At this year's UN Commission of Sustainable Development's meet in New York (April 19 to 30), progress on millennium development goals (MDGs) related to clean drinking water, human settlements and sanitation was reviewed. The world was nowhere in sight of attaining the goals, the evaluation showed. Meeting the MDGs would require a doubling of official development assistance (ODA) by the industrialised world, the UN secretary general stated quite emphatically. The First World was of course in no mood to pay heed; it instead harped onpublic-private partnerships to attain MDGs. But what exactly are public-rivate partnerships? Here is a very recent example of building up such a partnership: a campaign started on the 16 September by the Netherlands wing of the international non-governmental organisation Care. Called First 8, it ostensibly "seeks to raise people's awareness and wants to inspire them to take action in the struggle against poverty and the achievements of the MDGs". The operation works through an interactive website www.first8.org .
No prizes for guessing who the wesbsite is for. Consider this: in the section on education we are told that more than 860 million people in the world today are illiterates and 90 per cent of them live in the developing countries. The site goes on to present platitudes on education: it helps reduce poverty, promotes gender equality, protects against HIV/AIDs. You are also exhorted to sign a petition against child labour -- all this with the visage of an emaciated child, quite palpably from the third world, yearning for your attention. There is more: the gnarled face of a woman -- again from the 'deprived' world -- confronts you in the section on improving women's maternal health. And there is "Is there time to be beauty queen" from Bono's Miss Sarajevo playing in the background. But is striking at the conscience of the wealthy enough to attain MDGs? Can it substitute ODA? Well, those are different questions.
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