The youths are the world’s most powerful vehicle for positive change. They are endowed with the physical strength, vigor, innovative ideas departing from established norms and less inclination for quick ill-gotten wealth if properly guided which is the bane of many underdeveloped nations today. Achieving the millennium development goals has never been as cogent as it is currently given the myriad of challenges associated with social and technological advancements and climate change. Aid and Development include the provision of food, shelter, medicine, clothing, education, skill acquisition trainings etc to enable improved productivity and increased lifespan of the people. Also included are the provision of infrastructure, women empowerment, civil and fundamental rights awareness and promotion and cultural preservation in the positive sense. Have many governments around the globe succeeded in delivering all the aforementioned? The answer is no! Have we as a people collectively failed over the course of several centuries in achieving all these? The answer is yes! The reasons for our failures strongly lie in corruption, plain incompetence, armed conflicts, insensitivity, lack of accountability encouraged by an extremely weak supervision and indifference at different tiers of the government to the plight of the suffering people. I have always wondered why any government around the globe would invest its country’s meager resources in procuring arms rather than procuring food for its people. Sadly this ugly situation has been like a recurring decimal in some parts of Africa and Asia where the most vulnerable people live.
My vision on achieving the millennium development goals has its fundamental roots in accountability. Time and time again aids from richer nations are wasted by government officials of the receiving countries in connivance with some disgruntled local charities whose services are engaged on the assumption that they would deliver the provided aids directly to the locals. These aids are squandered and the needed developmental projects poorly executed or not executed at all. Ever been to a community whose landscape is dotted with abandoned infrastructural developments? Such is the case in many local African communities where funds meant for development have been mismanaged. Accountability in my idea should involve holding public officials, contractors, society or faith based charities etc responsible for any ineffective project delivery that occurred through them. There has to be an independent monitoring group that would audit the execution process and the qualification of the appointed delivering agency whether government or private. The monitoring group would be made up of people with proven integrity, with no partisan affiliations to avoid any form of manipulation. In many cases, the wasted aids are meant for communities with low literacy levels and most times the people are not even aware of the amount of aids provided. The monitoring would be the type that would visit such remote locations for direct assessments using an already established set of parameters such as the time frame for project delivery, the impact of the project in the lives of the people, the magnitude of the impact and sustainability. The monitoring activities would be kept confidential to avoid any form of cover up or pretense by erring local agencies and government ministries. If discovered that there has been any form of mismanagement of funds, all responsible parties would be brought to justice and such wasted aids whether tied up in cash or properties as is usually the case would be turned over to the government where appropriate or to the donor agency. This would then be re-channeled back into specific development projects. What if the funds are not recoverable? The responsible persons would be sent to prison for a long time which should be for a minimum of ten years.
Another impediment to effective delivery on millennium development goals is the exclusion of the aids recipients from the planning to the execution stage. There is an ingrained “them” and “us” mentality running deep in different parts of the world where the donors are detached from the recipients by not knowing the exact needs while the recipients see the donors as oppressive for not knowing the exacts needs as well as modalities for project execution. The only issue here is poor communication on both sides. Before any aid or developmental project is executed, I would advocate that the opinions of the representatives of the recipients be sought to enhance project delivery. As the old saying goes “He who wears the shoe knows exactly where it hurts”. It is a waste delivering aid and developmental projects that do not take into consideration the peculiar needs of the target communities. So far aid and developmental projects delivery have been replicated in different parts of the world using the same model developed in another part of the world with an entirely different cultural, religious, social and economic background. The result of this has been outright failure of such projects through rejection by the recipients who treat it as alien and mistrust issues arise between the donors, government and the recipients. Therefore for successful delivery, all foreign aids and developmental projects must be critically studied by experts with the input of the locals for proper domestication where necessary. Much as the world is turning into a global village, cultural and religious concerns still hold an integral value in the lives of the people and so should be treated with utmost respect.
