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United Nations and the Road to Dignity

Ending poverty in all its forms, achieving food security, and ensuring a healthy life for all the world’s inhabitants seem like unrealistic and utopian goals. However, data suggests that these things are possible to achieve with the planet’s existing resources. That’s why the United Nations has agreed to focus on reaching three of the 17 goals by 2030. We have thirteen years left.

Text and Photos: Carlos Eduardo Gómez

The Road to Dignity, or Agenda 2030, as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are known, was adopted by world leaders at a historic United Nations summit. The document places people, the planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships at its center. These measures, which officially took effect in January of last year, are universally applicable and have become humanity’s hope for ending poverty in all its forms, reducing inequality, and combatting climate change. Below are Goals 1, 2, and 3.

Goal 1

End Poverty in All its Forms, Everywhere

Poverty is one of humanity’s most serious and shameful epidemics, manifested in hunger, malnutrition, limited access to education, social discrimination and exclusion, and the lack of participation in decision-making. One of the most important questions to ask is: what causes it? The answer is not the scarcity of resources, but rather armed conflict, corruption, and climate change, among other factors. Institutions such as Manos Unidas and Pobreza Mundial locate the origins of poverty in colonialism, war, and invasions. Unfair trade, population growth, and gender discrimination are among other causes.

Poverty Figures

The United Nations data is compelling. More than 836 million people live in conditions of extreme poverty and struggle to meet their most basic needs. One in five people in developing regions live on less than $1.25 a day. Today more than 30 million children grow up poor in the richest countries in the world. The highest poverty rates are recorded in small, fragile countries affected by armed conflicts, such as the Central African Republic, where one in four people has had to flee in recent years because of the war, or Yemen, where 80% of the population has needed humanitarian aid since 2015 because of the war. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2014 more than 42,000 people a day left their homes in search of protection and shelter due to a conflict. Every three seconds, a family must flee to save their lives from repression and bullets.

The goals for the year 2030 include reducing by at least half the proportion of men, women, and children of all ages living in poverty as defined by national standards.

This means ensuring that all men and women, especially the poor and vulnerable, have equal access to economic resources as well as basic services, land ownership, appropriate new technologies, and financial services.

Countries should also implement appropriate social protection measures for all and achieve substantial safety for the poor and vulnerable in general and women in particular.

Goal 2

End Hunger, Achieve Food Security, Improve Nutrition, and Promote Sustainable Agriculture.

“The poor suffer from hunger and, at the same time, hunger is what keeps them in poverty.” Hunger is the greatest tragedy of humanity and we should all be concerned about it. Why is there so much hunger? The causes of this scourge are diverse. For the World Food Programme, the primary culprit is the so called “poverty trap”: people living in poverty can’t afford nutritious foods, which makes them weaker and less able to earn money to escape poverty and hunger. When children suffer from chronic malnutrition, their future incomes are reduced, condemning them to a cycle of hunger and poverty.

A failure to invest in agriculture, as well as a lack of transportation links, irrigation systems, and storage silos, work against food and farmers. Climate change leads to floods and droughts; these recurring events have caused countries of the region, such as Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, México, and the United States to suffer devastating agricultural consequences. Droughts are destroying the food production of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. Increasing numbers of countries are experiencing these events.

Another cause of hunger is armed conflict, such as the conflicts in Syria, Somalia, and the one that fortunately just ended in Colombia. Conflict continually disrupts crop and food production and causes displacements, crises, and famines.

Finally, unstable markets and food waste are responsible for the loss of 1.3 million tons of food annually, according to FAO.

Hunger Statistics

One in nine people in the world do not have sufficient food to lead a healthy and active life. There are 795 million people worldwide suffering from hunger. According to UNICEF, poor nutrition causes more than 3.1 million deaths in children under five each year. One in four of the world’s children suffers stunted growth due to hunger and malnutrition. In developing countries, 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry.

Goals for 2030

End hunger and ensure that all people, especially the poor and most vulnerable, have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round. End all forms of malnutrition, including addressing the nutritional needs of children, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons.

Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, especially women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, shepherds, and small-scale fishermen through secure and equal access to land, investments, financial services, and markets.

Maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, farmed animals, and wild species through soundly managed and diversified seed banks at the national, regional, and international levels. Increase investments in agricultural research and correct trade distortions in agricultural markets by applying equitable trade practices.

Goal 3

Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being For All at All Ages

“Access to health and well-being is a human right and its fulfillment is fundamental for building prosperous societies,” states Mady Biaye, resident representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Equatorial Guinea, since, “health is essential for achieving the sustainable development of a country, a region, and the world. A healthy life provides well-being for all.”

Health Figures

Mady Biaye, in an interview with Panorama of the Americas, says that major progress in health has been made, but we still have a long way to go because the goal is to achieve universal health coverage and make essential medicines and vaccines affordable. Every day 16,500 children under the age of five die; six million die a year.

Children born into poverty are almost twice as likely to die before the age of five as those from wealthier families. Children of educated mothers, including mothers with only primary schooling, are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education.

The maternal mortality rate in developing regions is still fourteen times higher than in developed regions and only half of women receive the amount of health care they need.

HIV is the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age worldwide and the leading cause of death among adolescents between the ages of ten and nineteen in Africa; it is the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally.

Despite medical advances, therapies, and prevention campaigns, which have reduced infections by 39% in adults and 60% in children, every year there are 240,000 new cases of HIV in children. According to United Nations data, in 2013 the number of people living with HIV was an estimated 35 million, and in the same year, 2.1 million new cases were reported, 250,000 of which were in adolescents, two-thirds of whom were girls.

Goals for 2030

Achieving health coverage as a universal right, including access to high quality basic health-care services, as well as safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all.

To substantially increase health financing and training in the sector, reduce the global maternal mortality rate, and end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age.

End the AIDS epidemic, as well as tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. Treat and prevent substance abuse. Ensure universal access to reproductive health-care services, including information, education, and family planning resources.