Policy Quarterly Volume 5 Number 3
In September 2000, at the dawn of this new millennium, 189 world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York and adopted the Millennium Declaration. The leaders resolved to:
spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want.
More specifically, the leaders committed their nations to fulfilling the following objectives:
• To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than US$1 a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.
• To ensure that, by the same date, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling and that girls and boys will have equal access to all levels of education.
• By the same date, to have reduced maternal mortality by three quarters, and under-five child mortality by two thirds, of their current rates.
• To have, by then, halted, and begun to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS, the scourge of malaria and other major diseases that afflict humanity; and
• To provide special assistance to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Undoubtedly, these Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are bold and laudable. But are they realistic and achievable? Are they more than fine words and noble intentions?
It is now more than half way to 2015. It is thus appropriate to pause and assess what progress has been made towards realizing the MDGs, what more needs to done, and what lessons have been learned thus far. Moreover, it is appropriate for those living in the South Pacific to consider the regional dimension – what progress has been made in this part of the world, what challenges remain, what are the barriers to progress and how might these be overcome? Such questions are especially relevant in New Zealand at present given the National-led government’s recent, and controversial, decision to redirect this country’s international aid policy away from its focus on ‘poverty alleviation’ and towards ‘sustainable economic growth’.
In order to explore the various issues surrounding the MDGs, the Institute of Policy Studies hosted a major conference in Wellington in mid March 2009, with speakers and delegates from many parts of the world, especially the South Pacific. Four of the substantive contributions to this conference are included in this issue of Policy Quarterly, and many of the other papers will be published shortly by the Institute in an edited volume.
First, John Overton reviews how New Zealand’s international aid policy has changed over recent decades (especially in relation to the South Pacific), assesses the impact of the focus on poverty reduction during past decade, and explores the possible implications of the recent policy changes. Next, Vijay Naidu provides a comprehensive overview of progress towards meeting the MDGs in the South Pacific. In so doing he highlights both the successes and failures, identifies some of the obstacles preventing further progress, and suggests how achieving the MDGs might be speeded up. While Professor Naidu addresses the big picture, the contribution from Will Parks gives particular attention to the needs and welfare of children in the South Pacific – focussing especially on the fourth MDG (to reduce child mortality) and the fifth MDG (to improve maternal health). Finally, Barry Coates assesses the various strategies available for encouraging economic development (and development of an appropriate kind), and explores some of the wider issues facing the small island developing states of the South Pacific, such as the challenge of climate change.
The overall conclusion from these contribu-tions is that while some significant advances have been made towards meeting the aspirations of the Millennium Summit, much work remains to be done, most notably in that part of the South Pacific which accounts for the bulk of the population – Melanesia. To compound problems, the evidence suggests that the current global recession will exacerbate poverty and undermine social well-being over the next few years. In short, realising all the MDGs by 2015, certainly in this part of the world, is highly improbable.
The final four contributions to this issue of Policy Quarterly cover a diverse set of issues. Related to the issue of poverty and economic development in the South Pacific, Paul Callister, Juthika Badkar and Jessie Williams examine the likely future demand in New Zealand for domestic workers and caregivers for the elderly, and assess the implications of meeting some of this demand through relying upon low-skill migration, especially from the Pacific. Next, Kerry Hunter provides an American perspective on New Zealand’s flexible constitution, egalitarian political culture and democratic ethos, and cautions against this country adopting a constitutional framework similar to that in the US. Moving from grand designs to the more specific challenges of policy implementation, Ruth Herbert considers the enduring problem how to translate ambitious government strategies into practical and effective policies, giving particular attention to the complex, inter-agency task of reducing family violence. Finally, with the recent global financial crisis and economic downturn still fresh in our minds, David Rea examines recent trends in New Zealand government revenue and expenditure, and reflects on how this country’s performance compares with our counterparts across the OECD.
Published in August 2009