Breaking the promise

Development Policy21 Sep 2010Christoffer Grønstad

Already, before the MDG summit has even kicked off, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has pointed out that the 0.7 ODA target will not be achieved during her term (ending in 2013). At least she deserves credit for her honesty…

Goals are goals. Politicians fail to reach their goals on a daily basis, and one could even say that it is acceptable to not reach one’s own goals – at least when one is honest about it. Come on, you might say – we ordinary people sometimes also fail to reach our own goals, it is human. However, this lack of achievement should not first and foremost be degraded and seen to be about reaching the goals of our political leaders. No; with the misachievements of Merkel and her colleagues, people are starving and dying – every single day – and this is first and foremost a consequence of ignoring the rights of the hungry and the poor.

I sometimes wonder how much knowledge our world leaders actually have about the population of the world they live in (and rule). Do they actually know that nearly half (45 percent) of the world’s population is under 25 years of age? Do they know that today’s generation of 15–24 year olds is the most educated generation ever? The latter I am rather sure they know, it is a sign of being on track with at least one goal – and bragging about progress is not really new to any of them. But do they see the powerful consequences of the combination?

Out of the world’s one billion people aged 15–24, 85 percent live in developing countries. And this figure is growing. Imagine one billion impatient youths, fully aware of their rights (this is often a consequence of education) and also aware of the MDGs and the inequalities in the world. And then try to imagine that they are going to accept the world order of today – let us say in 15 years from now.

In the hearings leading up to the MDG summit, numerous international NGOs, among them Amnesty International and Oxfam International, stressed the interlinks between development and human rights. The universal agreement about the MDGs was worth celebration in 2000 – but if they are to take the attention away from every person’s internationally recognized rights, then we are on the wrong track.

In the movement of youth-led and democratic youth organizations, we often lack the resources to invest in food, health and employment programmes. But we do have strong and life-changing non-formal education tools for learning about human rights, empowerment and democracy. When the 15–24 year olds of today replace Angela Merkel and her colleagues in governments – and in the UN General Assembly Hall as well – their voters will not accept the slow pace of development as it is today. In fact, they are already impatient. I just returned from the University of Youth and Development, where 250 youth leaders of today brought this message to Merkel and her colleagues.