To: Scientific American

 

Re: Request for remedy of incorrect impression


6 August 2015

 

Dear Dr Gorman,

May I ask how the investigation is going?

 

The editor may wish to consider that the UN Summit in September is approaching.

If there is anything which you would like me to clarify, please feel free to ask.

Thank you again.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Berkley

millenniumdeclaration.org

poorscience.org

poornews.org

Twitter: @poorscience

 



 

On 7 July 2015 at 23:58, Matt Berkley...wrote:


Dear Dr Gorman,

Thank you for your reply.

The objection is "the magazine has misreported world leaders' commitments at the Millennium Summit".


1. It is not the case that "world leaders committed themselves to decreasing the maternal death rate by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015" fifteen years ago, as reported on February 2 2015.
The correct baseline is "current rates".  Leaders reaffirmed the Millennium Declaration containing that baseline at summits in 2005 and 2013.


2. It is not the case that the Millennium Declaration "sought to decrease mortality in children under five by two thirds by 2015 (using 1990 figures as a basis)" as reported on October 21, 2009.


3. It is not the case that "In September 2000 the world’s leaders, assembled at the United Nations, adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as shared commitments to fighting extreme poverty, hunger and disease through 2015." as reported on July 29 2008.

Leaders did not mention the MDGs at the UN until 2005, when they at the same time reaffirmed their Declaration which resolved to use a 2000 baseline.  


4. In the article of February 2 2015, the juxtaposition of "world leaders committed themselves" with references to an MDG poverty target with a 1990 baseline, in my view gives an impression that world leaders' commitment of 2000 was merely to the easier 1990 baseline.  

They did not in fact mention such a baseline, and contemporary reports in the media were that the baseline was 2000.  Further, President Clinton stated in 2000 that he was committed to the Secretary-General's vision in his recommendation document for the Summit, which urged the Summit to adopt targets for reductions in poverty and lack of access to clean water from the rates "currently" reported as prevailing, and in the case of water, "specifically,...between now and 2015".  


Clarificatory note: The seven International Development Goals were agreed by four civil servants in 2000, not 189 member states at the Summit, as the IDG document makes clear.  The IDGs agreed in June 2000 had a baseline of 1990.  The leaders resolved in September 2000 to goals, none of which have a 1990 baseline.   

A further reason for distinguishing between the MDGs and the commitments in the Millennium Declaration is that the commitments are on the world population, whereas reporting on the MDGs devised by civil servants in 2001 has been on the basis of "developing regions".  

The latter is easier than meeting the commitments, because total population growth is faster in those countries and some targets are expressed in terms of proportions of total population.  

Thank you again for giving attention to this issue.

Yours sincerely,



Matt Berkley



 

On 7 July 2015 at 20:45, Gorman, Christine <cgorman@sciam.com> wrote:


Dear Mr. Berkley, 

 

Thank you for your email. 

 

I'm not sure exactly what you are objecting to. 

 

As one of the very documents you cite, indicates, the MDGs incorporated the IDGs and centered on eight major areas. 

http://archive.undg.org/archive_docs/2356-English.doc

 

"Each MDG has targets set for 2015 and indicators to monitor progress from 1990 levels." 

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs290/en/

 

Mr. Musser no longer works at Scientific American. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Christine

-- 

Christine Gorman

Senior Editor, Health, Human Biology and Medicine

Scientific American 

 

Please note as of July 13, our new office will be located at: 

One New York Plaza, Suite 4500

New York, NY 10004-1562

 

T: (212) 451-8815

EM: cgorman@sciam.com

Tw: @cgorman





From: 
Matt Berkley ...
Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at 3:55 AM
To: "Skirpan, Ericka" <editors@sciam.com>, "gmusser@sciam.com" <gmusser@sciam.com>
Subject: Re: Reminder: Correction: Request for remedy of incorrect impression

 

Dear George,

I'd appreciate it if you could give this a few minutes' attention before the UN Summit in September.

