Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jim Flaherty's Proposed Budget and the Millennium Development Goals

Way back in 1969, Lester B. Pearson (then Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada) proposed that if the developed nations of the world would give 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA), the global community could address the worst effects of poverty around the world. For a brief description of this initiative, see The 0.7% target was officially endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970 (Resolution 2626). The original date set to meet this commitment was 1975. Fast forward to the year 2000. The setting is the United Nations Millennium Summit where 191 world leaders sign the Millennium Declaration (see Eight goals - now known world wide as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - provide the framework for addressing humanity's most pressing needs. And a time line is established for completing this ambitious project - the year 2015 (see Once again the 0.7% target is endorsed as a viable means of financing the necessary steps needed to accomplish the goals. Sadly, Canada has never even come close to meeting the 0.7% target. Currently, we give about 0.34%. So, this week Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has unveiled the government's proposed budget. I've listened to the pundits and financial analysts and provincial spokespeople and political strategists and academics dissect the budget and interpret it for us. There's lots of buzz about who will benefit and how it will affect this group of tax payers and that. Reading through the text of Jim Flaherty's pre-budget speech (, I could almost believe that Canada is a great country and getting better all the time. We're good people. We look after one another. Heck - we've even started to realize that we ought to care a bit more for the environment. The future is bright. But glaringly absent is any mention of Canada's responsibility for our neighbors in other parts of the world.


garth williams said...

Thanks for the posting. What do you suggest as practical steps to encourage our governmental leaders to go deeper into our national pockets and meet the 0.7%?
I'm intrigued by the obsession about who the current budget adjustments will impact. It seems that we as a nation, although we have potential, are still for the most part stuck staring at our own navel popping out from over eating instead of the ones popping out due to undernourishment.
However, my wife always says to spend 20% of the time/energy on identifying the problem and 80% of the time/energy on possible solution.

Any help here?


Lois said...

I like the 20/80 idea. Not easy, but I like it. I think the solution has a lot to do with worldview and, even more specifically, our view of the Kingdom. My sense is that we Christians in the affluent parts of the world have made the mistake of thinking that our culture is somehow biblical - based on an extension of ethnocentrism (the assumption that our culture is "superior" to all others). In this case, our interpretation of Scripture is pretty ethnocentric. So, the solution is to discipline ourselves to think and see differently than what comes naturally via our culture.

Jesus often said things like, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear". I don't think he was talking about physical sight but rather, spiritual insight. If we're to change the way we think, we need to be intentional about it.

I would suggest that we need to acknowledge our bias, seek out information so that we are informed about the issues facing the world, and then align our actions to correspond with our faith (when it's at its best)!

About the 0.7%, there are simple, practical things we can do, like commit to give 0.7% (or more) of our own resources to an organization that does good overseas development (like The Sharing Way, for instance). Further, we can challenge those in our circles of influence: family, friends, our own church, other volunteer organizations, etc., to do the same. That's just a start.

Besides that, I think a basic commitment to simplifying our life, living generously (with our time, our abilities, our things) and really practicing hospitality will help us to see all of reality through different lenses. I know it sounds simplistic, but I think the simplicity, generosity, hospitality forumla is the portal to more authentic and transformative living.

I think we do need practical ideas of things to do. When it comes to consumerism, I think there are good general principles. Like don't buy on impulse. Draw us a budget and stick to it. Beware of debt - avoid it altogether if at all possible. Evaluate your credit card purchases and establish strict parameters for credit card use.

Well - your turn. Any suggestions?

garth williams said...

Good comments and thinking. One way that I was challenged recently was to question myself as to what was I doing (thoughts and actions)that was being a barrier to living generously with our time, resources and money.

Again, not rocket science but hopefully a portal to more effective living.


Katie said...

Thanks, Lois, for your thoughts. Although I am totally on board with the Micah Challenge and the Millennium Development Goals, I can't seem to shake this sense of cynicism that it's not really going to make much difference anyway. Don't get me wrong, I really hope it does, but I question how this is any different -- how we can make it be any different-- from all of the other plans that have failed miserably.

Because we live in a fallen world, I know that justice and mercy will never be totally complete until we get to heaven, and so my temptation is to say, why even bother? But then I remember that God is still going to hold us accountable for the way we've lived our own lives, and it's our job to show the world a little bit of what the Kingdom (and the King) is like. And so, along with Jesus I pray, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."


Lois said...

Hey Katie. I hear you - both the sense that the MDGs aren't the whole answer, even if we take them seriously, and also the obligation (even privilege) Christians have to live right (acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God) anyway - just because. I guess my motivation to raise awareness and do what I can wherever I can is (like yours, I suspect) that it's just the right thing to do, regardless of the outcome.

I've often argued that God doesn't call us to "fix" the world. Rather, He calls us to be obedient and to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. When we make fixing the world our goal, we may be tempted to take short cuts or we may get distracted by secondary skirmishes. But, when we are obedient, God's grace enters and not only are we transformed, but the world around us is transformed too. Transformation and positive change are a consequence of our obedience, not the intent of our actions.

There's a great book (What Can One Person Do?: Faith to Heal a Broken World, by Sabina Alkire and Edumund Newell). The book quotes a prayer (entitled "A World Without Walls") which I find very powerful and liberating. One part of it says: "We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way and an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest... We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own." I love that last line. But I'm not entirely sure I understand it. Right now, it seems to be saying that it's about doing all we can while we can but knowing that God is the one who holds the future in His hands. I don't need to know all of the details of how things are going to happen or when. I just need to concentrate on the task at hand - following Christ and doing whatever good I can. The rest I can confidently leave up to God.