Iman Kurdi Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, opened this weeks summit in New York on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on an optimistic note. He told us not to lose hope, that with just five years to go, the goals could still be achieved. All that is required is the political will to do it. It kind of sums up the UN as an institution - it could achieve so much if only the political will to do it could somehow be found. But the MDGs are not some pipedream, they are a set of concrete goals that were set out in 2000 aiming to radically improve the lot of the worlds poorest people by 2015. There are eight goals: eradicate extreme poverty and eliminate hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/aids, TB, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. One look at those goals and you can see it is an admirable wish list. It aims to give to the poorer half of the hemisphere what the more developed half already has. It also clearly acknowledges that these goals are interdependent. But there is also something missing: Where is world peace? I say this smiling. If you come up with a wish list to change the world for the better, surely the first step is peace and security? And where is good governance and, dare I say it, democracy? Not relevant, I guess. First, get the people fed and out of poverty and then worry about how they are governed. Its a matter of priorities. Except that security and good governance are essential stepping stones to economic development. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it at the summit, there is no development without security and no security without development. For one thing her comments were realistic, constructive and, in my view, without arrogance. She stressed that it is up to the governments of developing countries to be the architects of their own development. This call for developing countries to take more responsibility for their own development divided some. Was she blaming the poor for being poor? Or was she calling for an approach with greater empowerment, where government reform is in itself a form of international aid? In other words, putting the structures in place to enable a country to be run more effectively, with greater accountability and transparency is seen as key to creating sustainable economic development. However, when you look at the Arab world, progress on achieving the millennium development goals can be split right down the line based on peace, security and governance. The poorest countries are also the countries with the worst security and governance. Countries like Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Iraq have made little progress since 2000 and are unlikely to meet the targets. While - not surprisingly - richer countries in the Arab world are on target to meet most of the MDGs by 2015. On the other hand, North African countries have made remarkable progress. They have already almost reached the target of reducing by two-thirds mortality rates for children under five. They have also made good progress on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and look likely to meet the target of halving the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day. Hence, progress on the MDGs worldwide is uneven and driven by economic growth. For example, when food is scarce, boys are more likely to be fed than girls. Thus, improving the lives and health of women should be the focus of development programmes, especially when resources are limited. It is heartening to hear that the summit ended with the launch of just such a campaign. Ban Ki-moon launched the new Global Strategy for Womens and Childrens Health and announced that as much as $40 billion has already been pledged. Where will this money come from? Are these really new pledges or are they simply old pledges redirected to a new programme? For the real failure is not in a lack of vision, nor in a lack of ideas or programmes, but in a shameful lack of governments meeting their commitments. The worlds richest countries have failed to meet their commitment to donate 0.7 percent of gross national income. The average is currently 0.3 percent and it is unlikely to reach more than 0.5 percent by 2015. Moreover, the G8 countries have failed to honour the commitment made at the Glenneagles Summit in 2005 to double aid to Africa by 2010. For three days, 140 world leaders met in New York to review progress on the MDGs. They discussed ideas, took part in round-table discussions, made speeches and did exactly as you would expect them to do, and finished the summit pretty much exactly in the same place as they started. The quiet consensus is that most of the targets are unlikely to be met by 2015. And even if some of the targets are met globally, they will not be met in the region that needs it most: Sub-Saharan Africa. If the programme fails to deliver to the worlds poorest people can it be said to have succeeded at all? Khaleej Times