In 2000, 189 member states of the UN set out international development goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by committing to the pursuit of tackling issues such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, diseases and other key social issues by 2015. These goals had been used and applied by states, IGOs and NGOs in order to improve and defend policies aimed at development. The MDGs plan was unprecedented in its ambition and was the first ever internationally coordinated and well-funded initiative to address various social issues collectively on a global scale. Significant progress has been made in all MDGs: extreme poverty has reduced by half or more, the campaign against malaria saved over 3.3 million lives since 2000, the campaign against tuberculosis saved an approximately 22 million lives and more than 2.3 billion people finally had access to drinking water between 1990 and 2010. However not all have been fulfilled and there have been large disparities within and across countries in achieving these goals. Approximately 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty, leaving them vulnerable to further complications such as hunger, diseases, and illiteracy to name a few. Many poor countries have been neglected by a large margin and this is not necessarily due to inaction or lack of aid but because of the unrealistic goals and expectations of the MDGs which is a problem as promising excessively leads to disillusionment and can wear down the foundations for long term plans of global development. Now that we are in 2015, there has already been various discourses on post-2015 initiative concerning the MDGs and “people demand that this new agenda be built on human rights, and universal values of equality, justice and security.” In order to strengthen the link between MDGs and human rights, four strategic elements must be addressed: (1) eliminating the neglection of human rights, (2) reinforcing accountability in public services, (3) improving data collection and reliability, and (3) addressing root causes of social, economic and political issues.
In order to achieve the MDGs and confront the various issues that the Millennium Declaration intended to effectively, it is of utmost importance to address the root causes of the issues of poverty, illiteracy and diseases. Root causes include but are not limited to discrimination, corruption, ineffective mechanisms of accountability and human rights issues. Although MDGs focus mainly on results, a human rights approach would encourage policy makers that the procedure by which the goals are realised is equally as important as the results. Furthermore, human rights approach requires that individuals be involved in the decision making at all stages of policy making and implementation. Despite the legally binding nature of human rights treaties, they are repeatedly violated, thus the international and political nature of MDGs could provide a platform for political commitments to support legal rights as aforementioned.
Aligning MDGs, a political commitment, and human rights, a legally binding commitment is crucial for sustainable development. If MDGs have human rights underpinnings then they must aim for the improvement of all individuals and not just a proportion of peoples. A lot has been achieved by the momentum created by the MDGs, but not nearly enough which means that the post-2015 agenda should reinforce the goals of the MDGs but also bring in additional areas and principles from the Millennium Declaration which was not included into the MDGs.
When it comes to development, there is always room for improvement. At the dawn of the new millennium, Smile to the Future aims to commit itself in working together with the international community for a better world and a more prosperous future for all. STTF has actively been involved in projects promoting sustainable development, for instance the Clean Water Project which installed a natural filtering system to provide villages with clean supply and the Biogas plant/Solar-panels project in partnership with Upendo. We are also currently working on the economic empowerment and employability of communities with the Incubator Centre in Uganda and Mind Your Business summit in Maastricht.