On the Millennium Development Goals

April 14, 2010 By Jordan Smith

The well-being of developing countries around the globe is crucial to American national security, and greater U.S. engagement in the world is necessary for not just our security, but for our economic prosperity and standing in the world.  Today at a discussion on the Millennium Development Goals, North American Coordinator of the United Nations Millennium Campaign Anita Sharma, said poverty and poor health in poor nations “breeds insecurity and failed states.”

Recognizing the economic benefits of boosting development and diplomacy efforts toward poorer countries, Sharma also said, “It benefits to have strong trading partners and to have new markets.”

Much of the discussion at the roundtable focused on results of what has been achieved—and what can be achieved—with America’s engagement with the world. For instance, for the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980, according to recently-released data.

As we are entering into a crucial time on Capitol Hill when the Budget and Appropriations Committees begin discussing the President’s International Affairs Budget request, it is crucial that Americans understand the amount the government actually spends on foreign aid. Foreign aid makes up less than 1% of America’s total spending, but a 2001 poll showed that half of all Americans thought foreign aid comprised at least 20 percent of the budget– and the average responder believed it was a whopping 25 percent. “We need to factually correct the misinformation,” said Salil Shetty, Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign.

Sharma closed the session by noting that boosting women’s rights is the prerequisite to achieving substantial gains in the development world. “Women’s rights are behind all the biggest problems,” she said. Secretary Clinton has often made the same point, saying that “Women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources. Remember the proverb, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime?’ Well, if you teach a woman to fish, she’ll feed the whole village.”