Church Center Hosts Hearings on U.N. Goals to End Poverty
▲ Kasaine Nalangu, right, of Kenya’s Narok Development Initiative, testifies through interpreter Ene Taki, left, at Millennium Development Goals hearings at Church Center for the United Nations. Photo credit: Every Human Has Rights Campaign/Joshua Wiese
By Yvette Moore*
Women, children and human rights advocates testified on the status of U.N. Millennium Development Goals to end poverty in their countries in hearings at United Methodist Women’s Church Center for the United Nations in New York City Sept. 22-23. A Call to Action Against Poverty – an international coalition of trade unions, faith groups and other non-governmental organizations – convened the hearing for grassroots voices excluded from the U.N. High Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals set for Sept. 25.
The hearing opened with an interfaith worship service Tuesday evening in the Church Center chapel. A drummer’s prelude set the tone for the service that included dramatic readings on a child’s view of the Millennium Development Goals and singing by a local children’s choir. Women’s Division president Harriett Jane Olson welcomed the standing-room-only gathering to the United Methodist Women-owned facility.
“This is the place and now is the time for us to let the urgency of the Millennium Development Goals be known,” Ms. Olson said. “Thank you for your commitment.”
Wednesday morning the hearing began with Indigenous Peoples, children, grassroots women “witnesses” and a panel of advocates that included former Ireland President Mary Robinson voicing their concerns about education, poverty and hunger, and environmental sustainability in their nations. An Indian woman advocate said parents in her country were ready to send even their girl children to school, but lack of money and schools in rural areas hindered fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goal for universal primary education. A witness representing tenant farmers in Nepal cited lack of access to land as a major hindrance to eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in her country.
“We do not have land rights,” said Sharmila Karki of Nepal’s Citizen’s Campaign for Democracy and Social Transformation. “We produce food from the land, but we do not have rights to the food.”
A Masai mother from Kenya appealed to the international community for debt relief for African nations, health initiatives on malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB -- and for action to stem the global warming causing droughts in her country.
“We depend on our livestock,” Kasaine Nalangu of Kenya’s Narok Development Initiative said through an interpreter. “If our animals die, we may not survive. As a mother of eight, all my children are looking to me for food, but I don’t know if I can provide it at the end of the day.”
That testimony after testimony about impoverished children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and raising siblings, women spending hours fetching potable water for their families, and subsistence farmers losing land to multinational agribusinesses went forth as the U.S. Congress negotiated a multi-billion dollar bailout for international banks and financial institutions was not lost on the audience.
“We need a sense of urgency about the Millennium Development Goals because we’re talking about power, and we’re talking about political will,” said Ms. Robinson. “There is never any shortage of funds to buy arms. … It’s no problem to get $700 billion to bailout financial institutions…. It’s a scandal. But our strength is in our numbers...and our capacity to network more efficiently because of technology.”
U.N. Millennium Campaign Global Director Salil Shetty encouraged the gathered advocates and witnesses to be persistent in demanding their nations meet their obligations to implement the goals. No hands went up when he asked participants if they believed the goals would be fulfilled by 2015, although all rose when he asked if they ought to be implemented.
“That gap between the ought and the will is why we are here,” Mr. Shetty said, reminding the audience of other seemingly impossible human rights victories achieved over the years because of advocates like them. “Remember, even if a little baby wants to be fed by its mother, it has to cry out loud.”
In 2000 the United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration calling for implementation of eight goals by 2015:
• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
• Achieve universal primary education;
• Promote gender equality and empowerment of women;
• Reduce child mortality;
• Improve maternal health;
• Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
• Ensure environmental sustainability; and
• Create global partnerships for development.
*Yvette Moore is executive secretary for communications for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted : Sep. 25, 2008