THE Catholic bishops meeting in Lae, Morobe province, on April 16 asked for the church’s support and active engagement in delivering the millennium development goals (MDGs).
It is an important call because it is the churches that are really the frontline service deliverers in this country.
The MDGs are a set of eight goals that 189-member states of the United Nations, including Papua New Guinea, agreed to achieve by 2015. They address some of the world’s biggest challenges and aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, ensure all boys and girls complete primary school, promote gender equality, improve the health of mothers and children, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and communicable diseases, protect the environment and create a global partnership for development.
The MDGs have a set of 21 specific targets and 58 indicators to measure whether the goals have been achieved, and to gauge how much the world and various countries have fallen short.
In adopting the millennium declaration, the international community and the countries that adopted the declaration pledged to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty”.
Ten years after the promise, progress globally is mixed.
A recent report from the United Nation’s secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, stated that a number of countries have achieved major successes.
Yet, progress has been uneven and – without additional efforts – several goals were likely to be missed in many countries.
For the first two years, the Government took no action.
In 2003, it reviewed the eight goals and concluded that the global targets were “ambitious, unrealistic and unachievable”.
PNG, therefore, set its own “tailored” national MDG targets which were incorporated into the medium-term development strategy 2005-10.
The country’s first millennium development goals report (MDGR) in 2004 described the period from 2000-2004 as one of stagnation with the country not on track with any of the MDGs.
The second MDGR last year, and launched in February, stated that the picture has changed little from 2004.
It is important to note that virtually all challenges that existed in 2004 still existed last year.
These challenges included:
nA rapid population growth rate of more than 2% per annum;
nService delivery, especially in the area of health, was unable to cope with the continuously increasing demand for these services. As a result certain key indicators such as maternal health and mortality presented a disastrous picture with the health situation in the country and possibly by extension of development;
nPNG’s continuous serious law and order problems and many socio-cultural challenges, especially gender-based violence that hamper the achievement of the MDGs. To these are now added the challenges of climate change. Unfortunately, some of these challenges have become even more critical impediments for development than they were in the past; and
nThe most important challenge last year was undoubtedly the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which threatens to undo all progress that has so far been made.
The Government will need to address the challenges through appropriate interventions detailed in its policies and plans.
Civil society organisations and the churches also need to take a far more hands-on approach as well.
The campaign needs the support of every women and children, young and old.
Churches can take a lead in adopting the MDGs as a roadmap for lifting the poor out of poverty. That is to say that churches can adopt the MDGs as their own church policies and incorporate them into their plans and programmes.
They can further lend their names to the PNG Civil Society Coalition for the MDGs by joining the coalition.
Churches can also stand up on Sunday, Sept 19, with special sermons around the country and activities focusing on the poor and MDGs.
The Catholic church can use its credibility, influence and standing to influence the people and challenge the Government to take a more proactive approach.