Saturday, 11 February 2012

Millennium Development Goals

What is an MDG? The United Nations adopted a Millennium Declaration at its summit in 2000 at which it set 8 Millennium Development Goals.  The then General Secretary, Kofi Annan, stressed, in his speech, the 'remarkable convergence of views on the challenge that faces us.' The goals are striking in their similarity to the principles underlying the Beatitudes and the 'Last Judgement' teachings of Jesus, particularly the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 and parables like Lazarus and Dives. Jesus teaches that the way to enter God's kingdom is through transformation. Unlike the kingdoms of this world whose authority is characterized by wealth and power, the kingdom of God is characterized by compassion, generosity and a strenuous activity that shows concern for justice and social responsibility. I have always been struck by the fact that, though Jesus seldom mentions judgement or hell, when He does, it is in the context of the parables that tell the story of people who walk by when others are in obvious need.

So, the goals themselves?
  • Eradicate extreme poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development
Much of the work of NGOs, charities like Christian Aid and Cafod and movements like the Transition Movement (which I have previously blogged about) is bound up with these goals. The aim was to achieve them by 2015 but, although significant progress has been made, the world will fall far short of this good intention. Nevertheless the setting of these goals has provided a very positive starting point for changing attitudes and for bringing governments together to try to work on ways to preserve the environment. Perhaps the most important thing is for more and more people to understand what is meant by poverty. It is a lack of opportunity, a lack of power over one's own life and prospects, a lack of human dignity, a lack of flourishing, a degrading of the natural world. Ending such poverty means enabling individuals, families and communities to make fundamental choices about economic, political, social and personal aspects of their own lives. Simply treating the symptoms of poverty such as hunger and homelessness, while important, will not end true poverty or provide a long term solution to the balances of power that cause extreme poverty. The systemic and structural causes of poverty need to be understood and removed.

Did you know that in 2008, if you had any money at all in a bank account, you were probably among the 8% of the world's richest people? As we prepare for Lent, you might like to consider ordering and working through Christian Aid's Ten Bible Studies inspired by the Millennium Goals. Called Working Together, they are short and pithy and provide excellent material for groups or indeed for you to use on your own to help you understand what your priorities might be in getting involved with the fight against extreme poverty. I think we often feel overwhelmed, helpless and guilty when faced by the scale of problems but these studies help us to have more insight and to choose simple but effective ways that we can all get involved to help and, indeed, to work together to combat poverty. Do not be put off doing anything by the fact that what you can do seems so little.

Contributors include Rowan Williams, Janet Morley, and Kathy Galloway (Head of Christian Aid in Scotland) as well as bishops from around the Anglican communion.  

You can order copies from

In this diocese every member of the clergy has been sent a copy in the Resources for Mission mialing for Winter 2012.

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