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Latest News The mdgs: more than realising rights

NEWS: The MDGs: more than realising Rights

11 December 2009
London 11 December 2009: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are linked to the realisation of human rights, but they are also simply the right thing to aim for because we share a common sense of humanity and an interest in the elimination of poverty.

This was focal point of a lecture by Professor Myles Wickstead CBE on the MDGs and Human Rights at the 3rd Malaria Consortium Annual Lecture in London last night. The Lecture was held to mark Human Rights Day but also represented a timely reminder of the review by the United Nations of progress on the MDGs at a high-level meeting in September 2010. Malaria Consortium’s Executive Director, Sunil Mehra, hosted the well attended event.

While the MDGs are not perfect, said Professor Wickstead, and it has been well debated that they do not represent some key areas for development, they provide an aspirational benchmark that have an intrinsic value in driving development.

“At one level the MDGs are about the most basic rights of all.  The health MDGs are about the rights of mothers and children, in particular, to life. And the education MDGs are about the rights of people to aspire to a better life,” he explained. “Whether one views international development assistance as charity or justice, it is – if not clearly ‘a right’ – right.  And if it is right to do it, it must be right to do it right.”
With many of the eight goals broadly focused on health and education and encompassed by Goal 1’s core aim of reducing poverty by half, Professor Wickstead commented on the importance of coordination and addressing complexity as represented by Goal 8.

The achievements of goals and targets are dependent upon a complex set of issues – on national peace, security, economic growth, capacity and, of course, political will.Using Goal 6 - to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases – as an example, Professor Wickstead considered efforts to find a malaria vaccine to help halt the close to one million deaths from malaria a year.

“Deaths from malaria are absolutely preventable and, in fact, the combination of nets and vector control mechanisms and effective treatment regimes are having real effect. A potential breakthrough will come with vaccine – and we know GlaxoSmithKline are working on this and could roll it out in next five years or so.  Is the problem then solved?  Not quite.  If the vaccine is to be successful, it needs functioning health system (doctors; nurses; health workers; clinics); refrigeration engineers because it requires cold storage facilities; road and transport systems.”

Now is not the time to be looking at what is coming next: to look too far ahead may jeopardise the gains we are making and risk de-railing a process that still has five years to run, cautioned Professor Wickstead.

“The MDGs are not so much as being how people realise their rights, but about them being allowed to achieve their potential.” 

For more information, please contact Diana Thomas on 7549 0254 [email protected]

A full summary of the lecture can be downloaded here


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