Since the early civilizations, man has desired to establish his dominance to the world and find alternative means to improve living and sustain progress. The struggle to progress had been difficult and marred with conflict and mortalities despite the advent of technology and international politics. However, progress cannot be attained without consequences as several nations are now experiencing cases of extreme poverty and hunger, mortality and inequality even in developed Many proposals have been given by world leaders, especially on the issue of poverty, hunger, and child mortality, but none had been extensive as compared to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the MDGs provides notable targets for the international community for eight major issues – especially on poverty, hunger and child mortality, political ideologies such as neo-liberalism, radicalism, and capitalism have argued that either economic or social changes are enough to attain these goals. Nonetheless, despite these varying ideologies and remaining issues attached to goal 1 and 4, it is only but a matter of time for the international community to attain the goals set by the MDGs even before the 2015 target.
The idea on identifying the world’s major issues and creating a common program to counter its impacts had already raised awareness since the 1940s. Human rights had been the first issue considered by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1948 speech “The Four Freedoms” that must be taken into consideration by the international community due to the growing inequality in rights, living conditions and development in many nations around the globe. The United Nations had recognized Roosevelt’s position on human rights and had agreed that there is a necessity to improve the living conditions of all man not just for his family, but also for himself. The declaration set by the UN regarding the issue on improving human life triggered further discussions to identify issues that are affecting various sectors in each nation, especially in developing and Least Developing Countries (LDCs). However, while the discussions had identified issues such as poverty, health care, food, sanitation, and development as some of the major issues currently faced by the international community, there is a lack of frameworks as to how these issues would be tackled. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had proposed aid programs to alleviate poverty and improve health care; however, these loans were difficult to utilize due to the environmental conditions on receiving countries.
After the Cold War, the international community knew it was time to revise talks regarding a common framework for common issues, especially on the side of poverty that has spread due to the war. The global economic crisis in the period had also increased the need to resolve to improve development in all fronts, including the identification of major issues that are affecting the globe. The UN had launched several meetings throughout the 1990s to identify other issues that need immediate attention: ranging from issues like education, health care, poverty, sanitation and the environment. However, in 1998, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a global framework directed to these issues and identify the major policy areas the UN would work on for the next years. The proposal, known as the ‘Millennium Summit’, was the UN’s means to reaffirm the major goals of the UN and identify the targets the UN aims to reach in by 2015. Through the aid of the member states, non-government organizations and members from the private sector, the UN General Assembly released the Millennium Development Goals on September 2000 which contains the eight major issues the UN would try to solve to improve the lives for people and promote development. These eight goals are the following: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development. Many had commended the targets set by the MDGs as it enables the member countries to be flexible with their programs given their respective political environments .
Currently, the issue of poverty and hunger (goal 1) and child mortality (goal 4) are at focus considering the high targets set under these goals for the 2015 deadline. In the case of poverty and hunger, the UN stated that, by 2015,, the proportion of people earning less than $1 a day and those who suffer from hunger should be halved by all member countries. This would include the introduction of new job opportunities and food security programs accessible to the public. However, these targets are easier said than done as several regions around the globe still record high cases of poverty despite the frameworks allotted by the UN. In the case of Saudi Arabia, for example, almost 1.6% of its population are only earning or living on less US$10 per day . India also reports a high poverty ratio, reaching up to 29.8% in 2010. While there have been cases wherein India’s poverty ratio decreased since the announcement of the MDGs; however, reports show that the ratio is still high compared to the MDG target of 23.9% for the country . Finally, Egypt’s poverty rate had also been high despite the MDG standards and had increased considerably throughout the years. According to the 2009-2011 census of the UN, almost 17% of the population are under the poverty line, or almost 13.7 million people .
With the high rate of poverty in these countries, food insecurity is also a major problem and complicates the attainability of the MDG target on reducing extreme hunger. For the Gulf nations, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, hunger is rampant due to the 1.7% arable land that can be used for food production and water irrigation. Saudi Arabia records that, since 2008, the depth of hunger in the country is only at 130 kilocalories; which falls short of the minimum food requirement of each person . India reported almost 100 million people around the country are extremely hungry, consuming only 1,800 calories each day . Like India, Egyptians have also been experiencing high cases of extreme hunger despite the food supply the country still has for its people. The problem, however, is directed in the high prices of food and the growing inflation in the country due to the past conflicts. Almost 13.7 million Egyptians are experiencing food insecurity in the same rate as its poverty rate in the 2011 survey of the World Food Program .
