Friday, July 26, 2013

"UN - I do not want to be poor anymore."

In 2000, world leaders promised to reach eight specific, measurable goals for global development by 2015 called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The most notable of these goals was to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, as measured by people living on a $1.25 or less. Thanks in part to the strong participation of people of faith, along with many other persons and organizations working together in one massive global effort to fulfill the MDGs, we have made real progress. The number of people living in poverty has fallen to less than half of its 1990 level. Over two billion people gained access to better drinking water. The share of slum dwellers living in cities fell, improving the lives of at least 100 million people!

Yet, we still have work to do. 1.4 billion people remain in extreme poverty. Every four seconds a child dies from preventable causes and over 900 million people, particularly women and young people, suffer from chronic hunger. Climate change threatens to destroy the lives of millions more and undo much of the progress we have made so far. Inequality is growing everywhere and human rights are being undermined, especially in many of the world’s most fragile and conflict affected countries. Even with these great challenges, for the first time in history we have the resources to end extreme poverty while enabling sustainable development. As the 2015 target date for fulfilling the MDGs approaches, a global conversation on these two topics is well underway. Termed the “post‐2015 dialogue,” this conversation has already brought together thousands of government officials, non-profit organizations, business leaders, academics and grassroots activists in order to craft new goals for a global development agenda.

Despite the unprecedented openness and inclusivity of the post‐2015 dialogue, people of faith have yet to fully engage in the conversation. This is unfortunate, because as major players in fulfilling the MDGs, people of faith have much to contribute ‐ they have rich grassroots experiences to share and their members and neighbors have a major stake in what happens after 2015. For instance, the ELCA’s well-known “Make Malaria History” campaign directly relates the MDG 6, “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases,” and thus Lutherans should be very concerned about what global development goals follow the MDGs.

Even more importantly, faith communities are often the only grassroots networks that directly reach people living in poverty and other underrepresented global citizens. Thus, as people of faith, and specifically as Lutherans, we need to do our part in amplifying the voices of those who most need a strong set of new development goals – people living in poverty and communities and organizations who accompany them. We must practice what we preach, what we teach. It's about directly accompanying people concretely, not merely multiplying words. If we, as people of faith, do not confront "the scandal of poverty," then we are part of the problem.

People living in poverty and those who accompany them have unique gifts to share with the global community as it prepares a Post‐2015 Development Agenda. After countless consultations, reports, meetings and debates, we largely know what needs to be done and that we have the necessary resources to end extreme poverty. What we do not yet have at the United Nations is the political will to make it happen. In late June, during yet another meeting at UN headquarters in New York, a man from Latin America stood up, and in one startling statement got everyone’s attention. He simply said, “UN – I do not want to be poor anymore.” It is such dignified, hopeful people, people living in poverty and those who directly accompany them, from whom we need to hear more in the post‐2015 dialogue, for only they can build the political will to end poverty in our time while enabling sustainable development.

Inspired by that startling example of speaking truth to power, the New York offices to the United Nations of Caritas Internationalis and The Lutheran World Federation recently launched a new conversation on the World We Want platform entitled “UN ‐ I do not want to be poor anymore: a collection of faith‐inspired voices of people living in poverty.” If you're someone who has served in a soup-kitchen, if you’re someone who has gone on a mission trip, if you’re someone who worships with people living in poverty and especially if you have experienced poverty yourself (however you define "poverty" in your local context) please contribute to this conversation by going to By creating a user profile and answering four simple questions, you’ll make your voice heard by leaders at the United Nations and greatly contribute towards ending extreme poverty while sustainably growing our world!

If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me at Thanks so much for reading, and we hope you can participate with other people of faith around the world in this important global endeavor!

Dustin currently serves as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

No comments:

Post a Comment