Looking back, moving forward.

Author:Mohammed, Amina J.
Position:The United Nations at 70

Seventy years ago, during the closing days of the Second World War, representatives of 50 nations attended the United Nations Conference on International Organizations in San Francisco, leading to the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, that came into force on 24 October 1945. The Charter is as relevant today as it was seven decades ago. The United Nations was forged through a unified resolve to uphold peace and security, development, and human rights for all and these remain the three pillars that frame the work and mission of the Organization.

The turn of the century marked a major milestone in development, when political leaders revised the terms of development cooperation. The United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 convened the largest gathering of world leaders, which saw Heads of State adopt a new framework for human development, the United Nations Millennium Declaration. A year later, a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) distilled from the declaration was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations. While there was criticism on what was not included in the MDGs and what should have been emphasized more, such as economic growth, governance, land degradation and climate change among other issues, the MDGs represented a fulcrum for a new development collaboration between developed and developing nations.

The MDGs had a difficult birthing process. Some would say it also had a multi-year launch. From the start, it lacked inclusive consultations and was essentially devised by a few experts at the United Nations. The first few years were in part stagnant, and the excitement and anticipation dissipated just as the hype around Y2K, a few months into the new millennium.

However, looking back at the last 15 years, the MDGs have become a landmark agenda that has transformed the world. The MDGs provided the first attempt of an integrated prescription for the social agenda to address the world's toughest challenges with incredible precision and focus on the poor, combining vertical efforts, such as health and education, in one common strategy. The process brought together vertical subject-specific goals from various international and United Nations conferences of the 1990s, including priorities such as education (Jomtien, 1990), children (New York, 1990), the environment and development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), population (Cairo, 1994), social development (Copenhagen, 1995) and the status of women (Beijing, 1995). Standing alone, these prescriptions were half-empty, but...

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