The Common Good
July 2004

Globalization Must Mean Justice

by Gordon Brown | July 2004

The real barrier is indifference.

2005 is a crucial,

2005 is a crucial, defining year; a year of challenge but also a year of opportunity. Five years before, in an historic declaration, every world leader, every major international body, almost every single country signed up to the historic shared task of meeting over 15 years eight Millennium Development Goals—an extraordinary plan to definitively right some of the great wrongs of our time. At the heart of which is a clear commitment to ensuring education for every child, the elimination of avoidable infant and maternal deaths, and the halving of poverty.

Next year is the date that the first target comes due. We know already that the 2005 target that ensures for girls the same opportunities in primary and secondary education as boys is going to be missed. Not only are the vast majority—60 percent of developing countries—unlikely to meet the target but most of these are, on present trends, unlikely to achieve this gender equality for girls even by 2015. This is not good enough; this is not the promise that we made.

At the current rate of progress more than 70 countries will fail to achieve universal primary education by our target date, and in sub-Saharan Africa we will not achieve what we committed to by 2015 until at the earliest 2129. This is not good enough; the promise we made was for 2015, not 2129.

Because inexpensive cures are not funded, 2 million die unnecessarily each year from tuberculosis, 1 million die painfully from malaria—curable diseases—40 million are suffering from HIV/AIDS, and, tragically, on current forecasts sub-Saharan Africa will achieve our target for reducing child mortality not by 2015 but by 2165. This is not good enough; the promise we made was for 2015, not 2165.

Let us be clear: It is not that the knowledge to avoid these infant deaths does not exist; it is not that the drugs to avoid infant deaths do not exist; it is not that the expertise does not exist; it is not that the means to achieve our goals do not exist. It is that the political will does not exist. In the 19th century, you could say that it was inadequate science, technology, and knowledge that prevented us saving lives. Now, with the science, technology, and knowledge available, we must face the truth that the real barrier is indifference.

So if we are to put ourselves on track again to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we have to rouse the conscience of the world anew, each of us playing our part.

I propose we all—all of us who believe that globalization must also mean justice on a global scale—commit ourselves to a specific course of action, and then each of us as partners—government, business, NGOs and faith groups, international institutions—agree to work together to make the radical changes required.

Put simply, our proposal is that in return for developing countries developing their own country-owned, community-owned poverty-reduction plans to expand their own development, investment, and trade and eliminate corruption:

• we, the richest countries, commit the $10 billion needed each year for education for all

• we, the richest countries, release at least $10 billion for tackling AIDS, TB, and malaria

• we finance sustainable debt relief

• we finance, for the poorest countries, the building of capacity to trade

• and that we do so by increasing development aid, on the road to 0.7 percent of GDP, and by immediately creating an International Finance Facility that, by leveraging an additional $50 billion each year until 2015, brings forward the development aid and investment that is essential to meet the Millennium Goals.

2015 is the fixed point on our horizon—seemingly distant but closer than we think. But it is actually 2005—as close as can be—that will determine whether we are likely to make the rest of the journey. If we let things slip, the Millennium Goals will become just another dream we once had, and we will indeed be sitting back on our sofas and switching on our TVs and—I am afraid—watching people die on our screens for the rest of our lives. We will be the generation that betrayed its own heart.

Gordon Brown was Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer when this article appeared. This is an excerpt of an address he gave at the "Making Globalization Work for All - the Challenge of Delivering the Monterrey Consensus" conference in London on February 16, 2004.

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