Bono and Sir Bob Geldof have certainly done their bit for the fight to end world poverty but they are celebrities using their fame to support their convictions. Imagine if it was actually your JOB to end world poverty?
Making sure that at least half of the 1.2 billion people living on less than ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR A DAY are out of the poverty cycle by the year 2015 is Eveline Herfkens job. She's the U.N. secretary-general's executive coordinator for the millennium development goals (MDGs) campaign. These goals include equal education rights for boys and girls around the world, AIDS and HIV prevention in Africa, ensuring environmental sustainability but first and foremost: halving the number of people who live in poverty by the year 2015.
Quite a job description. One of the most important prerequisites for getting a job like that done is a positive outlook and when Eveline Herfkens walked into the FM4 studio to be interviewed by me, you could FEEL her positive energy. No exaggeration.
The 53 year-old native of The Hague knocked my socks off when she started to tell me about the nature of United Nations summits like the one that just ended last week in New York. I was expecting a beurocrat, someone who wasn't going to make any statements that may damage the United Nations, someone skilled at not stepping on any toes. I was wrong and clearly prejudiced.
The first thing Ms. Herfkens told me is how the United Nations representatives from the richer nations of the UN get up and make big fat speeches about wanting to commit themselves to ending world poverty, then get in a plane, go back home, and it's business as usual. Her tone had a humorous cheeky quality to it when she went on to say that she can't send police to the rich nations to make sure their UN reps actually live up to their promises which is why she has to travel almost everyday of the year to motivate average citizens to motivate their politicians.
At this point, I was still in critical journalist mode and not yet a fan so I made a big fat speech of my own which went a little something like this:
Ms Herfkens, at the UN Summit in New York, the MDGs were very low on the list of priorities. It seemed to be a forum wherein major distrust of the United states was voiced, where US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton's presentation of an extremely long list of unilateral demands didn't help matters, where poorer countries accused the US of focusing on the security Council instead of protecting the prerogatives of the General Assembly where poorer countries feel they have more influence, where your boss, the Secretary General Kofi Annan's right to set specific development goals was challenged by the United States! Doesn't that put a huge dent in your agenda?
The U.N. secretary-general's executive coordinator for the millennium development goals campaign burst out laughing after my passionate, and damn well-researched question came to a close. Instead of getting miffed, I got the sense of how smart Kofi Annan was when he picked Ms. Herfkens. When she stopped chuckling, she told me the best thing US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton could have done was exactly what he did. He called for the MDGs to be completely struck off the UN Charter and when he did that, the US media starting asking what this MDG business was all about. Ms. Herfkens then gave more interviews in the span of one week than she would normally have given in two months (that's a lot) and once the average American found out about the MDGs, they started saying, "Hey. Those are good goals. I want my government to be a part of this." Result? When George W. Bush makes his big fat speech before the UN in New York, he commits himself to upholding and attaining the MDGs. Nice one Ms. Herfkens.
Ms. Herfkens maintains her positivity and humour with a rock-solid belief that her goals can be met. Even if rich countries like Austria have been slow to make good on their monetary pledge to end world poverty. If you want to find out about what YOU can do to help Eveline Herfkens reach all of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, check out www.millenniumcampaign.org.