The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have a target end date of 2015. Leaving aside the question of whether and to what extent the MDGs were successful, it is interesting to see that the United Nations is now asking: “What comes next?”
In an effort to give shape and structure to that question, the United Nations has set up a website at www.myworld2015.org where individuals can voice their opinions on which issues they think are the most important to defeating global poverty. A list of 16 choices is offered, ranging from “a good education” and “affordable and nutritious food” to “better healthcare” and “phone and internet access.” The visitor to the website may select 6 of the 16 as their chosen priorities.
Once you have voted, you can access the data gathered so far in a colorful graphic format. The results are, not surprisingly, fascinating.
Thus far in the voting, the number one priority selected virtually across the board, regardless of demographic, is “better education.” This is not surprising, considering that subjective experience comports with empirical evidence: that education is one of the main factors in the ability to raise one’s self out of poverty.
Only two groups chose a different top priority. Those over the age of 55 and those from countries rated low on the human development index (HDI) — a measure that takes into account a country’s average standards of health, education and income — indicated that “better healthcare” was of primary importance to them. As these two groups almost by definition are likely to have more frequent and more severe health problems, having better healthcare as their top priority makes logical sense.
As you interact with the graphics on this website, explore the priorities and see where they ranked across age groups, genders, and countries grouped by HDI. I found it fascinating that women, as a group, placed “equality for men and women” at #9 out of 16, while men placed it down at #15—second to last. Does this mean that men don’t see equality of the sexes as important, or that they believe it won’t contribute to solving the problem of poverty, or that they don’t see it as a real problem at all?
Or, take the issue of climate change. Very high and high HDI countries placed “action on climate change” at #6 and #10, respectively. Medium and low HDI countries both had this as last on their list of priorities, despite the fact that the effects of climate change often have a disproportionate impact on such countries. It appears that worrying about the environment is something that can only be contemplated after one’s truly basic needs – food, water, shelter, employment, healthcare – have been adequately met.
After you have explored this website, please take a moment to share it via social media. If you look at the world map showing how many votes the website has received thus far, the numbers are tiny in comparison to the number of people who will ultimately be impacted by the UN’s next phase of initiatives and goals to end poverty around the world. There are only about 40,000 votes in India, with its population of 1 billion+; between 100 and 1,000 in most African countries (with the exception of Nigeria, with nearly 150,000 votes!); and fewer than 1,000 votes in most South American countries (with the exception of Brazil). The more this website gets talked about and shared, the more input the United Nations will receive, and the more the next set of goals will reflect not just the opinions of “experts” but the needs and opinions of people all across our world.