Day Three at Davos and there is much talk of the Millennium Development Goals at various sessions, culminating in a joint statement in which world leaders vow to make 2008 a turning point in the fight against poverty. Promises are made and worthy sentiments expressed, but these will need to be translated into real action on the ground.

The role of faith-based and other civil society groups in helping to deliver the MDGs is at last being acknowledged. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that the international community has to recognize that social and economic problems in many poorer developing countries are creating an emergency that has to be faced. At current rates of progress, the developing world is far from achieving the MDGs by 2015. Governments should join with the private sector, NGOs and faith groups to forge a common approach to issues such as water supplies and health. “I see this as a common endeavour,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: “We are here to say one thing loud and clear: ‘Not on our watch!’ I speak to those who are most vulnerable to climate change and those who suffer the most grinding poverty. Let 2008 be the year of the bottom billion.”

I agree with comments made by poverty activist Bono who called for the new commitments on the MDGs to be made legally binding. “This is a moral compact, not a legal contract,” he said. “To take a concrete step forward, we must take this from a moral compact to legally binding contracts.”

Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua said: “For us in Africa, the achievement of the MDGs is our sacred duty. One of the major challenges in Africa is the infrastructure gap. that is one of the key enablers of the achievement of the MDGs. I welcome this initiative from the global community.”

The statement suggested an interim set of targets to be achieved by 2010 that would act as milestones to measure progress towards the 2015 pledges. These include:

·         Lifting 75 million more people out of extreme poverty in Africa.

·         Getting 25 million more children into school.

·         Preventing the deaths of four million more children.

·         Having 35 million more births attended by skilled health personnel.

·         Giving 70 million more people improved access to water.

In a panel discussion on development, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick made the point that for development to happen there has to be national ownership. “It can’t be from the outside,” he said. “There are a lot of talented politicians in Africa and we can support them but the process has to be owned by them.”

Namanga Ngongi from Kenya , President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, called for greater investment in agriculture. “70 per cent of Africans are employed in agriculture. If you really want to touch the lives of Africans and aid development, this is where you invest.”

Comments from the floor included a call from Arthur Mutambara, President of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe, for developing countries to move further up the value chain. Raw materials such as diamonds which are extracted in African countries should also be processed in those countries, he said.

At an evening gathering, representatives of civil society organisations at the World Economic Forum had an opportunity to share their experiences at Davos and provide some feedback to the organisers. The event was hosted by Civicus, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation in South Africa, and the main speaker was former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who is now President of Realising Rights, the Ethical Globalisation Initiative. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

International NGOs and civil society organisations will unite in celebrating what has been achieved in those 60 years but will continue to press for more concerted action in a campaign entitled ‘Every Human Has Rights’.  CI will have much to bring to these discussions, reflections and actions, from the perspective of our faith, values and rich grassroots experience.