Community Portal September 2010


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Community Portal from the month of September 2010. See this months news and events in the up-to-date Community Portal or past news and events in the Community Portal Archive

In the Spotlight: The Millennium Development Goals Summit

In the year 2000, 189 leaders from around the world met at the Millennium Summit in New York and agreed upon 8 goals to be achieved by 2015. Last week, the 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit took place at UN headquarters to address how the world is progressing towards meeting these goals. See links, news and videos below.

Useful links

Extracts from the closing session speech by Barack OBAMA, US President made at the United Nations summit in New York, 23rd September. The President appeals to donors to honor their respective commitments, and to work together to achieve and sustain the Millennium Development Goals.

Media Coverage of the MDG Summit September 2010

In New York City last week, government, civil society, and business leaders converged to assess progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and raise additional funds at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to meet them. Despite a still sluggish economy, CGI managed to generate an impressive $2.5 billion in pledges from its participants.

Indonesia is faring better than many developing countries in its struggle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but far worse than others, including several of its neighbors, MDGs envoy Nila Moeloek says.

Africa has made steady progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a report launched last week by the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The harvest of words that was strewn around the UN's recently concluded Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit has by now been spread across the world.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the supreme example of an international commitment to help the 1.2 billion people imprisoned by poverty.

Zambia’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been mixed across the goals.

In ten years, the living conditions of the poor have been improving—but not necessarily because of the UN’s goals

UN MDG summit round-up: day three. As Nick Clegg arrives in New York for the final day of the UN MDG summit, we'll point you to the latest news and analysis

Sharda, a 17-year-old mother, gave birth to her first child in February in a village in Noida, just a few hours' drive outside New Delhi

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg makes his UN debut as the UN MDG summit enters its third and final day - follow events as they happen

Among today's highlights at the UN MDG summit, Hillary Clinton is set to unveil an initiative on clean cooking stoves

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See in the section below contains news articles and blogs that have been released this month.

Progress in the News (September 2010)

The United States crossed an important marital threshold in 2009, with the number of young adults who have never married surpassing, for the first time in more than a century, the number who were married.

Ask American politicians to explain “human rights” and you’re likely to get the usual litany of time-worn liberal democratic abstractions: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, habeas corpus.

Confronting Elderly Poverty and Improving Seniors’ Economic Security

Ireland is the worst place to live in Europe when it comes to quality of life. We are trailing a long way behind France and Spain, who come out on top, a new survey claims.

Forget gross national product. The prime minister of Bhutan says a nation should measure itself by its gross national happiness.

Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009 and the European Union’s policy on the matter. Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. GDP and beyond – Measuring progress in a changing world Consideration of draft opinion

Experts track economic growth obsessively, but there are better ways to measure the well-being of the people

Traditionally, economic growth has been used to measure societal progress. Increasingly, however, experts are asking whether growth in GDP really does improve a society's well-being. And if not, should this metric be replaced by other methods?

  • A Global Peace Index video of world leaders singing along to John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance' in honor of International Day of Peace, 21.09.2010.

The MDG Summit got underway with speeches, dozens of side meetings, and countless informal caucuses and exchanges on the sidewalks around UN headquarters. The message from world leaders was clear: the MDGs are at the centre of national objectives in poor countries, and remain at the centre of global cooperation of rich countries. But the rich countries were also clear: we need a new financing system to ensure the success of the MDGs. The current approach is simply not adequate.

Without reform, our modern prosperity may not be sustainable. It will disappoint some that the Australian Bureau of Statistics' latest snapshot of national progress shows things are mostly getting better.

Perhaps it's a function of being in my 30s with small children to support or of being a freelance journalist in lean times or of living in the relatively expensive D.C. metro area, but if I had a dollar for every time I thought my life would be just a little better if we had more money, well, I'd be rich. But would I be any happier?

France and Spain called for a tax on global capitalism on Monday, telling the opening day of a UN summit on development the recession has made “innovative financing” essential to help the world’s poor.

Like other U.S. communities, the Pikes Peak region is suffering in a down economy -- a point hammered home in the fourth annual Quality of Life Indicators report released today.

When the Census Bureau released its annual U.S. poverty report last week, the news looked grim. Poverty had risen to 14.3 percent in 2009 from 13.2 percent in 2008 -- the largest single-year increase since 1980. And there is no end in sight for those struggling to make ends meet, as unemployment has remained high throughout this year.

I guess you've heard the good news: the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake will be a godsend to New Zealand's gross domestic product, giving it an almighty and much-needed boost. So maybe it's a pity earthquakes don't happen more often.

Ireland's GDP fell by 11.3% last year, according to a new progress report by the Central Statistics Office. In the same year Government debt increased to 64% of GDP, having been just 25% in 2007.

