A Guinness World Record was broken this past weekend when 173 million citizens gathered at over 3,000 events in more than 120 countries demanding that their governments eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty Now!” has been certified as the largest mobilisation of human beings in recorded history. In India, 23 million people participated in the campaign, up by 14 million over last year.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, United Nations Millennium Campaign Deputy Director and Asian head, Minar Pimple, said the purpose of the massive mobilisation in India was to increase accountability of governance both at the local and national levels. “The mobilisation campaign was also effective in the neighbouring countries. In New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led school children in the meaningful campaign.”
Stating that the challenge was to translate progressive policy and legislation into real goods and services for women and the socially excluded and marginalised groups, Mr. Pimple said: “The UPA Government has taken the right steps by making education a Fundamental Right, ensuring employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and introducing the Right to Information Act which is being used extensively by citizens. However, it needs to speed up MDGs on the ground and encourage local monitoring initiatives.”
The “Nine is Mine” initiative led by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan to conduct citizens’ audit in parliamentary constituencies is a right step in this direction, he added.
Pointing out that women and children were the worst sufferers in the country, Mr. Pimple said a large number of Indian women are were anaemic. “Another alarming statistic is that 33 per cent of infants are growth stunted because of malnourishment. Can they become productive citizens? Then there is the issue of exclusion that Dalits and Muslims are facing in which they are denied MDGs.”
Mr. Pimple said the mobilisation campaign was aimed at giving visibility to the invisible: “Rich countries are supposed to cancel the debt of poor countries and make trade fair for them. This year the campaign in developed countries was focussed on cancellation of agricultural subsidies that create trade distortions for developing countries like India.”
Expressing concern over the Government’s failure to tackle and reduce infant and maternal mortality, National Federation of Indian Women general secretary Annie Raja said: “The Government is not giving a serious thought to this pressing issue. It needs to re-design the national rural health mission. At the moment, the Government is focusing only on institutional delivery but it has given up its responsibility on primary health care. It has given accreditation to private hospitals while the primary health care is in an abysmal state.”
Established by the UN Secretary-General in 2002, the UN Millennium Campaign supports citizens’ efforts to hold their governments accountable. The MDGs were adopted by 189 world leaders as part of the Millennium Declaration which was signed in 2000. These leaders agreed to achieve the goals by 2015.
An eight-point road map to build up an equitable world, the MDGs include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.