The missing goal

A compartmentalized, foremost economic, approach of development and the lack of freedoms keep the poor in poverty and threaten the rich. The great divide of today is between the Haves and the Have Nots. The Millennium Development Goals of the UN will not fill this gap.

Literacy is broadly considered as an effective weapon against poverty, growing birth rates and child mortality.  Especially education of girls will make the world a better place, is the adage. Millennium Development Goal 2, Achieve Universal Primary Education presents enormous challenges in many developing countries, one of which is Pakistan. Only 68.6% of the Pakistani men and 40.3% of the women over 15 year can read and write.[1] Apart from the lack of teachers, schools and educational infrastructure, a monster so destructive lures around the corner. This monster is overlooked by all MDG’s as well as by advocates of sole economic development such as Dambisha Moyo. Its’ name is Unfreedom.

Caro Sicking for nonfiXe

Pakistan belongs to the 64 Not Free countries according to Freedom House.[2] The danger of education in a censored unfree environment became apparent once again at a meeting on biases in textbooks and education policy of the National Commission for Justice and Peace Pakistan, March 18. Multiple religious and gender biases were found in the textbooks. Omissions and distortions that breed hatred among religions and confine women to the margin of history and society.[3]

While China does very well on the MDG scoreboard[5], it was mentioned by Freedom House as one of the most severe oppressors of freedom of press. How can education under censorship lead to understanding?

In the 2012 MDG report freedom was not mentioned once. The eight MDG’s, 21 targets and 60 indicators foremost aim at poverty relief, health and education. They put tangible goals and measurable results on the global map and into the global conscience and provided donors with arguments to keep on donating – and fundraising – and stirred awareness in receiving countries.[6]

The MDG’s scored + 1 for attacking extreme poverty, access to safe drinking water, universal primary education for boys and girls, and preventing child mortality. HIV treatment boosted in 2010, although the target was not reached. The fight against Malaria and TBC stayed on track, globally. These are impressive scores.

The first MDG, halving extreme poverty, already hit the target. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in 1990 to 24% in 2008. But what does that mean? J.K. Galbraith already in the 1970’s described the poverty trap: doubling an almost zero income, still leads to nothing to spend.[7] As a matter of fact, many times costs increase. For instance, because people buy more or different food.

Poverty means many unfreedoms. One is the denial of the freedom to choose, which is closely related to vulnerable employment. Today there are more slaves in the world than ever before.[8] Children work in bondage and forced labour and trafficking thrive. Known traffickers come to villages in poor regions to buy a seven year old from the mother. She has too many mouths to feed and too little opportunities. She sees no alternative. The child grows up in a sweatshop, under gruesome circumstances to produce whatever goods that are considered ‘profitable’ by the manufacturer.[9]

Manfred Max-Neef, Chilean economist, distinguished nine fundamental human needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom.[10] If one fundamental need isn’t satisfied, Max-Neef argued, there is poverty of some sort. Satisfaction is not a materialistic matter except when it comes to basic needs such as most MDG’s speak off: e.g. food, water, shelter. For instance understanding can be satisfied by education. The good that supports education is a book, uncensored that is.

The MDG’s fail to satisfy all fundamental needs and moreover focus on economic growth. This places them into the dominant capitalist system where the winner takes all. Competition is at the core of the value system.

Bakker & Van Empel stated in Allemaal Winnen[11] (Only Winners) that competition will not lead to a higher level of meaningful wellbeing. The ecology is protesting. Climate change causes natural disasters, resource depletion, famines, floods and off course, more suffering by the poor. The poor always suffer most. In today’s world the great divide is between the Haves and Have Nots. The latter group is growing. Social injustice, inequality and ecological issues do not stay within borders and soon will threaten the diminishing group of Haves as well.

The solution Bakker & Van Empel came up with is cooperation, sharing and accumulative learning. When these are combined with approaches such as the Human Scale Development of Max-Neef a joint effort society comes to sight. A joint effort society (JES!) is a new political engagement model and free association of individuals. All put effort and all reap the fruits. All participate in the way they feel is valuable. Such a society produces self-aware individuals. The way towards JES! is a dynamic method that lifts society and individuals to a higher ecological, economic, socio-cultural and psychological level each time people act.

