The PelicanWeb's Journal of Sustainable Development

Research Digest on Integral Human Development,
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Related Global Issues

Vol. 6, No. 6, Rev. 1, June 2010
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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The U.N. MDG Summit ~ 20-22 September 2010


During the Summer this year the monthly issues will the light and keep track of the preparations for the United Nations MDG Summit to be held 20-22 September 2010 in New York. The UN Secretary-General has made a formal invitation to all nations to participate in this summit on the MDGs. Gender equality is one of the goals (MDG3), and one that is generating much resistance from some institutions, both secular and religious.

The patriarchal mindset still prevails worldwide, and radically so in some institutions. Resistance to MDG3 may be the best case example of the nefarious influence of patriarchal institutions on sustainable development and other significant issues of social and environmental justice. Full partnership between men and women is a prerequisite for sustainable human development.

It is anticipated that MDG8 -- creating a global partnership for development -- will be another hot topic for discussion. At the moment, there is stagnation in generating the international political will required for making significant progress toward the 2015 targets. The future of sustainable development worldwide hinges on the success of this summit.

Planning information and some of the working documents are already online at the UN MDG summit web site. This issue provides a roadmap of this online documentation, with emphasis on opportunities for participation. The outline for page 1 is as follows:

1. The UN MDG Summit 2010 Web Site
2. Review of the "Keeping the Promise" Report
3. General Consultation and Opportunities for Participation
4. References and Workings Documents Available for Online Review
5. Planned Agenda for the MDG Summit Meeting
This issue includes updates of the two supplements:

Supplement 1: Advances in Sustainable Development, is a monthly snapshot of significant recent contributions to in-depth understanding of the sustainable development process in general and integral human development in particular. This supplement includes the following items:

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences
3. Advances in Sustainable Development
4. Advances in Integral Human Development
5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development
6. Recently Launched Games and Simulation Tools
7. Visualizations of the Sustainable Development Process
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Sustainable Development and the International Community

Supplement 2: Directory of Sustainable Development Resources is an annotated directory of online resources on sustainable development and related issues. Links are provided to selected online content in the following categories:

1. Population and Human Development
2. Cultural, Social, and Security Issues
3. Financial, Economic, and Political Issues
4. Ecological Resources and Ecosystem Services
5. Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy Sources
6. Pollution, Climate Change, and Environmental Management
7. Land, Agriculture, Food Supply, and Water Supply
8. Current Outlook for the Planet and Human Civilization
9. Transition from Consumerism to Sustainability

The U.N. MDG Summit ~ 20-22 September 2010
Luis T. Gutierrez
Editor, The Pelican Web & Journal

1. The UN MDG Summit 2010 Web Site

The UN MDG Summit Web Site was recently launched in anticipation of the summit meeting to be held 20-22 September 2010 in New York. The eight MDGs remain the same, and the 2015 targets are not moving, but the world has changed a lot since the Millennium Declaration was approved by the General Assembly in 2000.

Just in case the reader wants a refresher on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, the eight goals and 2015 targets are defined as follows:

Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
Target 2: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
Target 3: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Target 1: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
Target 1: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
Target 1: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
Target 1: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
Target 2: Achieve universal access to reproductive health
Target 1: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
Target 2: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
Target 3: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
Target 1: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources
Target 2: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
Target 3: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
Target 4: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers
Target 1: Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states
Target 2: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
Target 3: Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt
Target 4: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
Target 5: In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
The left-hand side column of the UN MDG Summit Web Site provides links to all the pertinent MDG references and planning documentation for the September 2010 summit meeting. The right-hand side column provides links to the General Assembly Interactive Sessions in Preparation for the MDG Summit, and the Informal Interactive Hearings of the General Assembly with Non-governmental organizations, Civil society organizations and the Private sector in preparation for the summit meeting, as well as examples of MDG success stories and videos of recent MDG-related events.

2. Review of the "Keeping the Promise" Report

The document Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, dated 12 February 2010, is the fundamental point of reference for the MDG summit meeting.

"Our challenge today is to agree on an action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. With five years to go to the target date of 2015, the prospect of falling short of achieving the Goals because of a lack of commitment is very real. This would be an unacceptable failure from both the moral and the practical standpoint. If we fail, the dangers in the world — instability, violence, epidemic diseases, environmental degradation, runaway population growth — will all be multiplied." Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 12 February 2010, section 4.

In the May 2010 issue of this journal, a few recommendations were offered pursuant to facing this challenge. These recommendations are structured around the "guiding principles" proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Keeping the promise, section 99, and are reiterated here with a an added sense or urgency:

"1. National ownership and leadership complemented by supportive global programmes, measures and policies that align with national priorities and respect national sovereignty are essential."

