A New Year's Resolution

It is time for New Year's resolutions, and this year's are obvious. When the millennium opened, world leaders pledged to seek peace, the end of poverty, and a cleaner environment. Since then, the world has seen countless acts of violence, terrorism, famine, and environmental degradation. In 2005, we can begin to change direction.

Knowledge, scientific advance, travel, and global communications give us many opportunities to find solutions for the world's great problems. When a new disease called SARS hit China last year, the World Health Organization coordinated the actions of dozens of governments, and the crisis was quickly brought under control, at least for now.

When Bill Gates donated $1 billion to bring vaccines to poor children, he made it possible to protect tens of millions of young people from preventable diseases. When an agricultural research unit called the World Agroforestry Center discovered that a certain tree could help African farmers grow more food, they introduced a new and valuable approach to overcoming Africa's chronic food crisis.

Unfortunately, such examples of international cooperation are as rare as they are impressive. With our knowledge, science, and technology, the horrendous living conditions of the world's poorest people could be dramatically improved. Millions of people could be spared malaria, HIV/AIDS, hunger, and life in slums. The problem is not that we lack good solutions. The problem is that we fail to cooperate globally to put those solutions into practice.