The MDG’s have been successful at points, but the omission of freedom turns them destructive.

Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, launched a Sustainable Development Solutions Network in August 2012. ‘This Network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world’.[12]

Such a global network, when based on the principles of the joint effort society, could connect the MDG’s to unalienable freedoms that lead to meaningful wellbeing for all, here and now, there and later.

nonfiXe June 19 2012

Picture: drawing by rejected asylum seekers in the Netherlands, Vluchtkerk Amsterdam


[2], freedom of the press 2013, Middle East Volatility Amid Global Decline

selected data from freedom house’s annual press freedom index

[3] Textbook biases show when Muslim students ask Non-Muslim high achievers to convert, The Express Tribune, Mashal Usman, March 19, 2012


[5] The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012, United Nations

[6] Richard Manning, The Impact and Design of the MDGs: Some Reflections, IDS Bulletin Volume 41 Number 1 January 2010

[7] John Kenneth Galbraith, The Nature of Mass Poverty, first printed in 1979 by Harvard University

Press, Published in Pelican Books 1980. Reprinted in 1984 and 1987

[8] According to the head of the UN office of Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, 2.4 million people are trafficked each year worldwide. The amount of money circling in the crime scene adds up to $US

32 billion, which is more then drug dealers divide among themselves. It is estimated that 80% of the 2.4 million contemporary slaves end up in the sex industry. Two out of three are women and girls. Just

one person in hundred manages to escape their trafficker. From: The Herald Sun, Millions suffering from human trafficking, sex slavery: UN, April 04, 2012.

[9] The Guardian / The Observer, India targets the traffickers who sell children into slavery, by Gethin

Chamberlain, August 4, 2012

[10] Manfred Max-Neef, scientific paper about Development and human needs, 2007. Also see: Real-Life

Economics: Understanding Wealth Creation, ed. Paul Ekins & Manfred Max-Neef, Routledge, London,


[11] Allemaal Winnen, duurzame regionale ontwikkeling (Ecolutie) Bakker & Van Empel, Erasmus University Rotterdam, nonfiXe puB’s, 2012

[12] From the website:

Child for Sale

Modern-day slavery goes beyond sex-trafficking. Up to three generations of a family, including small children, are in bondage and forced to work long hours under hazardous circumstances without pay.

On August 4th 2012 the Guardian published an article on child trafficking in India: 200.000 kids are sold by their parents to known traffickers, every year. The reason: poverty. Many of these children are destined for child labour.

Caro Sicking for nonfiXe

Child labour is defined different from child employment. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates the amount of child labourers up to 215 million[1]. ‘These children, roughly 70 per cent of all “children in employment” (306 million), are classified as child labourers because they are either under the minimum age for work or above that age and engaged in work that poses a threat to their health, safety or morals, or are subject to conditions of forced labour. The number of children in child labour has continued its declining trend, falling by 3 per cent between 2004 and 2008. The corresponding incidence rate declined from 14.2 per cent to 13.6 per cent.’

In the summary of the same report the ILO writes: ‘However, the critical fight against child labour has to be won in South Asia, where the greatest numbers of child labourers are to be found. Often it is the poverty of policy rather than poverty itself that keeps the mass of children out of school and in child labour.’

ILO here expresses a faith in policy-makers. Policy can change the lives of people. In a sense this is absolutely correct. Honest and true democrats can make a change. In reality however, they almost never do. Either policy-makers are corrupt, oppressing those lower in rank and status, or they end up writing notes, shaking hands, signing covenants that do not emerge from the paper they are written on. Change needs commitment, the commitment of all involved from the bottom to the top.

In the Indian region Bihar half the population lives under the poverty line. Especially single mothers endure hardship. Unable to feed their offspring, the only solution appears to be to sell one of the kids to a trafficker.

The Guardian: ‘Anjura Khatun [mother] knew what to do. The next time the child trafficker came to the village, they agreed a price. A few days later, Azam [son] was on a train to Delhi.’ Azam was seven years old and had to become the breadwinner of the family. His mother got some money in advance. Since then he worked long days of hard labour in one of Delhi’s multiple sweatshops and never got paid again.

