UN Millennium Economic Development Goals Uncertain; Would Leave Almost 1 Billion People Below $1.25 per Day

Webster G. Tarpley
September 21, 2010

As the UN General Assembly gathers in New York, world attention focuses on the tragic dysfunctionality of the UN institution and its major components, especially the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. On the one hand, the end of the Cold War has left the United States (along with the NATO states Britain and France) in a position of dominance within the Security Council which has been systematically abused, first for the unprovoked aggression against Iraq, and now for the buildup of a strike against Iran, as well as for economic sanctions and economic warfare against these and other states on the US hit list. Of the major flashpoints of world conflict which were evident 60 years ago, the Security Council has ratified the solution of only one, Germany, while Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, and the Korean peninsula are time bombs which continue to tick. Worse, new conflict zones are materializing around Iran and the territorial disputes of the South China Sea, in which the Obama regime appears determined to meddle. The Security Council in turn has reduced the General Assembly to a shadowy irrelevance, depriving more than 190 countries of a legitimate voice. This is not a good record.

Even more than in the arena of international peace and security, it is in the sphere of world economic development that the failures of the UN are most starkly displayed. The so-called Millennium Development goals were supposed to reduce extreme poverty in the world from an estimated 1.8 billion people in 1990 to a target of 920 million in 2015. We need not belabor the meager minimalism of a program which regards it as a success story if “only” about a billion people are still living on less than $1.25 per day after a quarter century of globalization, which was originally touted by Bill Clinton and others as a ticket to world prosperity. Even the World Bank concedes that some 113 million people – the equivalent of quite a large country — have fallen back into extreme poverty in 2009-2010 as a result of the on going world economic depression. So, despite the attempted triumphalism of the summit, even the modest Millennium goals may not be attained, to say nothing of the fate of some 2 billion people estimated to be languishing in what the UN calls “moderate poverty,” meaning an income of less than $2 per day.

To have almost half the world in such poverty after 25 years of globalization is surely the final condemnation of globalization, privatization, de-regulation, union busting, free trade, the race to the bottom, the hot money casino economy, and the other features of the Washington Consensus, which was always a Diktat but which the UN embraced under US pressure, notably during the Clinton years.

A few officials at UN agencies like UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNICEF, ILO, and some others probably still have serious intentions about reducing world poverty and enhancing human development, but their efforts are simply overwhelmed by the inordinate power of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, whose policies of structural adjustment and appropriate technology and body the genocidal demands of the world banker-financier oligarchy during the current depression. The only real solution for world poverty will come when the IMF and the World Bank are reformed out of existence, and replaced by a multilateral cooperation among sovereign states interested in ambitious projects of world infrastructure. The effort could start with a billion jobs, with high capital intensity, high energy intensity, high wages, and high-value added, so as to allow the world economy to produce a real absolute profit capable of being reinvested – in sharp contrast to the current predicament, in which the real rate of profit for the world economy is sharply negative, and the existing speculative structures, especially derivatives, are being maintained through primitive accumulation against whatever wealth still exists.

In addition, the roster of great powers of 65 years ago is no longer adequate to represent the world of the twenty-first century. The Security Council has no permanent members who are African, Moslem, south Asian, or Latin American. Countries like Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and Nigeria are assigned minor parts, despite their obvious and growing relative world importance. The makeup of the permanent five appears increasingly arbitrary and obsolete.

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