  • Since global solutions are imperative, and solutions must be consistent with national priorities, it follows that national priorities must be supportive of global solutions. Managing the circular feedback loops between global and national needs is unavoidable. Iterating around these loops requires that all nations agree on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability. The principle of subsidiarity is especially critical if global and national interests are to be mutually supportive. It is indispensable if some form of global governance is eventually required -- and it is hard to envision global solutions to global problems without global governance. Even if global governance could somehow be avoided or postponed, the principle of subsidiarity must be applied to all sustainable development initiatives ate the local, national, and global levels. Else, MDG8 becomes an impossibility.
"2. The interdependence of human rights, gender equality, governance, development and peace and security must be recognized to attain success and sustainability."

  • Respect for human rights and the need for governance, development, and peace and security are already acknowledged (at least in theory) by all nations. This is not the case with regard to gender equality. In this sense, gaining a universal commitment to gender equality should be a pivotal goal of the "MDG summit." It is reasonable to anticipate universal secular support for this commitment. But universal religious support will be harder to achieve. In fact, some religious institutions will actively try to sabotage any such commitment as being (for some "divinely revealed" reasons) contrary to the wellbeing of humanity. These are the same institutions that persist in excluding women from roles of real religious authority due to the inordinate attachment to the "phallic syndrome." If the religious dimension of gender equality is not addressed, MDG3 will never come to pass, and MDG8 will never come to pass either.
"3. The need to look at the Millennium Development Goals through a gender lens is critical, since women and girls typically face the greatest burdens of extreme poverty, hunger and disease. All of the action areas need to include specific strategies for tackling challenges faced by girls and women. On top of this, critical actions are needed to focus on overarching priorities for gender equality, including challenges of women’s political representation and the intolerable reality of violence against women."

  • Indeed, "a gender lens is critical." But when it comes to issues that pertain to vested interests and/or ancient prejudice, the lens must be really transparent; else, various interest groups will see only what they want to see. This is especially true with regard to gender equality.

    Gender equality is a visceral issue. In the secular world, people with a mindset that gender inequality is "the natural order of things" often display visceral reactions to any proposal in favor of gender equality. In the religious world, it is even worst as visceral reactions are exacerbated by religious fanaticism about obeying "God's will." Of course, men and women are genitally and psychologically different -- and, as the French say, Vive Le Difference!. And of course, it is also generally recognized that gender inequities (economic or otherwise) are morally wrong. But the issue of gender equality transcends differences in genitalia and/or equity. Gender equality is about the equal dignity of men and women as human persons who share one and the same human nature. And gender equality is about fostering the integral human development of both men and women, boys and girls, without artificial restrictions imposed by primitive thinking, some of which persist as "sacred traditions" in many religious institutions. It is hoped that the "MDG summit" will be unequivocal in calling for gender equality in all nations and human institutions, both secular and religious; anything else would be a disservice to humanity and a sabotage of the MDGs.

"4. The norms and values embedded in the Millennium Declaration and international human rights instruments must continue to provide the foundation for engagement, in particular the key human rights principles of non-discrimination, meaningful participation and accountability."

  • Specifically, what is needed is a worldwide commitment to end all human rights abuses, all discriminatory practices, all exclusivist organizations, and all secular and religious structures in which the authorities restrict participation of all stakeholders in governance and make decisions (or evade making them) under the privilege of secrecy. Lord Acton's dictum remains prophetical: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Now we also know that secrecy corrupts, and absolute secrecy corrupts absolutely; and this applies to both secular and religious institutions.
"5. The need to empower the poor through scaled-up efforts focused on citizen monitoring of Millennium Development Goal delivery, capacity building and improving access to financial and legal services remains crucial."

  • Specifically, this should include supporting development in geographical areas that lack basic necessities and compensating this by an equivalent reduction of extravagant consumption in the overdeveloped areas. In all countries, it should include enhancing human development opportunities for girls and women to bring them into balance with those available for boys and men. This is not reverse discrimination. It is simply a matter of distributive justice.
These recommendations are difficult but not unfeasible. All the recommendations are interdisciplinary. Everyone who wants to make a contribution can have a piece of the action. Politicians will have to rise to the occasion. Let's hope they will. If the "MDG summit" meeting is successful in achieving the necessary national commitments, then the collaborative/integrative work could be accomplished via the National Sustainable Development Strategies. These national strategies might eventually be integrated into a Global Sustainable Development Strategy to be approved by the General Assembly. This will take time. Structuring some appropriate form of global environmental/climate governance will take time. Let's hope that Gaia is patient and kind.

