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Youths ponder world development priorities

on 15/06/2019

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up 40 per cent of the world’s population and around 25 per cent of global GDP, and in decades to come are predicted to dominate international trade.


The growing wealth of China and other BRICS countries has helped fuel the advancement of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals.

And as the 2015 deadline for meeting the MDGs approaches, young people — some of them aspiring leaders — are looking ahead to what the next phase of development will bring.

When Hugo Chavez died recently after 14 years in power in Venezuela, the United Nations praised his commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Mr Chavez as having a fierce attachment to the Millennium Development Goals.

Under Mr Chavez’s ledership, Venezuela saw dramatic reductions in poverty rates, as well as advancements in health and education, with UNESCO declaring the country technically illiteracy-free.

Rafael Caricote grew up in the so-called January-23 neighbourhood of Caracas, named in honour of the date in 1958 on which the last military dictator of Venezuela, Marco Perez Jimenez was overthrown.

It became known as a hotbed of activism and support for Mr Chavez.

20-year-old Rafael Caricote says he’s seen the changes brought about by development programs in Venezuela.

“In my country there [are] so many social programs that include people, [for example] medical programs, social programs. In my country there are many public and private universities. I think the government developed a very good strategy [to] educate people and eradicate illteracy, but in my country I think poverty is the most important issue that the [Chavez] government tackled with all these plans, social inclusion plans. It’s important to recognise that the previous government [did] a good job in social inclusion and some economic things in our country such as the selling of oil and minerals. But it’s important to recognise, too, that people in our country are very willing to develop [themselves] with all these kinds of improvements.”

Rafael Caricote says one program of the Chavez government involved providing access to free healthcare, with specialists from countries such as Cuba and China training local doctors.

“Chavez implemented a plan of medical improvement for people. There are so many urban slums in my country and they put a medical [clinic], and all these people from urban slums come to these places, where they are attended to by doctors that Chavez put there. At the beginning [they were] from other countries, from Cuba for example and from China, but when he improved their educational programs, he improved their medical career, … So there are so many doctors.”

As recently as four years ago, the UN observed that Colombia was falling behind in achieving all eight of the Millenium Development Goals, to which member states committed in 2000.

It said one of the most worrying targets was poverty.

A student from Bogota, Juan Jaramillo, says at the time of the signing of the Millennium Declaration, Colombia was only starting to emerge from a devastating banking crisis.

He says, today the country is experiencing an unprecedented resources boom, and it’s looking to catch up.

“Now that we are in a mining and oil boom in our country and we are experiencing rapid economic growth, some of the revenue is being reinvested in trying to achieve those Millenium Development goals, like eradicating poverty.Specifically, the last two governments have done a lot for the empowerment of women and gender equality. This government has a program for the eradication of poverty, and I think we are on our way. Maybe we are diminishing a little bit in areas like environmental sustainability because even though Colombia is an agricultural country, somehow, we are recovering and our rapid economic growth is due to the mining and oil sectors.”

Romania was another one of 191 UN member states to commit to the MDGs.

When it joined the European Union in 2007, its efforts to reach national targets were boosted, but the impact of the eurozone financial crisis soon slowed down their implementation.

Bianca Marin is a 19-year-old student from the capital, Bucharest, and a delegate at a recent international World Model UN conference in Melbourne.

She says some targets were neglected as a result of the financial downturn.

“The sanitary system had to suffer and the prevention of HIV/AIDS, which actually we’ve seen some cases where young females ended up affecting other people. So, that was an alarm signal. We’ve recently seen more campaigns in schools for education and prevention. Another thing was education at some point and especially the efforts done for those people in rural communities were kind of stopped once the financial crisis came due to lack of funds.”

Bianca Marin says rural areas of Romania present particular development challenges.

“Romania unfortunately still has great discrepancies between the rural and urban areas, especially due to geographical reasons access to rural areas isn’t always possible, so we have actual communities that are isloated and children that have to go even two kilometres in the winter by foot and then people can’t really go to the big cities to work and there aren’t many opportunities there. So, there is definitely poverty and other problems in these rural communities, mainly due to the isolation.”

Distribution of development benefits and the resulting outcomes were among the issues featured in debate at the UN youth conference in Melbourne.