In achieving the goals of the MDG for poverty and hunger, political ideologies have perceived a need to revise economic mechanisms and social rights. In the neo-liberalist perspective, it believes that the pursuit of profit can serve as the foundation of countries to create a systematic program and policy that would aid the public and reduce poverty and hunger. Neo-liberalism focuses on making rational decisions in maximizing profits from the country’s goods and services. In order to maximize these profits, the private sector is seen as an efficient body as compared to the state in identifying which areas to improve to target poverty and hunger. In this end, government spending must be directed to improve state infrastructure to provide means for privatization and development. Neo-liberals even see the benefits of opening a free market to entice growth, which would work perfectly in the sub-Saharan African countries . In the case of capitalism, it is seen by many experts as the main cause of poverty and food insecurity as it had dominated the globe since the fall of socialism. With the introduction of globalization, capitalism became the main proponent for economic conditions and determined the outflow of production, trade and consumption of the public. However, it had proposed that an increase in production and a mechanism to balance the supply, demand and price can trigger the required wealth distribution to reduce the instances of poverty and increase food supply in the country. Capitalists agree that while poverty and hunger is indeed a serious problem, they still believe that the mechanism of distribution should be changed as it disables people in gaining access to food, commodities and service and not the current system it uses. With production already stable to provide income and wealth, what is necessary to end the problem is changing the mechanism that would enable this wealth to be distributed to the people .
Radicals, on the other hand, perceive that all people are entitled to all inalienable rights that other social groups enjoy. For them, individuals should utilize these rights in the current capitalist society as capitalism breaks down society into social classes that defines the amount of food they can purchase and the wealth they can accumulate for their family. There is an unequal distribution of resources, and it is the working class which is mostly handicapped by the current environment. Since laborers are seen as a commodity for owners, owners have the capacity to determine the wages and policies that the laborer would receive. Radicals argue that laborers should continue to work on progress and fight for their rights, triggering social and economic reforms in the process. Once this is done, radicals believe that the political and economic system in the country would stop the problems of extreme poverty and hunger .
In the case of reducing child mortality, the MDG targets that, by 2015, the number should have been reduced to two-thirds or under-five mortality. India had reported high mortality rate on its younger population with almost 52 deaths per 1,000 live births. The numbers, according to the analysis of the Indian government, is likely to increase given the still high poverty and hunger ratio of the country. There is also a high trend on underweight or malnourished Indian children since 1990 as it currently at 40% . The United States has also been reported to record high instances of infant mortality as compared to other developed countries. In a recent report, infant mortality rate reaches up to 11,300 deaths each year. Experts believe that the reason for this high mortality rate is the fact that many American babies are born premature due to the lack of access to health services regularly . However, the opposite could be said in the Gulf nations as the UN reports a reduced rate on child mortalities since the health care development in the region. Since 2007, the region reports 18 deaths per 1,000 live births in comparison to its ratio of 68 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1978 .
Neo-liberalism currently has no distinct opinion when it comes to population health and health outcomes; however, there are some several proposals as to how it can be explained. According to David Coburn, neo-liberalism increases income inequality and entices conflict since individuals are either punished or rewarded by the market depending on how they contribute. In this end, neoliberal policies would just trigger further poverty, hunger and health service incapacity due to the lack of development in these sectors. Colburn also argued that since neo-liberalism concentrates on the person and his freedom, it reduces his capacity to mingle with others and prevents common ownership. This, then, may trigger a problem in maintaining health standards on couples, who would mostly be concentrated on his capability to enticing growth. Some experts even proved that neo-liberal policies contribute to higher infant mortality in 18 developed nations.
In the case of capitalism, infant mortality and fertility is actually reduced considering that it mostly concentrates on the economic conditions of the country. In this extent, it affects child mortality in three ways: the improvement of health services, the reduced demand for children and women empowerment on motherhood. For the first way, since the capitalist world focuses on the accumulation of wealth, this wealth is then redirected to sectors that require development such as public health and disease prevention. Once this development is introduced to the public, they would now have access to services such as birth control, medicine and health information to plan as to when a couple could have children. In the second instance, capitalism reduces the demand for children since parents are mostly focused to contribute in the capitalist world of developing income and wealth. The fewer children a couple has the more wealth they can enjoy with their family. Finally, since work becomes the focus of both men and women, women now have the chance to decide whether or not they would remain to take care of their children or have no children to continue work. In this end, capitalism stresses that it frees people from the population trap and ensure productivity to its maximum capacity .
