United Nations Millennium Development Goals and their Implications for Corporates

What are the United Nations Millennium Development Goals?

The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development goals (MDGs) are a set of goals that were signed into an agreement with the member countries of the UN related to human development, eradication of poverty, providing access to basic services like food, shelter, and clean water to the underprivileged and poor people of the world. These goals though were not legally binding were supposed to bound the members together in pursuit of global humanitarian objectives. These goals were agreed upon in the year 2000 and have several implications for corporates in the practice of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the pursuit of socially and environmentally responsible business practices.

The nature of these MDGs is such that the signatories must pursue the humanitarian objectives in conjunction with the other stakeholders in their countries like Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society, and the Corporates. Towards this end, they would have to allocate resources for the actualization of the MDGs and work in conjunction with the corporates to reach out to the underprivileged and the needy. This means that the corporates would have to discharge their duties as responsible corporate citizens and hence, must correspondingly adhere to the norms of the UN MDGs.

How the MDGs are funded?

The funding for the programs identified under the MDGs must be shared between the government and the other stakeholders and this means that the corporates would have to share some of the burden. However, as mentioned earlier, since these MDGs are not legally binding and represent a kind of directive principles of state policies wherein member countries are encouraged to pursue humanitarian goals and objectives, it has been the case that the targets set for the actualization of the goals which were in the years between 2010-’15 have not been fully met.

Further, the global economic crisis of 2008 has dealt a blow to the funding of the MDGs by the members and the corporates as well. This has meant that the actualization of the humanitarian objectives has been postponed or left to a future date when the initial aims were to ensure that the targets would be met by 2015. Of course, this does not meant that no work has been done as is evident in the way several countries in Africa have benefited immensely because of the largesse showered on them by the Middle Eastern countries and China among others.

A Small Step for the Underprivileged

Though there are many who point to the fact that the funding from these countries was out of a motive for commercial interactions with these African countries, the fact remains that the practice of CSR is not entirely devoid of commercial considerations.

Indeed, CSR works best when the corporates are incentivized to merge social and environmental responsibility with commerce.

Further, the actualization of some MDGs related to provision of internet access, broadband, and communication facilities to the needy, and goals regarding education especially of girls are objectives that have been largely met. This has been done from a humanitarian point of view as well as the fact that such goals help the corporates in building and nurturing the workforce of the future. Therefore, the MDGs represent a significant step towards a better and just world and though there have been setbacks, the overall aims and objectives have remained in place meaning that both the member countries and the corporates in those countries have contributed to the effort.

Apart from this, as is usually the case when the UN sets humanitarian objectives, the idea is for the richer countries and the large corporations to contribute more and hence, the actualization of the MDGs must be viewed in this perspective. Finally, the point needs to be made that the actualization of the MDGs represents a small step for the recipients in their quest to attain living standards on par with the developed countries of the world.

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Corporate Social Responsibility