Finally, a note of caution: Leveling the playing field between the two halves of humanity (male and female) may eventually require a critical examination of the MDGs and MDG targets as currently formulated. The patriarchal mindset is so pervasive that it may be necessary to exorcise the "phallic syndrome" from the definition of MDG targets. I am indebted to Japanese scholar Miwako Kamimura for convincingly bringing this point to my attention in recent correspondence. Further research is urgently needed to ensure that the MDG targets actually mark the right direction to achieve gender equality as opposed to simply paying lip service to it. For the time being, however, the MDG targets as presently defined should be pursued with every resource at the disposal of the UN and the member nations.

Clarification: The preceding paragraph might give the impression that the "phallic syndrome" is Ms. Kamimura's terminology. It is not. She uses the more nuanced phrase "male-centered model of citizenship" to argue that an explicitly feminine perspective may be lacking in the MDG definitions and targets. Habitual readers of this journal will recognize the "phallic syndrome" as a term we use to describe situations in which a "male-centered model of citizenship" has become so pervasive as to degenerate into a form of social pathology. It is based on "phallagocentrism", a term coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida to describe the propensity to favor masculine terminology in the articulation of meaning.

3. General Consultation and Opportunities for Participation

In preparation for the September Summit, there are several ways to participate by providing your input in a consultation process (open to the general public) that is already underway. You can choose one or more of the following options:


On 7 June the UN General Assembly will meet to discuss a "zero draft" of the Summit outcome document prepared by the co-facilitators. If you have any comments, you can send them via email to inquiries2@un.org. Or, you may prefer to channel your contribution via the UN Information Center (UNIC) in your own country.
The themes of the consultation are the following:
  • Theme 1: Why are we so far behind in key areas?
  • Theme 2: Emerging issues and challenges
  • Theme 3: Proposals to accelerate progress
  • Theme 4: An action- and accountability-oriented agenda for all stakeholders
Never mind the "due date" of 7 May 2010. If you have a substantive input to contribute, send it via email to ngls@un.org.
There are a number of development-related (and specifically MDG-related) working groups and forums/listservs managed by the UN Development Group. For instance, there is the MDGNet group, and to participate you must sign up at the UN Development Group web site or send an e-mail to mdg-net@groups.undp.org.
See the OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED web page for a list of other possibilities to collaborate with the MDGs summit and subsequent MDG activity.

4. References and Workings Documents Available for Online Review

General MDG reference documents and data:

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), UN 2000-2009.
MDG Progress Chart 2009, UNDP 2009.
MDG GAP Task Force Report 2009, UNDP 2009.
Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, UNDP 2009.
Millennium Development Goals Indicators Database, UN STATS, 2009.
MDGInfo and MDG Data Wizard, DevInfo, 2009.
Poverty in Focus - The MDGs and beyond: Pro-Poor Policy in a Changing World, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), UNDP, Brasilia, January 2010.
MDG Summit Fact Sheet, UN March 2010.
MDGs at a Glance, UN March 2010.
Working documents for the MDG summit as of 4 June 2010:
Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 12 February 2010.
Global Civil Society Consultation for the MDG+10 Summit, UN March 2010.
Summary of MDG Targets and Indicators, UN March 2010.
The MDGs at 10 and Civil Society, UN March 2010.
KEEPING THE PROMISE – UNITED TO ACHIEVE THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS, "Zero Draft" of the Summit outcome document, dated 31 May 2010.

5. Planned Agenda for the MDG Summit Meeting

The summit objective and planned agenda as of 4 June 2010 is defined in the following web pages:

MDG Summit on 20-22 September 2010 in New York

The preceding link provides the "what" and "why" of the MDG summit. The following link provides the "how" (i.e., the agenda of work items):

High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly ("MDG Summit")

The MDG Summit will be comprised of 6 plenary meeting and six interactive roundtables over the course of the three days (20-22 September 2010). The six round-table sessions will have at least 50 seats each and will be co-chaired by two Heads of State or Government. The six round-table meetings would have the overarching objective of "Making it happen by 2015", and each one will focus on one theme, as follows:

  • Round table 1 — Addressing the challenge of poverty, hunger and gender equality
  • Round table 2 — Meeting the goals of health and education
  • Round table 3 — Promoting sustainable development
  • Round table 4 — Addressing emerging issues and evolving approaches
  • Round table 5 — Addressing the special needs of the most vulnerable
  • Round table 6 — Widening and strengthening partnerships
It is noteworthy that gender equality are conflated with poverty and hunger in the first round-table. Indeed, gender equality is the only way out of the poverty cycle and the hunger that is endemic to extreme poverty. This round table will be a critical turning point for the MDG summit. If gender equality is shown to be the highest priority, then the effectiveness of round tables 2 to 6 will follow as a series of water falls. If, on the other hand, opponents of gender equality are able to dilute the fundamental gender equality issue, then round tables 2 to 6 will become rather meaningless discussions; for gender equality is the fundamental issue that runs as a common thread through the six themes.


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