True Axis of Evil Is Poverty, Pollution, Study Says

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"This is not completely pie-in-the-sky," Renner said. "It is somewhat closer in time to where we are now, yet it is something governments and the UN itself signed onto. This is achievable if we make the right commitments in terms of funding and so on."

The problem, Renner said, is that governments find it much easier to sign a piece of paper than to make the actual commitments required to achieve the goals. A 2004 analysis on progress toward meeting the MDGs performed by the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Economic Forum found that the world has only put forth a third of the effort required.

Instead of tackling the social and environmental issues embraced by the MDGs and the WSSD targets, governments' global funding priority in recent years has been the world's militaries, which receive the equivalent of nearly a trillion U.S. dollars annually, according to the Worldwatch report.

By contrast, the MDGs could be achieved with additional funding of 50 billion dollars each year—money currently available in "outdated, ineffective, or otherwise wasteful" military programs, according to the report.

"Do we understand that by doing things like reducing poverty, improving water sufficiency, making sure arable land is not so totally exhausted that food security becomes a huge issue, we also address the stability and security of the world's nations?" Renner said. "In Washington [D.C.], that's a very hard sell."

Feet to the Fire

The State of the World 2005 is heavy on facts of doom and gloom—23 of the 36 countries that experienced new outbreaks of armed conflict during the 1990s displayed a combination of either a high proportion of young people, high rates of urban growth, or shortages of per capita availability of cropland or fresh water, for example.

But the report also finds hope in addressing the issues of doom and gloom through programs like the MDGs and the growing power and ability of individuals and civil organizations to hold their governments' "feet to the fire," Renner said.

According to Renner, civil action is the essence of the democratic system, even more so than regularly scheduled, properly run, and fair elections. "Once in power, let's monitor what they do, make sure they carry out a policy that improves the situation—not just for us, whatever the country may be, but for us as a global human race," he said.

Specifically, the report outlines three areas where action should be encouraged: strengthening and broadening international cooperation through bodies such as the United Nations; fully funding and supporting the MDGs and WSSD targets; and bolstering environmental peacemaking initiatives such peace parks, shared river-basin management plans, regional seas agreements, and joint environmental monitoring programs.

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