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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Speakers address ‘Millennium Goals’

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, March 3, 2006

St. Olaf hosted the Social Science Globalization and Social Responsibility Conference last Thursday through Saturday. Speakers at the conference included Robert Flaten ’56, former ambassador to Rwanda; Kari Hartwig ’85 from the Yale School of Public Health; James Vigen, director of international relations and human rights for the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs; Ash Hartwell of the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts; and Woodrow Wilson Visiting Scholar Frances Seymour, program director of institutions and governance at the World Resources Institute.

Other events included a student poster session, which featured posters on topics around the Millennium Development Goals, and a World Wide Service Fair to give students the opportunity to connect with reputable volunteer and service organizations.

Flaten kicked off the conference Thursday with his speech, "The U.S. Role in Meeting the Millennium Development Goals." Flaten explained that the United Nations has outlined several goals for the new millennium, including reducing poverty, providing primary education and stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS.

"The U.N. Millennium Development Goals hold out a promise of hope," said David Emery, professor of economics and co-chair of the conference.

The following day, Seymour took the podium to give her speech, "Environmental Sustainability and the UN Millennium Development Goals."

Seymour, through a travel grant received as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, traveled to Nepal and Kenya. She cites these visits as formative in her decision to pursue environmentalism in the context of third world countries.

She also spent five years in Indonesia. She pointed out that while often people think that environmentalism is a luxury of the rich, it is the poor of the world who suffer.

"I think there is kind of a facile argument that’s made that environmentalism is a luxury for rich countries or for the middle class in poor countries," Seymour said. "The more we understand about ecosystem function, and about how poor people in communities depend on ecosystems, the more we understand that really it’s the opposite."

For example, when deforestation takes away the plants that stabilize a hill, the poor are generally the ones that suffer if there is a mudslide.

"Now, I believe that climate change is the moral imperative of our time, precisely because of this relationship between the inequality of who’s responsible for the problem and who is suffering the worst consequences," Seymour said.

Vigen spoke Friday evening, bringing in a religious perspective on globalization in his lecture, "The Christian Paradox: Matthew 25 and America’s Commitment to Meeting the Millennium Goals."

Saturday started off with a talk by Hartwig, "Failing to Reach the HIV Millennium Development Goals by 2015 – Who’s Responsibility?"Hartwig brought a public health perspective to the Millennium Goals.

Hartwell followed with his speech, "Education and the UN Millennium Development Goals."

The conference concluded with a panel discussion on "The Millennium Development Goals and the Future of the World." The panel discussed the problems and solutions facing nations continuing to work for the U.N. Millennium Goals.

"Even though the situation is bleak, there is still reason to keep working toward meeting these goals," Liz Berg ’07 said.

Emery also expressed gratitude for the hopeful message the speakers brought to the conference.

"There is something that we can do to help the world’s poorest people if we have the will," he said.

This is the sixth year that St. Olaf has hosted a conference focusing on the issues related to globalization. In the past, topics have included, "Democracies and the New Economies," "The Challenge of Affluence" and "Consequences of the New Economy."

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