Many thanks,

Matt Berkley

 

On 23 April 2015 at 14:17, Matt Berkley...wrote:

 

On 16 April 2015 at 15:45, Matt Berkley ...wrote:

Dear editors,

I expect that the contents of this email may come as a surprise.  I am afraid that the magazine has misreported world leaders' commitments at the Millennium Summit.  The problem can be seen quickly from this:

"15 years ago, when world leaders committed themselves to decreasing the maternal death rate by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015"
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/clinic-saves-moms-lives-by-focusing-on-familes-video/  February 2, 2015

"We, heads of State and Government...resolve...by the year 2015...to have reduced maternal mortality by three quarters... of their current rates."
http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.htm  September 8, 2000

In the circumstances I let the evidence speak for itself.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Matt Berkley



.............................................




"15 years ago, when world leaders committed themselves to decreasing the maternal death rate by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015"
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/clinic-saves-moms-lives-by-focusing-on-familes-video/
February 2, 2015

"We, heads of State and Government...resolve...by the year 2015...to have reduced maternal mortality by three quarters... of their current rates."
http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.htm

"Between 1990 and 2000, deaths decreased 22% from 540,000/year to 420,000/year." 
http://www.mdghealthenvoy.org/health-areas/maternal-health/


.....


"15 years ago, when world leaders committed themselves...number five in a list of eight ambitious objectives called the Millennium Development Goals"
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/clinic-saves-moms-lives-by-focusing-on-familes-video/
February 2, 2015

"Millennium Summit...high-level endorsed set of goals....we think there are 10" 
http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2012/01/11/000333037_20120111022246/Rendered/INDEX/662710v10TRANS00action0march1902001.txt
Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, UN Development Programme, 19 March 2001

"Millennium development goals...The proposed formulation of the eight goals, 18 targets...are listed below" 
Secretary-General, September 6, 2001
Road map towards the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.
http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/sgreport2001.pdf

"the president [George W. Bush] said unequivocally we support the development goals in the millennium summit declaration," [US Ambassador] Bolton told reporters. "Now that's different from the goals that were actually written by the secretariat. There is no backing away by the United States in the support for the millennium summit declaration."
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/international/01nations.html

"In a letter to other envoys, John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, explained that the United States supported the goals enunciated by the millennium summit meeting but not the "package of goals and subsidiary targets and indicators" that were later circulated by the Secretariat."
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/03/politics/03nations.html


.....


"Millennium Development Goals at 10/
A decade's worth of targeted accomplishments shows extreme poverty can be eliminated/
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are in many ways the Cinderella of international development. When 160 world leaders met at the United Nations in September 2000, they were inspired to adopt the Millennium Declaration, including bold targets in the fight against poverty, disease and hunger (learn more online at www.un.org/millenniumgoals). Such declarations are usually photo ops and little more. The MDGs, however, have become the belle of the ball. With an upcoming MDG Summit this September on their 10th anniversary..."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/millennium-development-goals-at-10/?page=1  
May 1, 2010


.....


"...Millennium Declaration, which sought to decrease mortality in children under five by two thirds by 2015 (using 1990 figures as a basis)."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/global-child-immunization-report/   
October 21, 2009

"We, heads of State and Government...resolve....by the year 2015...to have reduced ...under-five child mortality by two thirds, of their current rates."
http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.htm

"under-five mortality decreased from 94 to 81 per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2000...members of [the UN] Secretariat...IMF, OECD and the World Bank...discussed the respective targets...
Millennium development goals...The proposed formulation of the eight goals, 18 targets...are listed below...the normal baseline year for the targets will be 1990".  
Secretary-General, Road map towards the  implementation of the Millennium Declaration.
http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/sgreport2001.pdf
September 6, 2001

