08 OCTOBER 2008 ST LUCIA (Pacnews) ---- The current food and energy crisis will make meeting the Millennium Development Goals even harder to reach – if not unattainable - according to civil society representatives at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting in Saint Lucia, October 6th.
The global community recently met in New York to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are targets and standards in global poverty, health and sustainability. But, speaking ahead of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting opening ceremony, Commonwealth civil society said that while the countries were generally doing well towards progress, the rising food and energy crisis threatens to undo that. Civil society experts are concerned that as the crisis worsens, it will make the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals unrealistic and could lead to eight lost years of progress. Nelcia Robinson, Co-ordinator of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action cited the need for food security to ensure that those groups indentified as vulnerable within the Millennium Development Goals will be able to meet nutritional basics.
“People with, or supporting those with HIV and AIDS are already hard pressed to meet their nutritional needs,” said Robinson.
“Increasing costs and potential increases through Value Added Tax will only exacerbate this.” Sarwar Bari, the National Co-ordinator for Pattan Development Organisation said education-specific MDGs were also likely to be affected. “We have done focus groups and we see that people are taking their children out of school because transport costs are now an issue,” said Bari.
“Girls tend to be the most affected and this is harming the MDGs related to gender parity in schools in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.”
The education issue isn’t only specific to Asia. Robinson reported that the rising cost of fuel being passed onto the consumer meant that children were dropping out of school or reverting to walking to school because they could not afford bus fares. Governments face the reality of spending less on social welfare and development sectors as they try to stem and support the current crisis but civil society representatives are urging them not to lose sight of the work done towards the MDG achievements to date and that national policies addressing the crisis should be in line with the plans for addressing the MDGs.
Civil society representatives pointed to recent civil unrest taking place across countries as people protest against rising costs of food and energy and its implications. Starting tomorrow (Tuesday 7th October) the Commonwealth Finance Ministers will have the opportunity to review Commonwealth civil society’s statement and recommendations on how to prevent that unrest and discuss recommendations. Commonwealth Foundation Governance and Democracy Programme Manager Seth Lartey.
“The high fuel and food prices pose different challenges for each Commonwealth country. There is a need for all member countries to develop policy responses to meet those challenges and address civil society’s collective concerns and contribute to a global debate,” Lartey added.
The Commonwealth Foundation has brought together civil society representatives from around the Commonwealth to contribute to the government proceedings which will in turn feed into global-level discussions. …..PNS (ENDS)