Women empowerment is a critical factor that would impact positively on effective aid and development delivery. In many parts of the developing world, the opinions of women are not yet considered important. Women have been at the lower rung of the decision making bodies in communities thereby leaving the people with less opportunity for growth. Some communities still treat the girl child as a second class citizen; she grows up believing that her opinions do not matter no matter how intelligent she may be. Some communities do not encourage educating female children leaving them in a state of eternal dependency on the male folks. I propose a drastic departure from this imbalance that has eaten deep into the fabrics of our supposedly modern society. The first action to be taken is to criminalize the act of not educating female children. Any parent or guardian caught in this act must face the full wreath of the law. Secondly opportunities in terms of scholarships into areas of expertise dominated by men should be provided to women as well. How can we maximize the full human resources potentials if we rely on one particular gender and consider the other of lesser importance? I am convinced that the wheels of development would run faster in different parts of Africa and Asia only when women are given a chance. On this note grant awarding agencies should encourage communities to have at least thirty percent females on the decision making front.
As earlier mentioned, the greatest asset to effective aid and development initiatives rest on the shoulders of the youths therefore all efforts would be to channel their energies into positive causes. Youth development and education are the foundation for a sustainable society through good governance. Who do the youths admire in a society? Those who sacrificed their all for the betterment of their country or people who looted the common wealth? For this reason an aggressive sensitization is needed to prepare the future leaders of tomorrow. Is this purpose currently being achieved through formal education? Again another no! Many school aged children are still not enrolled in any school in the poorer regions of the world, most of them girls. Every child deserves a chance in life, the purpose of having children is defeated if they would not be given a chance to exercise their diverse talents. I support the idea of making the first twelve years of education entirely free in public schools. The hiring and retention of quality teachers is a pivotal aspect of this goal. Each child is naturally endowed with certain abilities and should be encouraged to pursue them to the end. I am certain that several thorny issues that have defied all forms of scientific explanation could still be resolved given the boundless availability of human resources. School and schooling should be fun and not a nightmare as it is currently in certain parts of the world where kids are still horse whipped for the slightest error. They should be allowed to make mistakes because it is a natural process of learning.
We have continually lost the fight against hunger which is the greatest challenge to learning and development. Some children still turn up in school tired and hungry as a result of poverty at home. Aids keep pouring in from the developed world but still not enough to sustain a starving population with women and children being the worst hit. I propose an aggressive campaign against hunger by encouraging large scale and subsistence farming using high yielding species of food crops and good breed of domestic animals. Farmers would be able to provide for the local communities only if we have the right type of grains that would withstand droughts at least to an extent. Governments must engage the services of competent scientists and engineers to help provide water in places of scarcity through such methods as building aqueducts where possible, sometimes the human migrations occasioned by droughts could have been solved by thoughtful scientific procedures. I support the mandatory free feeding of underprivileged children in schools with the right balanced diet, the children from higher income homes would not be excluded from the school feeding initiative but their parents and guardians would have to pay for it. This way a child from a poor home will catch up developmentally with the rest and be prepared to influence the society positively. Evidence has shown that hungry children rarely do well in school.
Politics of tribe, religious belief, cultural orientation etc are hydra-headed monsters impeding the wheels of achieving the millennium development goals. Until we tear down these barriers we will still not be able to attain our full potentials. A culture of mutual respect for all people should be encouraged amongst all and in particular younger people. We need to transverse across these barriers in order to reach out to the yet unreached. It is a sad development that ethnic wars are still occurring in certain parts of the world today. Some ethnic groups believe that they are superior to the others and some religious groups believe the same and they go about killing innocent people of which women and children are still the worst hit, why? Tolerance is the only key to this problem, it does not matter the God I believe in, what matters is that you and I are interested in building a bridge for our use and for that of our future generations. We should then find a common ground that does not take into consideration our race, tribe, religion, etc as the basis upon which we should relate with one another. As we encourage tolerance we must completely frown at any form of ethnic and religious intolerance such as is still ongoing between Sudan and the new South Sudan and in Jos Nigeria by enacting and enforcing strong criminal justice laws.
Our world is beautiful but can only be made more beautiful with an even delivery of aid and development. The issue of illegal immigration which has claimed the lives of several thousands young people either through hostility in a foreign country, economic hardship and involvement in crimes as a result of improper immigration documents, by trying to cross a desert or sail through an ocean on a raft could be a thing of the past if only the opportunities they seek abroad come nearer home. We must empower our youths today to save lives.
University of North Texas