An Interview with Carol Welch
US Coordinator for the Millennium Campaign
UN Habitat, World Urban Forum 3
June 21, 2006 - www.operationinformation.com
Vancouver, Canada, June 21, 2006
By Kathryn Price
KEY: KP= Kathryn Price CW= Carol Welch
CW – The Millennium Campaign where I work and where Eveline [Herfkens] works in a UN initiative to promote the Millennium Development Goals. We primarily work with citizen based movements like churches and United Nations associations and groups. Youth organizations like the scouts are quite active in some countries and now also increasingly as you see here more local authorities like mayors and heads of regional government and things like that. Uh, in their efforts to hold their own governments accountable to the Millennium Development Goals most of the policy changes that need to happen to meet the goals will happen at a national level but our premise is that the national level actions doesn’t happen unless citizens at the grassroots get involved if you want to see change.
The Millennium Development Goals are 8 goals that nations agreed to that came out of a big summit in the year 2000 at the UN, um, they are the goals you see listed here on our banner. They are supposed to be met by 2015 and they have specific targets attached to them like tackling hunger and poverty by 2015. Reducing the number by half the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation.
The goals primarily, in terms of their outcomes, are oriented towards global poverty as opposed to domestic or rich country poverty. By that I mean half the poverty by 2015 specifically relates to dollar a day poverty so, those people who can live on a dollar a day. And so that is primarily an issue of third world countries as opposed to America which is more relative poverty.
When we campaign and talk about these issues we make the local links to local issues quite a bit because some of the reaction we get from people in the US is, well, ‘we’ve got poverty here why should I care about global poverty?” Part of our response is that, 1; the United States is a rich and powerful nation and can tackle both local and global poverty at the same time. The deal with global poverty is that it’s quite inexpensive if we increased our development aid by just 1% of our budget it could effectively tackle goals. But also, in some ways we [US] have a lot of safety nets, whether its food stamps or guaranteed public education. Even when people are poor here, and that’s not to say it’s not an issue to be dealing with but it’s not a life and death issue in the same sense that it is in developing countries. That’s what we are trying to convey that the Millennium Development Goals in many ways are about life and death and making the world better and healthier for everybody.
What we also think, and many people think, that by meeting the goals we also are helping ourselves in the sense of having a more secure world. We strongly believe that a more prosperous world is a more peaceful world. That a world without such extremes of poverty is a world where – people can find jobs or, are part of a more global community that it helps foster greater understanding and helps the US be more secure. But also in terms of reflecting our own values, American values, we, as American people – and you see this in the outpouring after the tsunami that we are a generous people. We were founded in many ways on having opportunity and having their own basic needs met so they can fulfill their own personal opportunity. And that’s in many ways what the goals are about in the sense of dealing with education and health and providing an opportunity for poor people around the world to help themselves out of poverty. Those are some of the connections that we often make in terms of ‘How does this relate to me as an American’. Ya know, it’s a value question and I think it’s also a security question in many ways too. We’re seeing more and more people, church based folks, college students, really- really getting engaged on these goals because – like for college students, 2015 is their immediate future, the future they will be raising their kids in and working in.
KP – I heard you mention the Boy Scouts which is a huge organization in the US. My own children have been in Cub Scouts. How are they able to help with these issues in the US?
CW – Yeah, in the US the Boy Scouts haven’t been as involved as- as globally the scouts are involved. But globally the scouts have a Scout of the World campaign where they actually have the Millennium goals as a specific initiative. They have a contest where they reward the scouts who are doing a particularly good job of raising awareness of the goals or contributing themselves to the goals.
In some of the other countries scouts are meeting with their politicians and telling them they care about these issues that for them that the 2015 goals are – that they [politicians] want them to leave them a world that’s better, healthier, more prosperous place for them.
KP – You ask people in the Midwest what Sustainable Development is or what the Millennium Development Goals are and most have never heard of them.
CW – It’s not just true in the Midwest, it’s sorta, generally, that the average person whether it’s the east coast or the Rocky Mountains, west coast or the Midwest, people have never heard of them.
KP – And why is that?
CW – I think generally the media doesn’t cover international issues very much and the extent that they do they tend to cover the sad stories – the disasters.
Habitat II model for
KP – It seems odd because Tulsa has implemented Vision 2025 and The 21st Century Challenge to Eliminate Substandard Housing in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
CW – Oh great!
KP – So, why not talk about it?
CW – I agree, and I think part of why – my theory in terms of why they won’t – I think the media, who says there is a shrinking space to cover international issues is that people aren’t interested. They’ve been covering the wrong issues – covering the buses going off the cliff in Peru or the college student dying in an accident while studying abroad or…
KP – I think they are wrong and would be very interested to hear what is happening if given the opportunity.
CW – I agree. So, they cover those types of stories and people don’t think they feel particularly educated by those stories but feel rather saddened by them so they turn the page and then they think they’re just not interested in global issues but I think they’re just not portraying the rightful issues and I think that if they’re given interesting stories of people around the world making a difference, struggling but also living lives of dignity and pushing their governments to change and empowering themselves to make due, I think people are quite excited about those stories. I think that’s one of the challenges. I’m very glad you are interested in writing a story.
In a lot of other countries, especially Scandinavian countries, the countries actually put a portion of their development aid budget into educating their own citizens about global issues, about global development issues. So, through schools and through advertisements and things like that they have programs to raise awareness which we don’t have in the US.
KP – In regards to Tulsa schools they have, which again is ironic, where you don’t have anyone really educating the public but in the schools there are some sustainable development tools being used. But again, the general population is not getting any of that education.
CW – I think it tends to be district by district, pretty decentralized.
KP – Tulsa does have a school with an IB [International Baccalaureate] program and that may be the reason they are [decentralized].
CW – Yeah, yeah. One of the projects I’m working on is to develop a high school based curriculum around the Millennium Development Goals that will link the MDG’s to standards that teachers have to teach anyway, in social studies or civics and things like that, so that they can meet No Child Left Behind standards but, figure out ways of incorporating these issues into their class.
KP – That would definitely catch up schools that are not in the IB program and level out the education of all the students.
CW – Yeah, yeah. I think that would be quite helpful. Sweden, for example, their government actually paid for…
Conversation was interrupted and ended.
© 2006 by Kathryn Price
Kathryn Price is reporting on behalf of the Tulsa Beacon and Oklahomans For School Accountability researching politics and education and the implications of those findings.
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