“The Millennium Development Goals Work!” — says UN in the 2010 New York UN Summit.
In recent years, we have seen Africa’s economic growth, and the reduction of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. The world starts to generate its post-2015 goals while celebrating the victory. Global scholars, activists and politicians hotly debate whether the international community should ascend its priority from eliminating extreme poverty to advanced objectives, such as tackling climate change and establishing healthy governance in each country.
So what is our post-2015 strategy? According to the Brookings Institution, four major typologies were launched in response to the post-2015 debate: “conservative” — persistent focus on extreme poverty; “upgrading” — poverty plus one or two global challenges, either social or environmental; “geostrategic” — concentration on emerging economies; “comprehensive” — resolve every country’s poverty and social problems simultaneously while confronting environmental issues together.
Each typology has its pros and cons. This blog does not aim to criticize any of them but put forward another approach to the global challenges — “neo-geostrategic”: keep relieving extreme poverty as the baseline, while improving governance specifically in the poverty-afflicted regions; while geostrategically targeting on emerging economies for resolutions to environmental concerns.
- Poverty as the baseline with concentrated regional governance improvement
The world’s extreme poverty occurs in the most impoverished continent, Africa and in sporadic areas in other regions. Although Africa’s economic growth reached around 5 percent in 2010 and 4.9 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, critics argue that its current growth rate is less than satisfactory. As African Development Bank indicates, Africa’s overall poverty reduction rate between 1990-2008 is “nearly twice and three times lower at 9% relative to Asia’s 15% and Latin America’s 24%.” Meanwhile, the high unemployment rate and prevalence of malnutrition are still torturing the continent. On the other hand, Africa is facing significant foreign aid cuts from developed countries due to the global economic crisis. For instance, EU decided to cut €34 billion out of its total budget for the next seven years.
In the mean time, evidence shows countries that are struggling through extreme poverty always suffer from poor governance and corruption. For example,in Kenya where approximately 46% of the population lives under the poverty line, Kenya’s MPs each earn a £82,000 annual income and still attempt to raise their salaries. Their incomes were quadrupled in 2003 and increased again by 25 percent in 2010. The effort of eradicating extreme poverty should be equipped with advancing political system and national governance, in order to better tackle the existing poverty struggles and prevent its retreat.
- Geostrategic focus on emerging economies
Environmental concerns, including climate change, need immediate address and long-term commitment. However, the emerging economies have more imminent needs to confront these challenges. Countries like China, Brazil and India, often embrace considerably big populations, which consume a large amount of energy and natural resources. Further, emerging economies tend to rely on exports of their natural resources to cushion the fast-growing economy.
Look at Brazil, where the world’s biggest rain forest is located. Over the past 12 months, almost 200,000 km2 clear cutting occurred in the Amazon, according to the National Institute for Space Research, a research unit of the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology. China with its CO2 emissions has long surpassed USA’s to be the world’s #1 since 2006, as suggested by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Due to the dependency of emerging economies on resource export and the use of fossil fuels, it is reasonable to consider them as a geostrategic focus for the post-2015 plan to alleviate environmental problems. However, it’s not realistic to ascribe all obligations to the governments of these emerging economies. The whole international community can offer integrated assistance to these governments, including circumventing home country’s companies from engaging in anti-environment economic activities.
Nevertheless, each country has its unique circumstances that affect which issue it chooses to be its priority. African countries might need to take the extreme poverty into priority, while most Asian countries might pay more attention to social inequity.