From September 20-24, world leaders came together at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit to identify solutions to the biggest problems facing our planet. Journey of Action teamed up with Oxfam to cover the UN Summit as well as Clinton Global Initiative and the Mashable Social Good Summit. It was an unbelievable experience that we will never forget and an incredible way to kick start your journey. We interviewed world leaders, corporate executives, and young inspiring social activist.
In case you are not aware, the Millennium Development Goals (the MDG's) were set in 2000 and adopted by all 192 UN member-states. The MDGs set out the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal mortality, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and creating a global partnership for development...all by 2015.
Though there has been progress over the past 10 years, with some countries moving faster than others, the final deadline of 2015 is now looming, and we have a long way to go. 1.3 billion people, about a fifth of the world's population live on less than $1 a day. Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women. Women work 2/3 of the world's working hours, produce over half of the world's food, yet earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. 72 million children remain 'out of school' worldwide. 1 billion people are hungry right now. Annual childhood deaths now stand at 8.8 million.
These stats should not intimidate you, but rather inspire you, because though these numbers are high, we have the means and solutions to dramatically reduce these numbers in five years. In the words of Ted Turner, "the MDGs are the world's to do list, of urgent priorities, this means you and I are apart of the solution, so I'm a suggesting a to-do item for your list today, do something today to advance one of the eight MDGs, it is easy and it is within our reach, we can all do something to make the world a better place."
We know the causes of poverty and we know why it is perpetual. We have the solutions, it is just a matter of acting. Our world leaders can make changes to end extreme poverty, they have renewed their promises to do so, but we have to hold them accountable. We must demand that our governments follow through with their promises.
It is no longer a choice. As Ban Ki-moon expressed in his speech, "in the past, we have seen that when the spotlights are switched off, world attention quickly moves on to other issues. With only five years left, we cannot let that happen. Between now and 2015, we must make sure that promises made become promises kept. The consequences of doing otherwise are profound: death, illness and despair, needless suffering, lost opportunities for millions upon millions of people."
Fortunately, there are many exceptional individuals, non-profit organizations, and even for-profit organizations, acting to end extreme poverty. I'm most inspired by young social activists, like Tanvi Girota, Petra Nemcova, Jody Lightfoot and Jade Frencham.
Girota, at only 19 years old, has created a non-profit "Becoming I," a new youth-led organization to create a platform for young people to come together and make a positive difference in society. It supports projects in India in the fields of education, women's empowerment, and life skills development, among other issues. Nemcova founded Happy Hearts Foundation, which builds sustainable schools in post natural disaster areas. In a short amount of time, HHF has positively impacted 31,000 students and 331,000 community members. Lightfoot and Frencham are both apart of The Oaktree Foundation from Australia, which is completely operated by young people under the age of 26. Oaktree has launched numerous successful initiatives. They have 55,000 members, have spoken directly to well over 500,000 individuals about extreme poverty, and achieved an incredible media reach of over 100 million.
No matter who you are, where you are from, or how busy you are, you can do something to help. Find a cause you care about, get educated on the issue, spread awareness, and take action, so in 2015, we don't live in a world in which extreme poverty and hunger still rule the day, where children continue to die too early and too many women die in childbirth, a world in which HIV/AIDS still ravages too many populations and in which environmental sustainability, universal education and gender equality remain out of reach.