For the next ten days I will be traveling throughout Uganda to learn more about the University’s role and opportunities around our participation in the Millennium Development Initiative. As you may remember, I announced the creation of the Notre Dame Millennium Development Initiative during my closing remarks at the Notre Dame Forum. Through this initiative Notre Dame will participate in the Millennium Villages Project, a collaborative effort dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Adopted by world leaders in September 2000 during the United Nations Millennium Summit, these timebound and measurable goals have been placed at the heart of the global agenda of the United Nations. The goals focus on combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. The realization of these goals will reduce the gap between wealthy and poor parts of our world and enhance the long–term prospects for peace.
The Millennium Villages Project seeks to end extreme poverty by working with the poor, village by village, in sub–Saharan Africa, providing affordable and science–based solutions to help end the cycle of poverty. These community–led interventions focus on increasing agricultural productivity, eradicating preventable disease, expanding access to basic healthcare and education, and connecting people to information and markets. The villagers themselves own and drive all the work being done through Millennium Promise, the monitoring organization, and are thus partners with a vested interest in the success of the project. Millennium Promise was launched by Dr. Jeffery Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to the United Nations Secretary General.
Our participation in the Millennium Villages Project will be focused in Uganda, where Notre Dame, through the Congregation of Holy Cross, has strong ties. Notre Dame students have traveled to Uganda for several years to intern with local and international organizations and participate in study abroad programs. Dozens of Notre Dame faculty and staff have also visited Uganda over the past ten years to gain exposure to the triumph and tragedy that permeates this beautiful East African country. Though blessed with a rich culture and resilient spirit the people of Uganda have endured a great deal of suffering, particularly in the North, due to the 19–year war that has senselessly shattered the lives of so many.
The opportunities this partnership affords the Notre Dame community are many, the central goal is two–fold: to work with villagers in developing interventions that are central to the Millennium Village Project and to provide faculty and students, both graduate and undergraduate, with research opportunities that contribute to human development.
I have asked Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C. (Department of Political Science) to serve as Director of the Millennium Development Initiative. He has assembled a task force consisting of faculty, staff, students and alumni to further develop the vision and goals of the initiative and help guide its actions during this first year. During the second semester, Fr. Dowd will organize information sessions and form working groups of students and other members of the Notre Dame community who wish to lend their talents, energy and experience to this project. He and others involved in the initiative will be traveling back and forth between Africa and Notre Dame in the coming year.
Though the Millennium Development Initiative is rooted in the generosity of Ray Chambers, a renowned philanthropist and a member of our Board of Trustees, its success is equally dependent on the participation of many members of the Notre Dame community. We at Notre Dame have many gifts to share; our partners in Uganda have many lessons to teach. Thus, joining the fight against extreme poverty is not only an opportunity but our responsibility. Notre Dame can only be the Catholic university it strives to be if it devotes its time, talent and treasure to solving real–world problems: problems that are dehumanizing and that prevent people from realizing their God–given potential, problems that are essentially the result of ignorance, indifference and injustice.
Finally, I believe this initiative is an important way to fulfill our mission, “to cultivate in [our] students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many…to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” Through the NDMDI, we hope to promote solidarity with our Ugandan brothers and sisters, to establish and nurture lasting relationships built on mutual understanding and acceptance, and to focus on the simple yet crucial idea that we form one human family.
The Millennium Project website. Millennium Project is the umbrella under which Millennium Village Project falls. It has information about the Millennium Development Goals. Jeff Sachs is also the Director of the Millennium Project.
The Uganda Conflict Action Network, started by two Notre Dame alums.
Africa Faith and Justice Network A National NGO, headquartered in Washington DC. Its motto is "Advocacy and Education for Transformation. Michael Poffenberger, one of the co-founders of Uganda CAN, is the Assistant Director of AFJN.
Millennium Promise- A corporation charged with monitoring and raising funding for the Millennium Villages Project.
Millennium Villages Project, as hosted by the website for the Earth Institute at Columbia. Jeff Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute and the creator of the Millennium Villages Project.
Malaria No More A non-governmental organization and campaign started by Raymond Chambers (Notre Dame Millennium Development Initiative benefactor) and others to raise millions of dollars for bednets. Recently, a Notre Dame club focused on the Millennium Development Goals raised $9,000 on campus and donated the money to this organization.