“Let us walk the last mile together.’ Irish Foreign Minister MicheÃ¡l Martin
As we enter the home stretch to achieve the MDGs, as my time in New York wraps up andas the MDG Summit nears its end, it”s helpful to remember the nuggets of inspiration that enable us to keep fighting for these last five years and toward these 8 goals.
Monday night, I attended a dinner that brought together the UN Development Program and UN Environment Program along with a host of international and local NGOs. The purpose of the dinner was to highlight the need to look holistically at development and the environment, the role of biodiversity in tackling poverty. People in extreme poverty are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, whether they”re farmers, forest-dependent communities, or fishermen. Women rely on the natural environment for food, fuel, and water for their families.
If we don”t begin to consider the environment in our efforts to tackle poverty – and if we don”t involve people in poverty in our efforts to protect the environment – we will not succeed.
Climate change makes this linkage practically flash in neon lights. And global hunger sounds like a trumpet touting the urgency of action. We cannot feed the world on degraded land. Neither a lack of water nor a deluge of water constitutes safe water. That”s a message CARE has carried in its advocacy on climate change and global hunger.
But what I really took away from the dinner was an ’˜aha” moment I”ve had before but welcome any time it recurs. Much of the program was the issuance of the Equator Prizes. The Equator Prize honors outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
It honors local efforts. Aha. This is why we do what we do every day. And this is what we must do to succeed: engage local communities and give them ownership over the solutions. Local communities are the linchpin of sustainable development. Increasingly, the international community has recognized the importance of country ownership and country-led approaches. What must be understood – what the US has laudably recognized in the Feed the Future initiative – is that country-led is not government-led.
Development policy and implementation must engage local communities and citizens, including marginalized populations and especially vulnerable groups, like women. Full and effective engagement of these groups means consultations throughout the process – from the design of policy and program to the implementation and through the monitoring and evaluation process.
As the boat captain in the wetlands of Louisiana and local communities throughout the world will demonstrate, they are on the front lines. They are best positioned to provide a picture of what is happening, to articulate their needs, and to identify viable, sustainable solutions.
So whether it”s improved health outcomes, increased agricultural productivity, empowerment of women, access to safe water, or sustainable development solutions, in the final five years of our efforts to achieve the MDGs, it”s imperative that we walk these last few miles together.