As the US celebrates Martin Luther King Jr, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan used the slogan of the civil rights movement, led by the preacher, to declare that “We shall overcome poverty” and build on the momentum of the Millennium Goals.
Speaking to New Europe Ms Grynspan, an economist and former Vice President of Costa Rica, said that there was hope of those trapped in poverty. “I really believe that our aspirations are realistic and the only way for these aims to become reality is by mobilizing the citizens of the world.”
She continues, “Pessimism is one of the main obstacles that we have to overcome.” She insists that there is evidence that eliminating extreme poverty, for example, is achievable. “Look at the Millennium Development Goals, we have achieved quite a lot and we are now discussing what will follow after 2015.”
Quoting the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty threshold, a mere $1.25 per day, she says, “We have already achieved the goal of halving extreme poverty. It’s 50% less! This is a huge achievement. The challenge is that this hasn’t happened everywhere, in the same way.”
“Some areas, like Latin America, China, even Africa have reduced extreme poverty. But we still have 50% to go and that is simply unacceptable. There is still so much to be done. There people have been in poverty for generations. With the growth levels in the developing countries, we can realistically set ourselves the goal of completely eradicating poverty in the next decades.”
The MDGs have beaten the expectations of cynics and shown the use, if not need for hard targets, but there are lessons to be learned says Grynspan, “There were some things that didn’t bring results, that we need to change. On the positive side, when we focus the world on an accountable goal, that is monitored, we can achieve a lot.”
The ambitious MDGs have shown themselves to be useful for future planning, “We have learned that we need to pay more attention to inequality, not only to averages. We know that in highly unequal societies, the average doesn’t reflect the reality. I’m sure that inequality fill figure highly in the next framework. The second thing we learned is that the environment goal was very weak. Now we know that you need to put more effort into this as water scarcity, land degradation and so on are drivers of poverty. Thirdly, access to energy is also an important enabler in the fight against poverty. “
We will be looking at how we can put together fighting poverty with people centered development.
Remembering that $3 billion of the $9 billion donated to Haiti came from private personal donations, Grynspan said, “For a long time one of the assumptions in economic theory was that people will pursue their own interests. All the research has shown that this is not true. We as humans, need to care for others, it’s part of what has made us so successful as a species. It’s solidarity, and this is one of the things that will keep development cooperation alive and can influence the politics of it.”
“For us, goodwill is not enough, it has to be matched to good results!” She states.
Grynspan is proud of the UNDP, “We brought about the human development paradigm, to challenge the orthodoxy. We have shown how economies that have moderate growth have brought about more for their people than some that have grown much faster, but that growth is more concentrated.”
Elaborating, the UNDP expert says, “Coming from UNDP, today the human development paradigm is more alive than ever and it has made a huge difference in the way people are thinking. The world has to change the way we think about growth, to include the environment, progess in people’s lives. We have to think about a new way of measuring growth and wellbeing.”