by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC
All week, I have been thinking of Martin Luther King’s image of the World House, as I watched Mr. Obama’s inauguration and listened to the commentary on what lies ahead for the next four years. It seems particularly urgent that we use Dr. King’s image to shape our vision of our place in the world at this time.
Even just within our country, we need his vision of all people as one family in God’s eyes; we need to see ourselves as brothers and sisters “unduly separated in ideas, culture and interests who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace,” to use Dr. King’s words.
So many challenges remain to making this vision reality: what to do about immigrants, with and without legal status, children in underfunded and overcrowded schools, gay and lesbian couples, millions of workers still jobless and without sufficient means to support themselves and their families, and so on – just name a few of our challenges as a nation. All around the globe, war, civil unrest, hunger, drought and other effects of climate change are widespread and crying out for solutions.
All of this can make the World House seem more of a hallucination than a vision of a possible future.
However, another recent event offers hope that progress toward a better world for all is not only possible, but is already happening!
The World House is Already on the Way!
The United Nations 2012 Report on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals proves that, even in difficult times, a concerted effort can yield tremendous results for millions of people. As Mr. Obama stressed a number of times in his speech last Tuesday, we can do meet all our chanllenges if we work together.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), you may remember, are an ambitious set of promises made to the poorest people on Earth, by all the nations of the world as the new millennium began. We promised, by 2015, to cut in half the number of people living in extreme poverty (“extreme poverty” in UN terms, means living each day on less than what $1.25 would buy here in the United States).
The 2012 Report on the MDGs shows remarkable progress, as well as much still to be done.
Some areas of great progress:
– Extreme poverty is falling in every region of the “developing countries,” from 47% in 1990 to 24% in 2008. This is a reduction from over 2 billion people to fewer than 1.4 billion. That means the global poverty rate in 2010 is less than half of what it was in 1990. This major target has been met, three years early. There is, therefore, hope that we can bring more and more people into sustainable conditions if we persist.
– Another target (“targets” are measures for aspects of poverty), cutting in half the proportion of people without access to clean water, has also been met. Over 2 billion more people now have access to clean water.
– The target to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers has been exceeded; twice as many people (200+ million) have improved living conditions than was hoped.
There are also significant increases in the number of children receiving an elementary education and in equal access for girls as well as boys to elementary education; infant mortality rates are down significantly (in some places survival rates have doubled); and access to treatments for HIV/AIDS has increased, though not yet to the target of universal access..
For a chart showing progress in each region of the developing world, click here.
More Good News
The World Health Organization has also issued two pieces of good news in the past weeks: deaths from measles are down 75%, and polio is on the way to being eradicated. India has seen no polio cases in the past two years (one more year will make it officially polio-free), leaving only three countries – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan – with reported cases. For people like me, who remember when measles was a normal childhood illness, and fear of living in an iron lung or with heavy braces like two of my classmates kept many of us away from public swimming pools until Dr. Salk found a vaccine for polio, this is a miracle in real life!
But Are We Willing?
Clearly, international cooperation is accomplishing wonderful things. Imagine what we could accomplish if all the resources now devoted to weapons and destruction could be re-assigned to relieving poverty and helping everyone to have a stable, healthful, sustainable means of living, in peace with each other! All we need is the will to work together, to set the priorities that will bring them to action.
Are you ready?