Bonnie Chiu is a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a delegate on a UN-endorsed committee that’s now presenting its own resolution to the world body about global development post-2015.

She says fellow delegates expressed a desire to see future development planning tailored more towards the circumstances of individual nations.

But she believes a balance must be achieved between the needs of individual countries, and those of the global community.

“They stress again and again how important it is for their own countries to decide what they do, because that would ensure accountability of the governments. And that’s really important. So, the really important point is to let the countries decide. We’ve seen the global disparity, especially in the island economies in the Pacific. We had an NGO representative from Fiji and she told us how the amount of aid per capita is the highest in the Pacific economies, but the progress in those places is minimal. Since these inequalities exist we cannot just apply a one-size-fits-all approach. So, definitely there should be consideration of the progress of different countries, their starting points, but if we take into consideration too much of the different progresses then that will kind of dilute the effectiveness of the MDGs in the post-2015 framework. It’s a difficult balance and that’s going to be a challenge for policy makers, I think.”

A fellow delegate in Melbourne, Hana Hanifa Bastaman from Indonesia, holds that some existing development targets should remain on the agenda after 2015.

She believes wiping out poverty should continue to be the main priority.

“If people have enough purchasing power and don’t live in poverty, they can have good access to education, they can have good access to clean water, they can buy sufficient food and they can get their own employment, maybe by entrepreneurship. Poverty needs to be the main priority again, and also connectivity of government and how each government in the world can actually assist each other and show what we can really do for good governance in the world.”

Specifically for Indonesia, Hana Hanifa Bastaman says she would like to see a new approach to education about HIV/AIDS — as rates increase in her country, despite efforts to curb its spread.

“In Indonesia things about sex and all that stuff are still kind of taboo because we have this majority of people who are Muslims in society. So, talking about that kind of thing is still taboo. Not many people are talking about HIV/AIDS while it’s a big problem. So, I think the problem is more about awareness, how people don’t really get proper information about how they can prevent HIV/AIDS.”

Ahmed Awadallah, a former teacher from Egypt who is now studying in the United States, was also in Melbourne for the UN conference.

The 30-year-old wants education to be a high priority in Egypt’s future development programs.

“Teachers and professors need to have more training sessions, improvement, healthcare, benefits. Look at the teachers in any other developed country and how the government percieves or treats them. Look at the teachers in developing countries, so if you don’t have the basic needs you have to do something else. The other concern is that you have very old schools. I attended a public school all my life — primary schoo, middle school, high school. I have never seen a computer in my school. I graduated from the school knowing nothing about computers. I didn’t even know how to use the Internet because I’d never seen a computer.”

Rafael Caricote from Venezuela says he’d like to see violence addressed in the international development agenda after 2015.

“One of the most important issues that we have to tack in my country is the issue of violence. There are so many cases of violence, not only in Venezuela, but around the world. We are very concerned about the situation of violence in Venezuela. For example, there are 30 or 20 deaths every week. It’s a very alarming rate because you want to be safe, as a Venezueland or a citizen of the world, you deserve to enjoy a peaceful place. The government has the right to give to people the responsibility to protect.”

Another delegate, Sophia Vetancourt from Colombia, says solutions for the next stage of development will need to take into account environmental challenges that are becoming increasingly common across the planet.

“The Millenium Development Goals, when they were created, they were not thinking about all the things that have happened throughout these 13 years so far. So crises such as the one that Haiti lived through, or the tsunamis or many things that have to do with environmental issues must be taken into account for a post-2015 agenda.”

A delegate from Pakistan, Kamil Jamshed, says there’s one social issue the UN cannot ignore as it plans for the next phase of global development.

“As we are moving forward when the world is becoming even more interconnected with the advent of the media and technology as we know it, racism and discriminatory practices have become prevalent. Solving these issues has become a priority, especially within the Asiatic region and the Asiatic states where minorities are sometimes subjected to the will of the majority. So, to come up with strategies and schemes in which minorities can be integrated into mainstream society so that the term itself — majority and minority — takes a back end. And we can then say to the world: look, it’s just one global society that we’re working in, and there’s no reason to think that any human besides us is any different just because of caste, creed, colour, skin or race.”

Next month, a high-level panel evaluating the MDGs since 2000 will report its findings to UN member states.

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