Last year, the Pikes Peak United Way's Quality of Life Indicators were a mixed bag, but it seemed like the bad things outweighed the good.

Fewer children live with unemployed parents today than a decade ago. More people volunteer, suicide rates are falling and post-school qualifications are on the rise. So are income and wealth, even for low-income families.

Australian's are healthier, wealthier and wiser than they were 10 years ago, according to the latest government data.

The Commissioner delivered the concluding address at the Conference on Economic Growth for Better Quality of Life in Europe.

The mess that fast Indian urbanization is shaping into has been highlighted in a number of recent reports by various agencies. In one such telling report by Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) India needed $ 1.2 trillion capita

In 2000, UN members signed the Millennium Declaration, an ambitious initiative identifying improvements they would make on issues affecting billions of people

Measuring economic growth is fairly straightforward work and shows that America's lot has steadily improved over the past seven decades. But with crime, climate change and longer commutes, are we really better off?

The UNICEF Executive Board opened its second regular session of 2010 today with a focus on narrowing disparities in child survival and development within and among developing nations.

But the more people make, the better they feel about their lives overall, study found

The Christchurch earthquake reveals one of the unfortunate realities about the modern obsession with economic growth.

Money can buy you happiness – up to a point (New Scientist 07.09.2010)
Can money buy you happiness? The answer, it appears, depends on what you mean by "happiness". High earners are generally more satisfied with their lives, it seems, but a person's day-to-day emotional wellbeing is only influenced by money up to a certain point.

Buying a mobile phone was the wisest $20 Ranvir Singh ever spent. Mr Singh, a farmer in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, used to make appointments in person, in advance, to deliver fresh buffalo milk to his 40-odd neighbours.

San Francisco’s chief economist, Ted Egan, gave a pretty downbeat assessment of the region’s economic outlook last week at a San Francisco Chamber of Commerce conference, citing the lack of employment growth and the anemic housing market as the major problems. That comes as no surprise.

Despite the fact that many will have difficulty pinpointing its exact location, Bhutan has captured the imagination of many Western minds

The government has approved in principle to set up a non-profit agency to promote local crafts. The Department of Cottage and Small Industry (DCSI) is taking the lead role in forming the agency.

A peace deal with the Palestinians could hike up Israel’s gross domestic product by between 5% and 6%, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said as peace talks began in Washington yesterday.

Life no longer begins at 40... as Baby Gloomers have to wait until they're 54 for true happiness to arrive (Mail Online 02.09.2010)

If you're still clinging to the hope that life begins at 40, you could be in line for a long wait.

A new report released today by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, ranks the states with the best policies “to accelerate demand for energy efficiency services, businesses, and ultimately jobs.”

What makes Sustainable Development both an interesting and frustrating field of study is that it's not environment or economics, it's not people or nature... it's all of these things and then some.

News highlights from last month

The founder of the Centre for Well-Being, an independent think tank at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in London, Marks is particularly keen to promote a balance between sustainable development and quality of life. See more on the new economics foundation and the Happy Planet Index

We've been measuring happiness in all the wrong ways. What's the pathway to true quality of life?

The US comes second in a new quality of life index designed to be mathematically objective.

Indices, data, GDP, happiness: “Good practices” for comparative reports when using data?

Warren Buffett likes to say that anything good that’s ever happened to him can be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country—America—at the right time. And it’s true: while remarkable individuals can be found in any nation on earth, certain countries give their citizens much greater opportunity to succeed than others at certain points in time

For most of the last seven decades, which is to say about as long as economists have been calculating what’s now called “gross domestic product,” it’s been criticized for being, well, too gross.

The headlines were grim, and a blow to India’s self-conception as a rising economic power. “New poverty index finds Indian states worse than Africa,” announced an Indian newspaper.

"We must be able to continue accessing the data that is uniquely available through the Canada census if we are to improve the lives of all Canadians" says the Honourable Roy J. Romanow, Chair, Canadian Index of Wellbeing Advisory Board.

Blogs on progress (September 2010)

Last week I lamented what I perceive to be an obsessive focus on GDP growth. If it’s a fact that more wealth doesn’t make us happier, why are we obsessed with economic growth as a measure of progress?

As world leaders come away from the UN in New York following this week's MDG summit and opening of the General Assembly, is anything likely to change for the people whose lives the MDGs are intended to improve? Let's be honest, given that the community of nations pledged 10 years ago to, "spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty," they were hardly likely to shrug their shoulders and back away from such promises.

Starting Monday, world leaders descended on New York to attend the annual General Assembly. But shy of 5 years from the deadline of achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals it was sad to see countries still mired in differences and using the platform to make jabs at each other instead of talk about cooperation.

