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Writing today on the 65th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco, I am proud to have spent almost 1/3 of that time as a United Nations staff member. Having spent more than 20 of the last 25 years abroad, I have been confronted by the complexities of an “aid syndrome’ of governments depending upon the international community to carry their load, failing to develop country ownership in programs by the general population, which created dependence upon the international community.

Despite millions and even billions of aid dollars flowing into countries, poverty is still creating misery and untold suffering as the development aid rarely seemed to come into the hands of the most vulnerable.

In 2005, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that “it is the absence of broad-based business activity, not its presence, that condemns much of humanity to suffering.” Further promoting economic growth is topic still not well defined or understood today. From my point of view, one of the reasons appears to be a lack of understanding how to promote the positive sides of globalization.

That said, tremendous progress has been made, in many developing countries, over the last 10 years facilitating tens of millions of people climb above abject poverty. When we look at some of the factors that have made improvements in the quality of life possible, the mobilization of ‘country ownership’ is often finding its way into the development equation. Promoting citizen awareness and involvement in planning and budgeting, not only at the national level, but also at regional and local levels is an important dynamic. Breaking down corruption and graft require a strong commitment to accountability and transparency.

Ensuring that women and girls, and the needs of families are included into planning and country ownership is vital to support diversification of livelihoods, especially as new technologies and innovation are creating new opportunities. Low carbon activities that can benefit households with clean energy alternatives, and will create new employment opportunities, as well as aid in avoiding serious health impacts are vital. Promoting sustainable farming practices that include seed development, soil and watershed management, certainly organic farming, with terracing and use of irrigation systems will greatly facilitate avoiding hunger.

Almost more critical than international aid is broadening local tax bases, improving tax collection and creating a vibrant private sector. The choice of policies requires broad consensus and support from all sectors of a country. More effort must be taken in countries that have been in conflict to ensure all people have a voice.

I’m pleased to post these comments on the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations in the hopes of engaging the American public in discussions about the Millennium Development Goals, and use the power of ‘bottoms-up and pro-poor approaches’ to help people help themselves create livelihoods that are sensitive to the environments in which they live. Sustainable natural resource management is a key aspect of green growth. Supply of clean energy is indispensable.


SLaw's picture

Well Said!

I could not agree more! I have recently been reading up on Bottom of the Pyramid economics. My country, Nigeria, has an unconscionable percentage of its population in the lowest levels of the BOP, and it galls me to think that with all the wealth we have in terms of resources--natural, human, and fiscal--poverty is still a reality for so many Nigerians.

Attainment of the MDGs is not impossible, but it requires intentional and focused action AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. International aid should be reserved for emergency situations or it will become a crutch for societies that have failed to get out of diapers. I strongly advocate "country ownership" and enterprise development at the local level as the path to bringing an end to poverty.

Thanks for your work and your years of service to the world's neediest!

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