Students rallied on the Diag and all over the world last night to let the United Nations know that merely setting goals isn’t good enough in the fight against poverty.

The rally was part of a coordinated worldwide campaign called “Stand Up, Speak Out.” Yesterday, rallies were held in more than 30 different countries to highlight the United Nations’s slow progress in achieving its Millennium Development Goals, which were set in 2000 to alleviate poverty and improve global health by 2015.

Last year, more than 23 million people participated in the rally across the world.

About 50 people attended the rally at the University, which was preceded by lectures from University professors on topics related to global poverty such as sustainable agriculture and the World Bank.

Lisa Treumuth, a co-chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Peace and Justice Commission, was the main student organizer of the event. Treumuth said she got involved with the campaign after talking with members from the local Interfaith Global Peace and Justice Commission, which co-sponsored the rally. The ONE campaign on campus as well as students from Eastern Michigan University helped with the rally.

“It looked like we got over a hundred people here, and that’s the kind of exposure we wanted,” Treumuth said.

One of the objectives of the rally was to put pressure on the United Nations.

“We wanted to get the attention of the U.N., but once you start pointing fingers, it gets tricky to accomplish anything,” said Aria Everts, co-chair of MSA’s Peace and Justice Commission. “The responsibility for accomplishing these goals falls on everyone.”

During the rally, organizers read each of the development goals then read statistics demonstrating that little progress toward the goals have been made.

The eight development goals are to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.”

One of the professors who lectured before the rally was Ivette Perfecto from the School of Natural Resources and Environment. In an interview, Perfecto said the demonstration’s aim was for students to bring awareness to their peers, as well as to put pressure on the United Nations and developed countries to take a more active role in achieving the Development Goals.

“We want to let the U.N. know that things haven’t changed, that we still have a long way to go,” she said. “I agreed to speak because I am a concerned citizen, and I think there’s a lack of understanding about the causes of poverty.”

Since 1999, the percent of people living in extreme poverty in sub-saharan Africa – one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the world – has dropped by less than 5 percent, according to a 2005 presentation by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Millennium Development Goals are trying to cut the number of people living in extreme poverty by 50 percent by 2015.

“Increasing globalization and the export industry is clearly not working,” Perfecto said. “All that does is increase inequalities between developed countries and countries that are still developing. More emphasis needs to be placed on sustainable agriculture that produces food without hurting the natural resources.”

RC Lecturer Ian Robinson said he sees no problem with the United Nation’s goals, just their implementation.

“I think the way the current economic system is set up is not conducive to accomplishing these goals.” Robinson said. “Even in the past 25 years, the economic system has changed so that even the U.S. is having a hard time succeeding.”

Public Health Prof. Howard Stein said the blame lies primarily on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“When mapping out an economic system for the poorer countries, too many assumptions were made,” Stein said. “Like assuming there was full employment when actually there was 50 percent employment. The problem lies with the way the economies of these countries were set up.”

Treumuth, the organizer, thinks something else is missing from the effort to achieve the United Nation’s goals.

“Will,” she said. “Political and public will. We have the resources. We know what we need to do. It’s up to us to generate the will.”

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