"Baseline year – 1990 or 2000? 
In two cases [in the Declaration] - maternal mortality and under-five mortality - the term "current rates" is used, directly specifying a 2000 baseline. For the remainder, the targets are stated in the form of "to halve by 2015…" This would imply a 2000 baseline year of the Millennium Declaration. After discussions within the UN system and with other partners, the issues have been resolved in favour of 1990 serving as the [Millennium Development Goals] baseline year."
UN Development Group, Guidance Note to country representatives
October 2001
http://www.undg.org/archive_docs/2356-English.doc

"The International Development Goals (IDGs) and the development goals contained
in the Millennium Declaration have recently been merged under the designation of
"Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs). They have been agreed by the United Nations
system, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and OECD/DAC.
...The Guidance Note is attached.
Yours sincerely,
Mark Malloch Brown Administrator UNDP
Carol Bellamy  Executive Director UNICEF 
Catherine Bertini Executive Director WFP
Thoraya Obaid Executive Director UNFPA"
6 November 2001
http://www.undg.org/archive_docs/1607-MDGs_-_letter_-_MDGs_-_letter.pdf


.....


"In September 2000 the world’s leaders, assembled at the United Nations, adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as shared commitments to fighting extreme poverty, hunger and disease through 2015." 
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/africa-needs-funds-extended-version/  
July 29, 2008 

"The General Assembly ...
Recommends that the “road map” be considered as a useful guide in the implementation of the Millennium Declaration... and invites Member States...to consider the “road map” when formulating plans for implementing goals related to the Declaration; 
Requests the Secretary-General to prepare an annual report and a comprehensive report every five years on progress... towards implementing the Millennium Declaration, drawing upon the “road map”...while the quinquennial comprehensive reports examine progress achieved towards implementing all the commitments made in the Declaration; 
Invites the United Nations system, in cooperation with Member States, to adopt specific measures to give widespread publicity to the Millennium Declaration and to increase the dissemination of information on the Declaration..."
14 December 2001 
Resolution 56/95
http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/56/95&Lang=E


.....


"15 years ago...
world leaders committed themselves... 
list of eight ambitious objectives called the Millennium Development Goals...
Other goals include halving the global poverty rate....
the first goal - extreme poverty - has indeed been halved since 1990..."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/clinic-saves-moms-lives-by-focusing-on-familes-video/
February 2, 2015

"Specifically, I urge the Summit to adopt the target of reducing by half, between now and 2015, the proportion of people who lack ...safe water." 
"Let us resolve therefore: 
- To halve, by the time this century is 15 years old, the proportion of the world’s people (currently 22 per cent) whose income is less than one dollar a day.
"I call on ...Heads of State and Government... to adopt the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and so lifting more than 1 billion people out of it, by 2015." 
Secretary-General, Millennium Report
27 March 2000
http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/

"One of the main themes of Mr Annan's speech was to achieve a target of lifting 1bn people out of extreme poverty by 2015."
Annan sets out UN targets
The Guardian [London (UK)] 04 Apr 2000
http://search.proquest.com/uknews/docview/245505550/6D9A2F1E68224DB7PQ/12?

"[Kofi Annan] asked the UN's 188 member states to set such ambitious goals as ...cutting in half the proportion of people, (currently 22 percent of the global population) who earn less than $1 a day"
Colum Lynch, The Washington Post, 4 April 2000 
"Annan Seeks Debate on UN Future in 'Millennium Report"
http://web.archive.org/web/20040214153618*/http://www.globalpolicy.org/reform/annan.htm
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1957&dat=20000404&id=wZFGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UOkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1216,943276
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-515143.html

"secretary-general...suggests...that the world could try to halve by 2015 the figure of 1.2 billion people or 22% of its population, who currently exist in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day."
The Economist, 6 April 2000. 
http://www.economist.com/node/299914

"President Clinton is strongly committed to working...to meet the vision...outlined in the Secretary General's Millennium Report."
The White House, September 7, 2000
http://clinton5.nara.gov/WH/new/html/Wed_Oct_4_133235_2000.html
  
