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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

It has been seven years since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) resolution was signed by all members of the United Nations in the fourth quarter of 2000. Little has been done to publicize this move, which is meant to help eradicate poverty and improve other issues, such as environmental problems.

The good news is there is a prophetic advocate of environmental issues named Al Gore, who has decided not to run for the U.S. presidency this coming election, but instead join a large venture capitalist firm in Silicon Valley. His presence in one of the intellectual hubs of the world is a strong moral force that will help in enforcing many elements of sustainable development worldwide, including the achievement of the MDGs.

First, what are the Millennium Development Goals and how have they been affecting Indonesia?

Second, Al Gore as a strong moral force in world environmental advocacy is notable. What differences can he make as a venture capitalist based in Silicon Valley? How would it affect Indonesia?

Third, how should Indonesia, as one of the recipients of the rich world's 0.7 percent GNP donation aid, prepare itself to embrace sustainable development and eventually elevate itself in the international arena to ultimately become one of those who contribute instead of merely receiving?

The MDGs is a framework developed by the UN Development Program (UNDP) positioned to advocate change, connect countries to knowledge and resources, and help coordinate activities at the country level. It includes five dimensions: practical assistance in support of country priorities, country-level monitoring, global monitoring, research leader, and advocacy.

Within these dimensions, there are eight quantifiable goals to achieve by 2015: halve extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, empower women and promote equality between women and men, reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds, reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters, reverse the spread of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensure environmental sustainability, and create a global partnership for development, with targets for aid, trade and debt relief.

At this point, the UNDP has created frameworks and working programs to execute the noble plans. Still, we can see the discrepancies in wealth distribution in the society between those who posses access to natural resources and foreign buyers with those who do not.

According to the UNDP, there are good signs of progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Indonesia, in which universal primary education enrollment is now at 97 percent, although this figure drops significantly when it comes to secondary and junior high school.

Vaccination rates are improving and early child health is making strides. However, the overall level of poverty is on the rise and a full 40 percent of the population survives on less than US$2 per day. Maternal mortality rates are also among the highest in the region, while Indonesia's HIV/AIDS rate threatens to accelerate across the country. It is evident that some parts of the picture are rosy while others can and should be corrected immediately.

As we all know, Gore had close ties with Silicon Valley long before he decided to join powerhouse venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (KPCB). He is a member of Apple's board of directors and a Google senior adviser, who also oversees Current TV, a San Francisco-based cable television network. Google is one of the two Silicon Valley partners of the UNDP's MDGs, other than Cisco.

On Nov. 1, 2007, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a project called MDGs Monitor and highlighted the pressing need to increase global cooperation. Joined by these two Silicon Valley giants, a pioneering online site tracks progress towards decreasing global poverty by 2015, which is one of the campaigns of MDGs, has been launched.

Menlo Park-based KPCB itself has formed alliance with London-based Generation Investment Management to focus on economic, environmental, social, and governance risks and opportunities that can materially affect a company's ability to sustain profitability and deliver returns.

According to them, chairman Al Gore helps set their long-term thematic research agenda into global sustainability issues, including climate change, poverty and development, ecosystem services and biodiversity, water scarcity, pandemics, demographics and migration, and urbanization.

A new breed of venture capitalism has been born, since the typical venture capitalist refers to high risk investments, but offer potential for above-average returns. Such risks may involve the exploitation of natural resources and may cause damage in both the short and long term in the society, unlike advocacy-based and sustainable venture capitalism.

With KPCB as one of the largest venture capitalists in the high-tech world, it is not an oversimplification to state that their future steps would make big splashes worldwide. It was an early investor in more than 300 information technology and biotech firms, including Amazon.com, AOL, Compaq, Genentech, Google, Intuit, Lotus Development, Netscape, and Sun Microsystems. It is also known as the holder of 25 percent of Netscape, 20 percent of Google, and has gained US$4.9 billion for Cerent that was sold to Cisco Systems.

Recent investments have been made in biotech and environmentally-inclined corporations, such as Amyris Biotechnologies (produces anti-malaria drugs and biofuels), Austra (builds large-scale solar-power farms), EEStor (makes super capacitors), and Luca Technologies (breeds microbes that "eat" coal and turn it into natural gas).

These corporations will set examples worldwide on how green management and green businesses can be more than about making money but, more importantly, can make a huge difference in people's lives and to sustain the earth for future generations.

Lastly, one of the MDGs is reducing world poverty by half, in which rich countries have agreed to provide 0.7 percent of their GNP to provide aid for poor countries, within the criteria that they have agreed. As of today, five countries have already met or surpassed the 0.7 percent target: Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Six other countries have committed themselves to a timeline to reach this target before 2015: Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

For now, Indonesia is one of the recipients, which we should acknowledge and be grateful for. It, however, does not come without any responsibility on Indonesia's part. One of the responsibilities to consider is successful leadership character building in future generations who are likely to be able manage sustainable development.

And for this to occur, it is imperative to keep in mind that Indonesia is destined not merely to be a recipient of aid but will eventually be able to contribute. With this in mind, there will be future Al Gores from Indonesia, won't there?[]

The Jakarta Post, November 20, 2007

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