Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Who should set the world's goals?

By Jamie Drummond, Special to CNN
updated 10:06 AM EDT, Sun August 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jamie Drummond: U.N. Millennium Development Goals for 2015 have had dramatic effects
  • Drummond says they've saved millions of lives, reduced poverty and put children in school
  • As world drafts goals beyond 2015, views of the poorest should be influential, he says
  • He says technology enables us to poll the world and have consensus on the new goals

Editor's note: Jamie Drummond co-founded ONE with Bono and is the organization's executive director. ONE is a global advocacy organization backed by more than 3 million people dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. He spoke at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) -- Remember the most anticipated year in all human history, 2000?

Remember Y2K, the dotcom bubble, stressing about whose party you're going to go to as the clock strikes midnight, before the champagne goes flat, and then there's that inchoate yearning that was felt, I think, by many, that the millennium, that 2000, should mean more, more than just a two and some zeroes.

Well, amazingly, for once, our world leaders actually lived up to that millennium moment and back in 2000 agreed to some extraordinary stuff: visionary, measurable, long-term targets called the Millennium Development Goals.

Watch Jamie Drummond's TED Talk

Now, I'm sure you all keep a copy of the goals under your pillow, or by the bedside table, but just in case you don't, and your memory needs some jogging, the deal agreed then goes like this: Developing countries promised to at least halve extreme poverty, combat hunger and deaths from disease and achieve other targets, by 2015, and developed nations promised to help them get that done by dropping debts, increasing smart aid and reforming trade.

U.N. nears deadline on millennium goals
Bono, Gupta, Malveaux: World AIDS Day
Bono on AIDS: 'We have the end in sight'

We're now approaching 2015, so we'd better assess, how are we doing on these goals? But we've also got to decide, do we like such global goals? Some people don't. And if we like them, we've got to decide what we want to do on these goals going forward. What does the world want to do together? And we've got to decide a process by which we decide.

I do think global goals can be helpful. I know some people are skeptical of big global summits and abstract political promises, but that's because they hardly know about the existence of any such goals, or that the goals we've got have in many cases been remarkably successful.

TED.com: Bono on action for Africa

With partners we've worked on a few specific commitments in the fight against extreme poverty hunger and disease and seen how when they are focused, such agreements can make a real measurable difference.

Take AIDS or malaria -- in the last 10 years 8 million more people are on life-preserving HIV treatment, and the number of people dying from malaria has been nearly halved. Or vaccines -- which have prevented more than 5 million deaths. Or debt cancellation, which has helped put 46 million more children in Africa through school.

When you've seen campaigns such as these go from the margins to the mainstream and achieve real success and save lives, it is hard not to be supportive of more such goals. I wonder why don't more people know about such successes? But that's a subject for a different essay.

Even with these great successes, there's still a lot of unfinished business. Still, 7.6 million children die every year of preventable, treatable diseases, and 178 million kids are malnourished to the point of stunting, a horrible term that means physical and cognitive lifelong impairment. So there's plainly a lot more to do on the goals we've got.

TED.com: Fighting with nonviolence

And there are a lot of people who think there are things that should have been in the original package that weren't agreed back then that should now be included, such as sustainable development targets, natural resource governance targets, access to opportunity, to knowledge, equity, fighting corruption. All of this is measurable and could be in the new goals.

But the key thing here is, what do you think should be in the new goals? What do you want? Are you annoyed that I haven't mentioned gender equality or education? Should those be in the new package of goals?

There are going to be some tough trade-offs and choices here, so you want to hope that the process by which the world decides these new goals is going to be legitimate, right?

Well, if you agree that such global goals can be helpful, and are required to galvanize more action, how then should they be set?

TED.com: Escaping poverty

The process by which they could be agreed in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century should certainly look very different than that through which they were agreed at the end of the 1990s. The reason: new technologies.

Let's start by properly polling the poorest people, for whom all these goals are supposed to be designed. After all: If the goals are to help them, then they should respond to what the poorest want.

We can today poll, scientifically, people across the developing world in ways we couldn't before. We can also ask a wider community of people around the world what they want the goals to be and how they want to support the achievement of these goals.

All this is much easier than before through the use of modern technology. The Web and mobile phones, along with ubiquitous reality TV formats have spread all around the world. So we should use them to involve people from around the world in a historic first: the world's first truly global poll and consultation, where everyone everywhere has an equal voice for the first time.

TED.com: Social experiments to fight poverty

What's key is that technology should help the process be open, inclusive and put the views of the poorest first. My belief is that not only will the new goals build on the momentum of the original goals and in many cases finish off the job they started, but we will also develop a bigger constituency for getting the goals finished than we had the first time around.

The new global goals, when and if agreed, will probably set targets for 2030. So if we work together, and achieve these visionary targets we've all agreed on together, we can genuinely set a path to beat back extreme poverty. That will also help ensure greater peace and prosperity for us all, not though vague abstract promises, but through tangible concrete steps. Because we can, why wouldn't we? C'mon people.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jamie Drummond.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT