the MDGs and what it stand for and what it can do to change their lives or otherwise.

Daouda Toure says there was the need for policy makers and advocacy groups to relate the MDGs to the needs and priorities of the local communities, adding, 'localize the goals' to suit the needs of the people. But like Thomas an apple seller at Accra Tema Station, he says: “well, I have heard about MDGs, but these big big English donot put money in our pocket neither does it put food on the table,”

It is only out of ignorance that Thomas says this because in actual sense the MDGs going by Daouda’s definition are suppose to help individuals live with minimum dignity which includes being able to provide three square meals for one's self and his dependants and many others.

Concentrating on the individual, it is also important that state that as an individual, I know that I need good health, quality education, I do not want to be discriminated against, I do not want to be associated with poverty at all, I like my country to be treated fairly in terms of international trade, I like to live in a sustainable environment and surely I like all the goodies. But how do I achieve this as an individual, I need people to share in this dream to make it a reality; I would like the doctor to prioritize my health so that when I visit the hospital, I am treated well, that could be done only if the doctor accept that doing his work well could contribute to quality health care and for that matter strength to work with and be able to earn an income.

Again as an individual I like the government to build and create an environment where I can advance myself within the laws of the country and still help or affect other people positively with my advancement.

So awareness, awareness at the most basic level in my immediate environment, so that every individual would see himself as being responsible for the growth, development and advancement of his/her immediate environment and beyond.

The MDGs are only supposed to be a minimum package that the world owed to humanity, Dauoda Toure said.

So People need to understand and be involved in this is a minimum package meant for them in order for them to accept and live with it.

Like a father-daughter relationship, a father can not just impose his objectives on a child, it is always better for the child to share in his father’s objectives for him.

Ms. Punam Chuhan-Pole, Economist at the World Bank, said “Africa lags behind on all the MDGs; perhaps most Africans do not know or understand the MDGs. Half-way through to the deadline to achieve the MDGs one can not compare the level of achievement to what is left to be achieved

Ms Chuhan-Pole said “The time to act is now,” and reminded the people that it was only a few years to 2015.

The writer believes that awareness about the MDGs is half-way to solving the problem and a good progress to achieving the goals by 2015.



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