"A declaration to be signed on Friday...has set ambitious benchmarks...One such goal proposes to reduce by half over the next 15 years the number of people earning....Chavez of Venezuela reckoned, "we should increase that income to levels of fairness and dignity for 140,000 persons each day ... from the present until Dec. 31, 2015." "
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/08/world/summit-in-new-york-the-orators-un-speakers-urge-increase-in-charity-to-the-poor.html

"The declaration endorsed ...halving by the year 2015 the 22 percent of the world's population now existing on less than a dollar a day." 
Reuters TV, 8 September 2000
http://www.itnsource.com/en/shotlist/RTV/2000/09/08/009080017/?s=millennium%20summit

"A main target, set by Mr Annan and agreed to by the summiteers, is to halve by 2015 the 22% of people who live on less than a dollar a day"
The Economist, editorial.  7 September 2000
http://www.economist.com/node/359559

"In East Asia the proportion of extremely poor has already plummeted from 28 percent to 15 percent since 1990."
Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme 
International Herald Tribune 
September 21, 2000
https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/211/45004.html

"The General Assembly ...
Recommends that the “road map” be considered as a useful guide in the implementation of the Millennium Declaration... and invites Member States...to consider the “road map” when formulating plans for implementing goals related to the Declaration; 
Requests the Secretary-General to prepare an annual report and a comprehensive report every five years on progress... towards implementing the Millennium Declaration, drawing upon the “road map”...while the quinquennial comprehensive reports examine progress achieved towards implementing all the commitments made in the Declaration; 
Invites the United Nations system, in cooperation with Member States, to adopt specific measures to give widespread publicity to the Millennium Declaration and to increase the dissemination of information on the Declaration..."
14 December 2001 
Resolution 56/95
http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/56/95&Lang=E

"Resolution adopted by the General Assembly 
60/1.  
The General Assembly 
Adopts the following 2005 World Summit Outcome: 
...We, Heads of State and Government... reaffirm the United Nations Millennium Declaration"

  
....


"a decade ago, at the dawn of a new millennium, we set concrete goals to free our fellow men, women and children from the injustice of extreme poverty.
These are the standards that we set."
Remarks by the President [Barack Obama] at the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/22/remarks-president-millennium-development-goals-summit-new-york-new-york


"The inspirational, affirmative and clear vision embodied by the Millennium Declaration stands as a model, a standard of excellence"
Remarks by Tony Pipa, U.S. Lead Negotiator for the Post-2015 Process, at the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiation Process February Session
February 17, 2015
http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/237709.htm

"We, the Heads of State and Government and heads of delegation...
reaffirm our commitment to the Millennium Declaration...
...and the outcomes of all the major UN conferences and summits in the economic, social, and environmental fields." 
Special Event  Outcome Document
25 September 2013
http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Outcome%20documentMDG.pdf




.....


A more minor point: 
What has been officially met in this context is not one of the eight goals, but one of the 21 targets.   The first of the eight goals has targets on money, money/employment and nutrition.   It is not clear how the indicator "share of poorest quintile" is meant to contribute to assessment of success or otherwise on the target.  


.....



Material on Thomas Pogge's observation that the baselines differ:


Thomas Pogge's writings, for example:
Millions Killed by Clever Dilution of Our Promise 
2010
http://www.crop.org/viewfile.aspx?id=218


"When the millennium declaration was rewritten as a set of specific goals, the baseline for calculating the proportion to be halved was set not at 2000, but at 1990. That meant that progress already made could contribute to the achievement of the goal... it looks very much as if, come 2015, the world's leaders will have failed to keep their (watered down) promises."  
Peter Singer, 2010
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/07/millennium-development-goals-un-poverty


"Pogge points out that while the Millennium Declaration adopted by the UN in 2000 makes that year its baseline, the eight specific Millennial Development Goals are measured against 1990."
Frances Moore Lappe, 2012 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frances-moore-lappe/poverty-down-inequality-up_b_1878850.html


http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/exposing-great-poverty-reductio-201481211590729809.html