We Millennials have grown up. We've gone from passionate teens to professionals, flexing our leadership muscles in the workplace. We still carry the idealism of our younger years, but, with our new roles as movers and shakers, the stakes for our involvement are much higher. This is our world now -- and we need to be ready to help take charge. This week in New York City, the United Nations will adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals, a set of goals and targets designed to end extreme poverty over the next 15 years. They're universal, and so are expected to guide the policies and practices of all countries, not just the developing ones. As a Millennial, I'm keeping a watch on what our governments and organizations do, and looking for ways to help.
Pregnancy is still one of the leading causes of death of girls in developing countries between 15 and 18. Worldwide, 16,000 children under five die every day. Girls and boys are left behind because of who they are or where they live. Women and girls from ethnic minorities have fared worst, and discriminated against because of their sex and race. Girls living in towns or cities are much more likely to have access to a skilled birth attendant than young women living in remote parts.
In September, I take up my new responsibilities in Geneva, Switzerland as Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament. The UN reflects the dreams and aspirations of not just Canadians but of the world. My new role will allow me to address global challenges from a different perspective than I've had at Plan Canada, but as I prepare to leave I reflect on a few proud accomplishments that bolster my confidence and hope for the future.
This year, Medicine Hat became the first city in Canada to effectively end homelessness. Almost 900 people in this small town of 61,000 have been placed in rent-free apartments or houses. And the benefits are clear: police calls and hospital emergency room visits are down. "You're going to end homelessness? Yeah ok, good one," he recalls thinking. But the society argued that the $20,000 per year cost of housing someone was as much as four times less than the expense of policing and health care when that person lived on the streets.
2015 promises to be a transformative year on the international development front and is therefore an appropriate time to reflect on a noteworthy milestone. The United Nations enters its 70th year -- and like some 70-year-olds, the beleaguered UN has found new vigour and relevance in people's lives, with Canada playing a role in some noteworthy accomplishments.
On balance, however, this was not a good year for world peace. Russian aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine, and the West's response, pushed the world closer to a new Cold War. Revelations about the CIA's use of torture were enough to shake anyone's faith in the goodness of humanity. Meanwhile, the Middle East spiralled downward with greater violence in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. At home we are still not on track to meet our emissions targets. And the strongest praise environmentalists could muster for the climate change deal reached in Lima, Peru, last week was to wince and say it is "better than nothing."
Diplomatically, we are losing much of the "bench strength" we once possessed, as senior and able diplomats transition out of public service due to the lack of government engagement in the more vital files. The Canadian government denies all this repeatedly, as governments are prone to do, but those many areas where this country once was a steady player are increasingly being recognizing for our absence.
Over the past three decades, relentless poaching of wildlife has already wiped out several species of rhinos, and elephants, even as the surviving species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. However wildlife crime has come into scrutiny only in the past decade, and despite the emergence of stringent international laws, criminals are getting away scot-free.
For us in the West, it's hard to imagine life without education. But what if you couldn't read the words on a basic contract, write your name on a job application, or count the money you earn at work? Imagine no one in your community knew how to prevent your crops from failing, basic accounting to run a family business, or how to treat a common illness.
In recent weeks, we have heard statements from leaders on the international stage that we are on the path to eradicating absolute poverty in the next two decades. I'd prefer we wait to 2030 to really celebrate how much we did to close the gap and assure that these numbers reflect all countries and the people in them -- and that no one gets left behind.
It's a new year. Time to dust off that old piece of paper with your goals from last year and take a moment to compare what you set out to accomplish with what you actually got done. Did you hit all of your goals? If so, then shame on you! Set them higher this year and really push yourself! It's not supposed to be easy.
The only way for us to end global hunger is for governments, non-governmental organizations, business and the community work together to implement solutions we know will work. I left Bangladesh knowing that I want to help bring about an end to global hunger. So my family and I are going to take a few simple steps.
For over 25 years I worked for Save the Children across Latin America. We worked in the poorest communities and I witnessed the pain of parents who would have done anything they could, if they could to help their hungry child, their sick child, their child who wanted to go to school but couldn't for lack of money.
Remember the 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) that the world's riches nations committed to international development? Whatever became of it? Let's have a 0.7 per cent for a new generation, only this time with the concentration on that one part of the world that has lagged behind -- Africa.