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16.07.2008 General News

Culture is critical to achieving MDGs-Prof Hagan

By William N. Jalulah, Bolgatanga - Ghanaian Chronicle
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THE CHAIRMAN of the National Commission on Culture, Proffessor George Hagan, has stated that culture constitutes a critical factor, both in identifying the underlying causes of the country's development deficits, as well as in defining the strategies and tools for meeting the deficits and challenges, to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He said, from the African perspective, the Millennium Development Goals, sought to address critical human development issues, which were to a large extent, cultural in origin and character.

Prof. Hagan stated this when he made a presentation on the theme; 'Culture and the Millennium Development Goals', at a workshop in Bolgatanga recently.

The Konrad-Adenauert-Stiftung (KAS) organized the workshop for traditional leaders, women groups and stakeholders.

The aim of the workshop was to create awareness, on the need to bring the critical dimension of culture, into strategic thinking on the way of looking at the challenges that the MDGs posed for an African country.

The Chairman regretted that in addressing issues of development, culture had not featured clearly in the national discourse on the MD

Gs, and neither had it been factored into strategies of action. Prof. Hagan was however of the view, that half-way to the target date of the MDGs, it was not too late, to examine how far culture could help improve upon the comprehension of the underlying challenges of the goals, or how it could facilitate the construction of programmes of action, for attaining the goals.

Though stated in universal terms, the goals called for action within particular communities, and culture contexts - to change traditional ideas, norms, attitudes and patterns of behaviour that impacted negatively on the quality of life.

He said the goals also called for traditional attitudes, certain cultural priorities in life, choices in the use of material resources, and environmental conservation.

For these factors to be sustainable, Prof. Hagan said strategies and actions, which countries devised to attain the goals, would require the full participation of whole population and community leaders, in creative thinking and innovative actions.

According to him, it was therefore reasonable, to assume that the first logical step in this process, was to sensitise the entire population of a country, about the demands of the goals, by putting the goals in the context of a community's culture and historical experiences, and generating meaningful discourse, not only to uncover the challenges the goals posed to the community, but also to define, with a view to local ownership, the strategic approaches and modes of action, that would facilitate the attainment of the goals.

In his view, it was in the cultural idiom and modes of thoughts and communication, that a people can comprehend the MDGs and understand the nature and scope of the challenges that each goal posed to communities.

Prof. Hagan averred that interventions and programmes of action with development partners cannot, and will not succeed, if they did not spring from the cultural context in which people live, and which enabled communities to identify the obstacles, and opportunities that culture offered, for sustainable collective actions.

In 2001, the United Nations identified eight development goals, that member-states should endeavour to achieve, by the year 2015, for overall global development.

Developing countries, including Ghana, were thus, encouraged to evolve strategies and programmes, to realize these goals, which included eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, empowering women and reducing child mortality.

The rest were to improve maternal health, combat HIV/Malaria and other communicable diseases, ensure environmental system sustainability, and develop a global partnership.

The Senior Programme Manager of KAS, Isaac Owusu-Mensah, also said if Ghana would achieve the MDGs, then it was very important that cultural elements were fully considered in all spheres of its implementation.

This was because cultural conditions put forth a strong influence on human behaviour, which consequently affected economic choices and business decisions, as well as social and political behaviour.

Mr. Owusu-Mensah said these were the choices that would serve as a litmus test for the achievement of the MDGs.

“In Africa, the measurement of success and productivity is highly influenced by culture, both in financial and academic circles,” he added.

He assured that the KAS would continue to support Ghana's democratic development, especially the work of the National Commission on Culture, for Ghanaians to appreciate the value of their cherished cultural norms.

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