AMIDST competing parties and festivities on the eve of PNG’s 34th Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday evening, a sprinkling of UN officials, officials from the Department of Community Development, non-governmental organisations and journalists witnessed a small launch at the Ela Beach Hotel in Port Moresby.
At the end of a media conference, those gathered held joined hands aloft as the secretary for Community Development, Joseph Klapat, and deputy director (Asia) of the UN’s Millennium Campaign, Minar Pimple, launched the global “Stand up and take action” campaign in PNG.
The concept, developed to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), has now become a global movement involving over 100 million people worldwide (116 million in 2008) in an effort to pressure governments to keep their commitment to meet the MDG by the target date of 2015.
The planet-wide timetable falls this year from Oct 16-18.
The name Millennium Development Goals is high sounding and far removed from PNG but in fact the goals highlight seven very basic needs of Papua New Guineans and people everywhere.
An eighth goal places the responsibility upon the developed nations of the world to be actively involved in helping developing nations achieve their seven goals.
The eight goals are:
1. Eradicate poverty and hunger;
2. Achieve universal primary education;
3. Promote gender equality and empower women;
4. Reduce child mortality;
5. Improve maternal health;
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and
8. Partnership for global development.
PNG is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration signed by world leaders in September 2000 which established the MDG. Tragically, PNG and many Pacific Island states have fallen way off track in achieving those goals.
Mr Klapat said from present indications, PNG would not achieve any of the MDG targets by 2015. It is a situation that baffles the UN’s Mr Pimple.
“This nation is so rich yet it is off track in achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” he said. “Countries with lower GDP in Africa are doing much better.”
Mr Klapat supplied part of the answer: “It is not a matter of lack of resources so much as a case of misguided priorities.”
Or, we venture, ever shifting priorities.
We would venture some further stumbling blocks into the argument: That governments try to achieve all without consulting or involving the people.
This has been the case from the early days of Independence. Priorities of government from those contained in the national goals and directive principles and the eight-point plan to respective administrations’ development policies have been good. Indeed, with minor changes national goals or the eight-point plan and the eight MDG are identical.
Constant changes of governments have resulted in continuous changes in departmental heads and senior civil servants and in policy shifts. In that way, no one policy has been given the time or the resources, including careful management, to make them work.
In addition, governments and their civil servants in the bureaucracy have, believing themselves to have a monopoly on knowledge as well as a firm hand on the purse strings, kept the people from participating in development efforts to improve their livelihood. A number of policies have been imposed from the top down without consultation with the people at the bottom before or surveys to see what their effects are after imposition.
To an extent, the MDG have suffered from this curious Government ailment. Right from the start, the goals have appeared to be a grand government bilateral or multi-lateral diplomatic effort which had little to do with the people, or if they did, then they were considered unfit or unable to participate. The people did not feel they belonged or that they fitted in somewhere.
Any efforts now, including the “Stand up and take action” campaign must start by involving people and organisations such as churches, trade unions, NGOs and even private companies to involve the people and let them take ownership of the MDGs.
This would be a paradigm shift and there lies hope in that direction.