Radicalism, in its end, supports the position of capitalism in providing autonomy to females in determining if they wish to have children or not, especially in making sure they are healthy. With radicalism enabling freedom to all people in practicing their rights to choose and education put in the forefront, the public can pressure the government to develop programs to improve health-care. In this way, these investments could improve medical capability of doctors and medical practitioners to improve life expectancy and reduce mortality rates. In addition to this, radicalism also perceive that if governments were to introduce both social and economic changes, the governments would be able to further improve their country’s health-care system. China, Cuba and Vietnam are some examples wherein their investments are mostly directed to the improvement of health-care systems, enabling them to open health-care systems to the public . Considering these ideologies, it provides a flexible understanding in the issue on reducing child mortality in the changing international environment.
With the possible programs and ideologies applicable for governments to achieve the targets of the MDGs, the UN reports that nations are still on schedule in attaining these goals before the 2015 deadline. For Goal 1, the World Bank cited that nations have already reached the target on halving the ratio of people living under $1 a day in 2010. The developing countries reported a drop of almost 25% in people living with only $1.25 per day as compared to its original rate of 47% in 1990. China, for example, had reported a high poverty drop from 60% in 1990 to 12% in 2010. However, in the case of the Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia regions, poverty remains rampant and while programs have been imposed to reduce poverty, half of the population from these two regions still live with less than $1.25 a day. The Sub-Saharan region even reported a steady rise of citizens falling into extreme poverty. Under Target 2 of the Goal 1 for employment, there is a current issue on providing jobs for the younger generation as economies had been affected by the global economic crisis and the recession in the United States. Nonetheless, there is a decrease of workers living under the poverty line and only constitute only 15% of the population of developing countries. Finally, in terms of the final target under Goal 1 regarding halving the ratio of people experiencing extreme hunger, the UN reports that the international community is close to the target and may improve if the economic conditions around the globe is improved. In a recent estimate, approximately 870 million people worldwide do not reach the minimum requirement needed for dietary intake and nourishment. Despite this high number of people experiencing hunger, the undernourished had decreased significantly especially in developing countries. Approximately 14.9% of the population in these nations are undernourished. If the global economic crisis and price increases did not happen, it is observed that there is a possibility that the target in reducing the number of hungry people would have been reached ahead of schedule. The UN cited that with poverty still a crucial issue that remains unresolved, it triggers hunger and incapacity to purchase the right amount of food for the family. If the members of the family are unable to receive the required food amount they need for the day, it will impact labor, development and health.
In terms of reducing the rate of child mortality around the globe, it is reported that there is a significant decrease in children dying since 1990. A drop rate of 41% is recorded around the globe on child mortality rates, either by birth or illness. Huge efforts were done by the international community to reduce the under-five mortality rate, reaching up to only 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. Eastern Asia and Northern Africa have already reached the UN target ahead of schedule, while the Latin American, Caribbean, Southeast Asian and Western Asian regions reporting a 50% of their child mortality rates. The introduction of the MDGs in 2000 also pave the way in reducing child mortality rates in poor territories like in the sub-Saharan region. Countries like Bangladesh, Liberia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Bhutan and Nepal had reported an overall reduction of 60% on under-five mortality rates since 1990. The UN also noted that the reduction of child mortality rates around the globe can be contributed to the introduction of medicines in the early stages of life. In the case of measles, almost 10 million deaths have been prevented around the globe for children who received the vaccine. The UN believes that further monitoring and systematic action would ensure that the rates would continue to decrease and reach the 2015 target .
With 2015 almost at reach, the progress of the UN in achieving the eight goals identified under the MDG remains steady despite the notable gaps identified in several nations that hinders their progress. As far as how it could be applied, especially in the reduction of poverty, hunger and child mortality, ideologies such as neo-liberalism, radicalism and capitalism provided an alternative understanding and means to solve the problem. In terms of poverty and hunger reduction, neo-liberalism sustains the belief that the private sector must be given the power to identify the areas that need improvement in order to maximize profits to target poverty and hunger. Capitalism emphasizes on improving the mechanism of distribution to ensure that wealth is distributed to stop hunger and poverty. Radicalism argues that the individual himself must work hard to trigger reform to ensure that their governments act to stop poverty and hunger. The sentiments of these ideologies are also mirrored in their perceptions on reducing child mortality (Goal 4). Neo-liberalism does not have a clear position on reducing child mortality or improving health care. However, it is observed that neo-liberalism may trigger further issues on health improvement and higher rates of mortality. Capitalism is the direct opposite of neo-liberalism as capitalism both ensures the improvement of health care and the reduction of child mortality. Finally, radicalism supports autonomy and investments in order to help in improving health and reducing mortality rates. No matter which ideology is supported by nations to attain the MDGs and its targets, achieving these goals would enable equal progress and understanding between nations to balance the international community.
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