News Archive

posted 10/20/04

New Technical Support Center Puts Theories into Practice Enacting Millennium Development Goals to Reduce Global Poverty by Half

Glenn Denning, an Earth Institute development specialist with the Tropical Agriculture Program has been called upon to direct a new center that assists countries in planning and costing development strategies based on the MDGs: a unique on-the-ground effort to make the international commitment a local reality. He is shown above in Narobi, Kenya on the grounds of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF).

The Millennium Project has kicked into high gear with only a few months remaining until final recommendations are due to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in January, 2005.

An independent advisory body, housed at United Nations Development Programme headquarters in New York, the Project is directed by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University. It was born of the 2000 UN Millennium Summit and endorsed by 189 world leaders to cut global poverty in half by 2015.

This ambitious intention rests on the science-based goals crafted by 10 task forces to improve the environment, education, water and sanitation, health, agriculture and rural development. Most of the co-chairs are Earth Institute faculty. A draft of their work can be reviewed at http://www.unmillenniumproject.org.

“The Millennium Development Goals perhaps offer us a last chance to end poverty for the poorest people on Earth,” says Glenn Denning, director of Millennium Development Goals Technical Support Centre in Nairobi. “If we would only apply what we already know — at a large enough scale, and coupled with good governance — hundreds of millions of people would escape the poverty trap and be on the way to having healthy productive lives.”

Denning, an Earth Institute development specialist with the Tropical Agriculture Program has been called upon to direct a new center that assists countries in planning and costing development strategies based on the MDGs: a unique on-the-ground effort to make the international commitment a local reality. With funding from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Open Society Institute, and in-kind support from many other agencies, Denning’s team is working with countries whose governments are committed to implementing the Millennium Development Goals as specific targets. He is currently working to develop local plans with Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda; Senegal and Madagascar will follow.

Denning’s team will also support the Millennium Village project for the Earth Institute in which Columbia scientists will implement best practices to show how realistic and feasible the expectation can be that a village can escape the burden of poverty. The first phase of the project is underway in Sauri, Kenya, an area of eight villages near Lake Victoria where residents live on less than 50 cents a day. Early next year, the health clinic will reopen and efforts will begin to restore health and nutrition.

“The Millennium Village project provides us with the opportunity to understand how to implement the MDGs at the village level”, says Denning. This project complements the policy advisory work of the Millennium Project, which is working at the global and national levels. “By working with communities and local organizations, we will better understand the practical challenges and costs of implementation.”

Born in Brisbane, Australia, Denning has more than 25 years experience in international agricultural research and development. He has worked in over 50 developing countries focusing on how to apply science and technology to the needs of the rural poor. The governments of Vietnam and Cambodia have recognized Denning with national honors for his contributions to improve agriculture and rural development.

Most recently, he led the World Agroforestry Centre’s rural development division in Nairobi championing the importance of marketing and enterprise development, seed production and distribution, and stronger research-extension linkages in scaling-up the adoption and impact of agroforestry innovations.

Denning obtained his Ph.D. in agricultural development from the University of Reading (UK) in 1985. His M.Agr.Sc. (in tropical crops and pastures) and B.Agr.Sc. (in soil science) are from the University of Queensland, Australia. He also has a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He and his family live in Nairobi where his spouse teaches and his children attend the International School of Kenya.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world’s leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.