Toward the end of a week focused on how the world’s rich can foster progress at the other end of the Slinky of social and economic progress, a reader here posted a provocative comment.

See how you can use our site to find the world's top aid and development data
• Go straight to our aid and development data search
• Use the API

In 1934, one of the original developers of the Gross National Product economic indicator (GDP) cautioned that “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.” Deeply flawed though it is, GDP became our primary way to measure the wealth, and health, of nations. But this week, for the first time in seventy years, we may be moving towards using a more accurate barometer.

We have seen the need for a change in the trajectory of human development coming for decades now – the sustainability discourse started in the 1970s and the European declarations have since been full of commitments.

After seeing that Monica Patten, president and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, would be a panelist at Measure Progress, Inspiring Action Through Key Indicator Projects, this session moved to the top of my must-attend list. I’ve been very interested in the Canadian Vital Signs project since I first learned of it in Montreal a couple of years ago.

Money may shape your outlook on life, but it can only buy so much when it comes to your daily happiness

What makes us happy? According to the testimonies of the people who describe themselves as contented, you need to be highly educated, female, wealthy, married, self-employed and not middle-aged (tell me about it). Misery, meanwhile, comes from unemployment, low income, divorce and poor health.

Why is human well-being improving globally when our environmental woes appear to be worsening all the time?

At the Trilogue – a meeting of EU parliamentarians, academics, civil society, the arts and independent organizations – a debate that took place within the discussion of re-thinking growth/development was that of “Moving Beyond GDP” as a measure for social and economic progress.

What makes Sustainable Development both an interesting and frustrating field of study is that it’s not environment or economics, it’s not people or nature… it’s all of these things and then some.

Blog highlights from last month

United States based Newsweek magazine has ranked living conditions in 100 countries around the world and in the magazine’s analysis, Nigeria was judged to be second to the worst while Finland is the best.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (seen here enjoying an afternoon on the beach) thinks we should. And he enlisted the help of two world-class economists to help him figure out how...

Sure, economic indicators are important measures of how were doing, but they don't tell the entire story.

At Duncan Green’s blog, there is a fascinating back-and-forth on the UN’s new Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) between its co-creator, Sabina Alkire, and the World Bank’s Martin Ravallion. This is very much a live debate in development circles. The MPI is a descendant of the earlier Human Development Index and is similar to the various Unsatisfied Basic Needs indices long used in many countries.

Progress papers and reports released this month


Ideas Economy: Human Potential 2010 (The Economist 15-16th September)

Debate hosted by the Economist Ideas Economy- Human Potential 2010

'Today, humanity is on track to advance physically, economically, and intellectually more than ever before. But there are still serious challenges ahead. For instance, how do we educate billions of new people in the coming decades—and manage their successful entry into the global economy—in an age of high unemployment and aging demographics? It is this kind of global challenge that can only be resolved by bringing together the smartest minds from government, academia and business—including education, human resources, healthcare, design, policy, science and technology—to debate tough issues and collaborate on practical solutions. With a new workforce that will be unlike any ever seen—a generation of young workers demanding entirely new work environments, and an aging population that requires heavy resources—the nature of work and talent development must evolve dramatically. The Ideas Economy: Human Potential event is an opportunity to understand these important issues from every perspective—and meet the leaders who can help optimise human potential, for individuals, companies, and society at large in the decades to come.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index

This is more of a back and forth than a debate. The subject is the recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Duncan Green, renowned blogger for the Oxfam blog From Poverty to Power, gives a brief overview of the new index. World Bank research director, Martin Ravallion criticizes the MPI for two key reasons, firstly the aggregation of indicators to a single index and secondly the choice of weights for the index. Finally Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and co-creator of the Index, defends her work and responds to both previous posts. For further background information, see Multidimensional Poverty Index

Background and introduction to the debate: The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has been working for years to try and develop such metrics, and they recently launched the ‘Multidimensional Poverty Index’ (MPI), which will feature in this year’s UNDP Human Development Report, celebrating its 20th anniversary. I’ll briefly summarize it here, before unleashing an exchange of guest blogs between the World Bank and OPHI.

Martin Ravallion is Director of the World Bank’s research department, the Development Research Group. 

Sabina Alkire responds to the previous posts by Martin Ravallion and Duncan Green. 


In this issue: Introduction from the OECD Chief Statistician, Martine Durand; A strategic overview of the OECD's contribution to the Global Project; Measuring Progress in Italy; Highlights from the 3rd OECD World Forum on "Statistics, Knowledge and Policy; Using DevInfo to Measure the Progress of Societies; Arizona Indicators; The UNDP HDR Report: 20 years on. Released July 1st 2010

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