Mar 012011
Authors: Phoenix MourningStar

The Executive of the U.S. Branch of the United Nations Association Edward Elmendorf visited Fort Collins this past weekend to give a presentation to the members of the United Nations Association of Northern Colorado. He brought with him a message that mirrors a need for hope and comradery that seems to spreading across the globe.

At the center of Mr. Elmendorf’s message was a lively discussion on some nearly forgotten goals of the late 1990s culminating with the Millennium Development Goals in 2000.

The MDGs are a set of eight objectives aimed at improving social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries. These goals are to end poverty and hunger, spread universal education, increase gender equality, improve child health, further the availability of maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, promote environmental sustainability and provide global partnerships.

Within each of these key goals, there are ambitious benchmarks, such as halving the number of people who live on less than than $1 day, reducing by two thirds the mortality rate of children younger than 5 years old and developing comprehensive mechanisms for addressing debt burdens of developing countries.

Elmendorf enjoyed an energetic welcome, but that welcome was not without plenty of questions and concerns about the impact of the economic crisis here in the U.S., let alone the concerns of far away countries.

For instance, the United Nations and other international agencies have reported that the progress toward eradicating poverty has seen impressive progress. Yet, overall, it is recognized that most of this progress is directly due to growth in China and India. Meanwhile, progress on the child mortality, universal education and maternal health are lagging by comparison.

It is usually thought to be the case that where there is money there will be increased education and thus improved health indicators. So why are we not seeing these gains in economic progress in the other social indicators? Though the recent global depression has delayed progress, we have seen progress in achieving these goals. It may be, however, that we have to look closer at what causes improved health and education.

Does the physical contact with money really translate into better living and increased quality of life or do we have to take into account more? Or maybe we need to change how we view improved quality of living outside of bottom lines and financial gains.

One attendee asserted to Elmendorf that we must not allow such disproportionate allocations of funds to weapons rather than peace. It reminded me of the bumper stickers I used to see: “It will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the military has to have a bake sale to buy a new bomb.”
I think the balance of resources and disagreement of the problem can be simplified.

If we can agree that a diversity of perspectives in regard to human well-being is just as important as a diversity of species to the well-being of the planet, then maybe we can consider that the westernized vision of health that appears to regularly be linked to money may not fit everywhere in the world.

In the interest of starting another revolution, I will even go so far as proposing that money-based perceptions of health, happiness and success are just wrong.

The MDGs are hearty targets and share a unity that signatories to the Kyoto Protocol ought to be envious of and maybe take note from. In a year that has seen an average of one country per month finding “liberation” without an international war, it might behoove us all to reconsider the importance and role of money in peace and humanity.

Phoenix Mourning-Star is a graduate student. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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