Huffpost Impact
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

John W. McArthur Headshot

A People's Plan of Action to Fight Extreme Poverty

Posted: Updated:

By Johann O Koss, CEO and President of Right to Play & John W McArthur, CEO of Millennium Promise

Government leaders cannot solve global challenges on their own any more. In today's much flatter world, it is everyday people --and, critically, their personal networks--who have the potential to be the world's big new problem solvers. Haiti's post-earthquake emergency has vividly displayed the need for coordinated best efforts from non-profits, companies, individuals, online communities, governments and the UN system. The same mindset of partnership, urgency, and "all hands on deck" is also required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the world's integrated targets for tackling extreme poverty by 2015.

The crisis in Haiti underlines the deep truth that life remains horrendously fragile in societies that lack the resources and infrastructure to meet basic human needs. For the 1.4 billion people still living in extreme poverty around the world, life and death tragedies remain all too common, whether brought about by a earthquake, drought, flood, or even just the simple bite of a mosquito. More than 8 million children will die this year before reaching their fifth birthday, most because they are too poor to stay alive.

In his September 2009 opening address to the UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama announced a new approach to the global challenge, with a countdown to the Millennium Development Goal summit that will take place at the United Nations in September 2010. This will be the last major opportunity for governments to put in place a coherent plan for achieving the Goals in time for the 2015 deadline. The President stated unequivocally that the United States "will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year's Summit with a global plan to make them a reality."

The Millennium Goals are the world's goals. They have spurred an unprecedented global agenda for partnership since they were established 10 years ago. Bill Gates has called them "the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that [he has] ever seen." They have seen remarkable progress, including a 74 percent reduction in measles deaths, 4 million people on life-saving AIDS treatment, and more than 30 million additional children in primary school in Africa alone. The success stories each have major lessons for scale-up, including sound technical interventions, institutional mechanisms to deliver services, adequate finance to reach scale, and a clear focus on metrics. Ten years ago most were widely considered unachievable.

In 2010, global policy agreements are crucial, but they are no longer enough. Some government commitments are becoming tough to respect in any case. The G7 rich countries alone are now more than $30 billion behind on their high profile 2005 Gleneagles promises to the developed world.

The Goals need action from everyone. In that spirit, this week a group of more than 50 private individuals and organizations around the world are making their own pledges to help make concrete progress. These pledges will be announced at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and are being made by people the Forum has designated "young global leaders." The group strives to show that the Goals require shared ownership, with everyone doing what they can to leverage available skills, technologies and networks to contribute towards the core targets.

Pledges vary in size and include effort to deliver services directly, mobilize funding, or raise public awareness. They embody the spirit that everyone has something to contribute. One person is launching a school that will teach 250 girls in Afghanistan. Another is supporting the reclamation of Indonesian land in support of the Goal for biodiversity. Accion International will expand financial services to 500,000 microentrepreneurs in India. Deworm the World has committed to deworm 10-20 million children in 2010 to support the Goals for education and child health. Facebook's leadership has pledged an innovative strategy to connect 20 million people with organizations supporting the Goals for gender equality. The pioneering African Leadership Academy will mobilize its students around the Goal for environmental sustainability.

These pledges can only be a beginning. In the coming weeks the initiative plans to launch a public mechanism through which companies, organizations, individuals, and governments can announce and register their own concrete MDG commitments. The aim is to leverage pledges in a manner that builds public awareness of the Goals and also supports the adoption of a robust intergovernmental action plan at the September 2010 UN summit.

Individuals, companies, and non-governmental organizations need to stand alongside their governments to advance the best solutions to extreme poverty, to sustain public engagement, and to hold their governments accountable. The Goals are too important to wait on politics. World leaders urgently need our help. It is time for a people's plan of action.