- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Private and faith-based groups can play a key role in meeting the 2015 deadline to achieve an ambitious set of global social goals set by the United Nations, a panel of economic and development specialists said yesterday.

Governments and international lending institutions are not the only means for meeting the eight “Millennium Development Goals” endorsed by the United States and nearly 190 other countries at the 2000 U.N. summit in New York, according to Jesus S. Domingo. Mr. Domingo founded the Philippine branch of the United Nations White Helmets, a joint government and civil-society group that performs “peace-building missions.”

The millennium goals “are the main bull’s-eye target, but there are concentric circles of effort around the bull’s-eye,” he said.

The former Philippine diplomat spoke at a seminar on the U.N. development goals, part of a three-day conference jointly sponsored by the Universal Peace Foundation and The Washington Times Foundation.

The gathering, which featured 20 current and former heads of state and dozens of legislators from around the world, was held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the founding of The Washington Times newspaper.

Other topics addressed at the conference included the culture wars in America and abroad; the crises on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East; and the responsibilities of the press in an age of terrorism and conflict.

The 2000 U.N. summit formulated the eight “Millennium Development Goals,” or MDGs, as a way to set concrete benchmarks for meeting a range of economic, health, social and environmental objectives. The deadline for achieving the goals is 2015, and July 2007 will be the exact halfway point in the timeline to reach the goals.

The eight goals include: eradicating extreme poverty; universal primary education; gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; fighting AIDS, malaria and other diseases; protecting the environment; and developing a “global partnership for development,” including debt relief for the world’s poorest countries.

Under the eight broad goals, organizers have identified 18 quantifiable targets and four dozen indicators to measure progress.

Although relatively underpublicized in the U.S., the MDGs have proved a useful tool for officials and planners in the developing world.

In the 2006 annual status report on the MDGs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, U.N. undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said there has been measurable progress on a number of the goals, including primary education and lower AIDS infection rates in some sub-Saharan African countries.

“There are clear signs of hope,” he said.

But Ana Mora Wakeland, a former Panamanian diplomat who now teaches at the University of Panama, told the conference yesterday that a number of countries in Central America and sub-Saharan Africa will need major help if they are to meet the U.N. poverty-reduction targets and other aims.

“We have the opportunity to cut world poverty significantly, but we need action,” she said. “For us, the Millennium Development Goals are too important to fail.”

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