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Karen Takacs, Canadian Crossroads International (The Globe and Mail)
Karen Takacs, Canadian Crossroads International (The Globe and Mail)

Earlier discussion

Q&A: Can we meet the Millennium Goals by 2015? Add to ...

In 2000, the United Nations committed to radically changing the world by 2015. Eight targets were created that together were called the Millennium Development Goals. Each of them, such as the first, to "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger," were broad, ambitious and hopeful.

But today, with less than five years remaining, few say we're on track to meet them. Fewer still are talking about that.

As part of our Leading Thinkers series, Karen Takacs, executive director of Canadian Crossroads International, took reader questions in this earlier discussion.

12:47 Hi all, I'm Tim Querengesser, an editor here at The Globe and Mail. We're just getting ready for our discussion with Karen Takacs. Questions can now be submitted.

12:51 [Comment From Karen Takacs]Hi Tim - looking forward to the discussion

12:55 Tim Querengesser: So Karen, I'll start the discussion with the obvious question: What are the Millennium Development Goals and why do they matter?

1:03 Karen Takacs: The MDGs are set of 8 goals adopted by World Leaders at a UN summit in 2000 designed to make progress on global poverty by 2015

1:04 Tim Querengesser: And how are we faring, Karen? Many critics have said we aren't on track to meet the goals, such as the first, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

1:07 Karen Takacs: While some progress has been made, reducing poverty in China for example, more children are in school and 4 million more people are on Anti-retroviral drugs - the results for the goals overall are mixed and for Africa in particular the expectation is that goals will not be met.

1:08 Tim Querengesser: This question was sent in advance by James Haga, from Engineers Without Borders: The MDGs are worthy goals but it seems clear the major international institutions tasked with addressing these challenges aren't equipped to deliver. Grand statements and proclamations happen all the time, but how would you reform these institutions to better achieve results?

1:12 Karen Takacs: Big question. Generally the best way to ensure you get results is to be clear about what you are trying to achieve. Too often other interests such as the economic or strategic interests of developed countries have undue influence on Aid decisions. If we are clear that the goal is to reduce inequality and global poverty we can put in place indicators and the means to achieve this. In Canada, the Aid Accountability Act provides a basis for strengthening accountability to development goals such as the MDGs as it references human rights standards as a basis for Canadian aid decisions. These standards can be very specific as to both content and approach in carrying out aid. The government and CIDA need to take the Act seriously as an accountability framework and implement and be accountable to a human rights approach and lens for all of its aid commitments. The formation of the G20 which was supported by Canada is seen as modest improvement in widening decision making but what is really needed is to transform the current structure of the G20 - one that models democratic principles of inclusion, representation, transparency and accountability.

1:13 [Comment From sn: ]What are some of the goals that were achieved?

1:15 Karen Takacs: None of the goals have been achieved yet but good progress has been made on the first goal - reducing poverty - due primarily to progress in China. However even if we achieve this goal, close to 1 billion people will still be living on less $1.25 a day.

1:16 Tim Querengesser: Karen, what can Canada do to help meet the MDGs and what can Canadians do to help meet the MDGs?

1:19 Karen Takacs: Financing is critical. Canada will not be taken seriously if it does not keep long standing commitments such as 0.7 GNI. But this is not just about more AID, but also about better AID. Recent untying of food aid was a major advance. But for example, right now before parliament is a bill that would help get affordable AIDS medicines on the market and to developing countries at no cost to the Canadian taxpayer, but Canada is dragging its heels. Meeting financial commitments is critical but equally important is influence. We recently lost our bid for a seat on the Security Council. Many pundits attribute this loss, to Canada's decision to reduce focus on African development. Canada was recognized as a leader and innovator in advancing women's equality. We saw success when funds were dedicated to supporting specific women led programming not just for services, but to advance rights. Today it appears those funds have largely disappeared. The Canadian government has announced its intention to freeze the aid budget. We as Canadians need to let our government know that this investment is important to us.

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