Please note the phrase: ‘the next time the child trafficker came’. It implies that it is rather common to sell your child to a (known!) trafficker as if a kid were a commodity, like fruit or vegetables: ‘Child for sale’.

In other words, child labour and child slavery are a cultural accepted phenomenon.

India is under increasing international pressure to end child labour (an estimated half million children under 14 year work as slaves in Delhi’s sweatshops) and has been quite successful in decreasing child labour in some regions, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).  Right now the Minister of Labour is preparing a national law to ban child labour. Activists stir the milk as well. The activist group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) lately freed a number of young boys from traffickers. The families were not happy to have their sons returned home: another mouth to feed.

Next to Bihar lays the region Uttar Pradesh that according to Benjamin Skinner contains 8% of the world’s poor. Here Skinner, undercover writer who researched the so-called flesh trade from deep within, met the forty-six year old Gonoo. ‘The man had no fingerprints,’ Skinner writes in ‘A Crime So Monstrous’, his devastating reportage on modern-day slavery. Gonoo had no fingerprints left due to smashing rock with a hammer and iron pike, after which he had to load the sand and gravel to trucks. Each and every family in the pit hole called Lohagara Dhal where Skinner met Gonoo, worked in bondage for the owner of the quarry. This man, called Ramesh Garg, was one of the wealthiest in the region. Skinner: ‘Every single man, woman and child in Lohagara Dhal was a slave. But in theory, Garg neither bought nor owned them. In theory, the slaves were working off debts to Garg. For many, the debts had started under $10. But interest accrued at over 100 per cent annually here. One hundred of the 150 families in the village had debts that spanned at least two generations. […] The seed of Gonoo’s slavery was a loan of 62 cents. In 1958 his grandfather had borrowed that amount from the owner of a farm where he worked, to pay the meager bride-price of Gonoo’s mother. Three generations and three slave-masters later, Gonoo’s family was still in bondage.’[2]

On a lucky day for Gonoo, his master Garg killed one man too many, or – which is a better explanation – he killed the wrong man. Instead of the quite usual slaying of an ‘untouchable’ a member of the low caste Dalit – the caste Gonoo and most villagers belonged to and nobody cares about – Garg had killed a peer, a Brahmin. The murderer had to run for his life, police and the family of the diseased where both after him. Now Gonoo was free??

Not quite. Skinner: ‘When I called a Sankalp[3] organizer a year later, he said they had been working with Lohagara Dhal. Ramesh Garg had never returned, but the village was a challenge to organize, as he had been the most brutal contractor in Shankargarh, and the terror of the slaves ran deep.’

Skinners’ book was published in 2008. It should have caused an earthquake in the policy-making scenes. It should have been read by every policeman or woman, every employee of every migration service, it should have broken the chains of modern-day slaves. But it didn’t. Still every day men, women and children are enslaved, abused and in bondage. And they keep silent, just like Gonoo, out of terror.

According to the head of the UN office of Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, 2.4 million people are trafficked each year worldwide. The amount of money circling in the crime scene adds up to $US 32 billion, which is more then drug dealers divide among themselves.

To end slavery, apart from fair legislation that is actually implemented, poverty needs to be erased and emancipation of the poor is required. Healthy food, clean water, shelter, clothing, education, health care and the opportunity to provide in one’s own needs through fair labour are among the needs of billions of people and in the interest of most others who want to live in a peaceful world. Amartya Sen, Nobel price winner, economist and philosopher, offered the world his capability approach. In short it is quite simple: each individual is entitled and supported to develop him- or herself to the fullest, to become who he or she is. Each man, woman and child has the right to be free and to develop their talent.

Utopia? Not necessarily. Large companies have clout and organizational capacity, more and more continuously than most elected politicians have. They also have a world to win: the creating of a new market in the now poor and undeveloped areas. Make it a sustainable new market, with gains for People, Planet & Profit where all win through shared value.

nonfiXe, August 16, 2012

[1] Global ILO report 2010, Accelerating Action against Child Labour

[2] E. Benjamin Skinner, A Crime So Monstrous, Mainstream Publishing, 2008, p239

[3] Sankalp was formed in 1994 by social activists drawn from the J.P. (Jayaprakash Narayan) Movement. It works with the silica mineworkers of Shankargarh to make their lives better.