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6 minutes reading time (1120 words)

Improving Worldwide Quality of Life

 

I have discussed Quality of Life (QoL) in two previous IAE Blog entries, (Moursund, 2/5/2016; Moursund, 12/24/2014).

While we each of us has our own ideas on how to measure and improve our own quality of life, considerable progress has occurred in developing global measures and goals. A Social Progress Index has been developed. Quoting from the Social Progress Index website (n.d.):

MEASURING NATIONAL PROGRESS – To truly advance social progress, we must learn to measure it, comprehensively and rigorously. The Social Progress Index offers a rich framework for measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress, benchmarking success, and catalyzing greater human wellbeing. The 2015 version of the Social Progress Index has improved upon the 2014 version through generous feedback from many observers and covers an expanded number of countries with 52 indicators.

Michael Green is part of the team that has created the Social Progress Index, a standard to rank societies based on how they meet the needs of citizens. Quoting from his recent TED Talk, How We Can Make the World a Better Place by 2030 (Green, October, 2015):

Do you think the world is going to be a better place next year? In the next decade? Can we end hunger, achieve gender equality, halt climate change, all in the next 15 years?

Well, according to the governments of the world, yes we can. In the last few days, the leaders of the world, meeting at the UN in New York, agreed on a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030.… [These] goals are the product of a massive consultation exercise. The Global Goals are who we, humanity, want to be.

United Nations Global Goals

Quoting from the Preamble to the Global Goals, How We Can Make the World a Better Place by 2030 (Global Goals, 8/12/2015):

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind

How to Achieve the Global Goals

The first part of Michael Green’s TED Talk discusses a previous UN goal. Quoting from his talk:

[B]ack in 2001, the UN agreed another set of goals, the Millennium Development Goals. And the flagship target there was to halve the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015. The target was to take from a baseline of 1990, when 36 percent of the world's population lived in poverty, to get to 18 percent poverty this year.

Did we hit this target? Well, no, we didn't. We exceeded it. This year, global poverty is going to fall to 12 percent. Now, that's still not good enough, and the world does still have plenty of problems. But the pessimists and doomsayers who say that the world can't get better are simply wrong. [Bold added for emphasis.]

At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015, that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. Quoting from (UN, n.d.):

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They are also basic human rights-the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.

The remainder of Michael Green’s TED Talk analyzes the steps needed to meet the year 2030 goals. He begins by discussing poverty. It remains a major worldwide problem, but further progress in reducing poverty is only a small part of what needs to be done to achieve the 2030 goals. Quoting again from his talk:

We have countries that are underperformingon social progress, relative to their wealth.Russia has lots of natural resource wealth,but lots of social problems.China has boomed economically,but hasn't made much headway on human rights or environmental issues.India has a space program and millions of people without toilets.Now, on the other hand, we have countries that are over performingon social progress relative to their GDP.Costa Rica has prioritized education, health and environmental sustainability,and as a result, it's achieving a very high level of social progress,despite only having a rather modest GDP.And Costa Rica's not alone.From poor countries like Rwanda to richer countries like New Zealand,we see that it's possible to get lots of social progress,even if your GDP is not so great.

Final Remarks

Despite the bad news that pervades our daily news media, the world is making good social progress in working for a better Quality of Life (QoL). Michael Green emphasizes the value of having well-defined goals and measures of how well the world is doing at the global and national levels to achieve these goals. Quoting the Cheshire Cat from Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

What You Can Do

Here is a group activity that can be used with a classroom group of students, a grade-level group, a school, and so on. Develop a long-range set of goals for improving the quality of life of a group of people. For example, at the secondary school level the task might focus on goals for a school, neighborhood, or community. The project requires developing and agreeing on a set of measurable goals, doing research on past progress in achieving the goals, and carefully analyzing/planning how to achieve the goals.

References and Resources

Green, M. (October, 2015). How we can make the world a better place by 2030. TED Talks (Video: 14:39.) Retrieved 2/7/2016 from https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_green_how_we_can_make_the_world_a_better_place_by_2030.

Global Goals (8/12/2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Retrieved 2/7/2016 from http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/69/L.85&Lang=E.

Moursund, D. (2/5/2016). Quality of life. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/7/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/quality-of-life.html.

Moursund, D. (12/24/2014). Quality of life: Working toward a better future. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/4/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/quality-of-life-working-toward-a-better-future.html.

Social Progress Index (n.d.). Social progress index 2015. Retrieved 2/7/2016 from http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi.

UN (n.d.). Millennium project. Retrieved 2/7/2016 from http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/.

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Monday, 22 July 2019
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