Susan Roylance: U.S., developing countries clash at U.N. over funds for development

Published: Friday, Feb. 17 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

The Chyulu Hills irrigation project in Kenya is an example of the efficient use of funds through a private nongovernmental organization. For several thousand dollars, four wells were drilled, and the people in that part of the world now have food to eat and sell — significantly alleviating their hunger and poverty for a sustainable future. If this amount of money had been sent through the government the project would have cost much more money, and it might not have made it to the rural area of the Chyulu Hills.

The Poverty Alleviation resolution at the Commission on Social Development recognized “there has been progress in reducing poverty, especially in some middle-income countries,” but the progress has been uneven and “the number of people living in poverty in some countries continues to increase, with women and children constituting the majority of the most affected groups, especially in the least developed countries and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Countries with high levels of poverty are pushing for increased global governance to control the flow of financial resources. Last year the General Assembly of the U.N. passed a resolution to examine the “central role of the United Nations system in global governance.”

In July 2011 the Secretary-General released a new report on the International Finance System and Development — in response to the “urgent challenges arising from the world financial and economic crisis.” U.N. country delegates are now negotiating a resolution on global governance to determine the best way forward. A global tax is under consideration.

“Concerns about rising income inequality continue,” said Sha Zukang, under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, at the opening of the Commission for Social Development meetings. “High unemployment and lack of social mobility have fueled widespread public indignation in some countries.”

Certainly, indignation was evidenced by developing countries in the poverty discussions at the U.N. last week.

Following the confusing ending of the commission, the U.S. spokesman said, “The U.S. is deeply committed to reducing poverty and hunger. This resolution could have played an important role. … There were efforts to dilute one of the key outcomes: the placement of people at the center.”

While some are now clamoring for a stronger global government, with greater international financial controls and proposals going forward for a world tax to provide funds for development, there is still a recognition of the importance of people and their own contribution toward their development.

The final poverty resolution included this phrase: “Recognizing also that empowering people to strengthen their own capacities is a main objective of development and its principal resource and that empowerment requires the full participation of people in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the functioning and well-being of our society.”

Susan Roylance is the author/editor of a new book on the Family and the Millennium Development Goals. At the U.N., she is the International Policy and Social Development Coordinator for the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.

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