Joel Edwards interview: Goal difference
The campaigner Joel Edwards talks to Stephen Tomkins
Joel Edwards has been one of the leading British evangelicals of his generation. He directed the Evangelical Alliance for more than 10 years, and since 2008 has led Micah Challenge – an international coalition to help achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed by the UN in 2000, to reduce poverty, disease, inequality and lack of education worldwide by 2015. Reform met him in his London office, to discuss social justice and the changing world of evangelicalism.
Let’s talk about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We’re not going to reach them, are we?
Were they realistic aims?
Yes. Very realistic. When they were launched in 2000 not only had they been thought through for about 10 years undercover, but they were designed – admittedly predominantly by western governments with an element of imposition on others – to be achievable and monitorable, in such a way that those who made the promises could be held to account. They were deliverable ideas.
So why haven’t they been delivered?
Because of human greed, political intransigence, a lack of political will, and because we have not risen to our responsibility to hold governments to account. One of the smart things Kofi Annan did around 2002 was to initiate the UN Millennium Campaign, specifically to encourage and empower civil society to hold governments to account. And, for example, MDG1, dealing with hunger; we were doing quite well, then lots of ground was lost because of the financial crisis.
Will people be held to account for not meeting the goals?
Yeah, and it depends on us again. As civil society, we ask ourselves rather than the government that question. The great news is that there has been an incredible amount of accountability over recent years – people who meet with the UN at its biannual meeting in New York, to say: “Where are we with the progress that should have been made?”
And although we have not met all the targets, the world is still a much better place because of the MDGs. Responding to HIV/Aids, malaria, we’ve done brilliantly. And 90% of kids across the world are now receiving some full-time primary education, free of charge. So there’s been an awful lot of progress, but there’s still an awful lot to do.
Micah Challenge is specifically focussed on the MDGs. What will happen to it in 2015?
I don’t know yet. We, as an international office, have always said that we should stop in 2015. But we have about 40 national campaigns around the world, and in the last year or two we’ve had a number of them say: “We don’t care if you guys stop, we are continuing.” Which is fantastic. So we are just beginning to ask that question. …
This is an extract from the October 2013 edition of Reform.