The MDGs summarize the development goals agreed
at international conferences and world summits during the
1990s. At the end of the decade, world leaders distilled the
key goals and targets into the 'Millennium Declaration' (September
Based on the declaration, UNDP has worked with other
UN departments, funds and programmes, the World Bank, IMF
and OECD on a concise set of goals, numerical targets and
quantifiable indicators to assess progress. The new set is
known as the 'Millennium Development Goals', which includes
8 goals, 18 targets and over 40 indicators.
• The MDGs, be achieved between 1990 and
- halving extreme poverty and hunger
- achieving universal primary education
- promoting gender equality
- reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds
- reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters
- reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB
- ensuring environmental sustainability
- developing a global partnership for development, with targets
for aid, trade and debt relief
• The Secretary-General has asked the UNDP
Administrator, in his capacity as chair of the UN Development
Group, to act as 'scorekeeper' and 'campaign manager' for
the MDGs - both spreading awareness within the system and
across the world and making them an integral part of the UN
system's work in the field.
we on track to meet the MDGs by 2015?
A simple extrapolation of poverty trends since 1990
would suggest that the world is on track to halving income-poverty
by 2015. Unfortunately, the reality is more complicated and
decidedly less satisfactory. If one excludes China, progress
has been less than half the rate needed. The number of income-poor
in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America combined,
has increased by some 10 million each year since 1990. Dozens
of countries experienced absolute declines in average living
standards in the past two decades.
At present, an estimated 1.2 billion people have
to struggle every day to survive on less than $1 per day -
about the same number as a decade ago.
Progress towards the other MDGs has been mixed too.
In 1990, the 'education for all' goal was set for the year
2000. The good news is that the gender gap was halved; but
the sad truth is that the 1990s saw only a tenth of the progress
needed. Not surprisingly, the goalpost was moved to 2015;
but at the current rate, this promise will not be kept either;
progress will have to accelerate fourfold.
Progress on child and maternal mortality, malnutrition,
access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation actually
slowed down in the 1990s compared with earlier decades. Because
of the AIDS epidemic, the resurgence of other diseases (malaria,
TB), and the broken state of health services, conditions have
worsened markedly in the 1990s. The 1980s were the 'lost decade
for development'; the 1990s will go down in history as the
'decade of broken promises'.
In the early 1990s, the late James Grant - then UNICEF
Executive Director - stated, "the problem is not that we have
tried to eradicate global poverty and failed; the problem
is that no serious and concerted attempt has ever been made".
Indeed, without concerted and intensified efforts, few of
the MDGs will be met by 2015.
Yes, they are financially affordable and technically
feasible. Several countries, however, will require considerably
more development assistance, improved policies and stronger
It would be unrealistic to expect that the poorest
countries can meet the MDGs without extra international support.
Progress in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen further behind;
HIV/AIDS is undermining human development.
MDGs make good economic sense?
Returns on investment in human development in low-income
countries are very high. Many economies are caught in a poverty
trap, due to ill health, poor nutrition, low education, limited
access to safe water, and often rapid population growth. Many
of the poorest countries are burdened by extreme geographical
limitations - landlocked and small islands, far from world
markets, tropical diseases, extreme environmental degradation,
and climate change.
These various conditions - some man-made, some physical
- explain why private capital flows and foreign direct investment
largely by-pass many low-income regions. Extra help will be
needed to extricate countries from the poverty trap.
MDG investment will stimulate economic growth, create
more jobs, enhance people's productivity and generate additional
fiscal revenue - making macro-economic stability a more feasible
goal. MDGs make excellent economic sense.
the resources gap be bridged?
Absolutely, an extra $50 billion in donor resources
per year will go a long way towards reaching the MDGs at the
Although this figure may appear large in absolute
terms, it represents around one-fifth of one per cent of donor
Compared with the expected benefits, the MDGs offer
an excellent investment opportunity.
ODA and debt relief make a difference?
Aid works, when directed at development needs. The
record is clear on one kind of health project after another,
exemplified by the disease control programmes supported by
the Carter Center (e.g. trachoma, guinea worm, river blindness);
the eradication of smallpox and polio; and the campaigns to
ODA and debt relief will be indispensable, especially
for the least developed countries. Total ODA now stands at
a mere one-third of the agreed target of 0.7 per cent of the
combined GNI of developed countries, and only 0.10 per cent
in the United States. The shortfall amounts to about $125
billion per year.
Regrettably, none of the G-7 countries is a member
of the 'G-0.7' group, which comprises Denmark, the Netherlands,
Norway and Sweden - and more recently Luxembourg.
A recent study of budgetary spending in over 30 developing
countries found that two-thirds spend more on debt servicing
than on basic social services. Some spend three to five times
more on debt. In sub-Saharan Africa, governments spend about
twice as much to comply with their financial commitment vis-à-vis
external creditors than to comply with their social obligation
vis-à-vis the people. Debt servicing often absorbs
between one-third and one-half of the national budget - making
macro-economic stability an elusive goal.
To spend more on external debt than on basic social
services - when tens of millions of people see their fundamental
human right denied - is ethically wrong and makes poor economics.
The HIPC initiative remains the best hope for solving
the debt crisis, but its implementation is painfully slow;
the initiative itself should be broadened and deepened. The
enhanced HIPC initiative was launched in 1999; it is encouraging
that Uganda - the first country to receive HIPC support -
is spending most of the debt dividend on primary education
and AIDS orphans. We need to make sure that debt sustainability
is measured against real human needs - specifically against
the ability of countries to mobilize the resources necessary
to meet the MDGs.
trade not more important than aid?
Yes, but both are needed. Access to OECD markets
- for agriculture, clothing and textiles - would significantly
accelerate growth and create jobs; thereby fostering human
development and reducing poverty. But, by itself, more trade
will not be enough to meet the MDGs.
Greater financial resources will be necessary to
address the critical areas of health, education and the environment.
Without more money, the poorest countries will simply be unable
to meet the needs for health and education services, sanitation
and water, and other critical challenges.
While it is encouraging that the Doha WTO ministerial
meeting agreed to place more emphasis on the development implications
of future trade agreements; the reality remains that developed
countries maintain high levels of protection. Their markets
remain closed in areas of specific priority concern of the
poorest countries: textiles and apparel, and processed agricultural
commodities. Ghana, for example, can export its cocoa beans
duty free to Europe, but must pay more than 25 per cent tariffs
on processed chocolate; food processing is shifted to Europe,
leaving Ghana bereft of the manufacturing base to escape from
Human and institutional capacities, as well as infrastructural
networks, are complementary elements required to benefit from
open trade. Poor countries often lack these elements, so that
'aid for trade' will remain important, even if private capital
flows and foreign direct investment will continue to increase.
capacities strong enough to handle additional funds?
True, resources alone are unlikely to be sufficient;
but donor resources can help to strengthen management. Human
and institutional capacities need to be made stronger. Collecting
taxes efficiently and equitably, making sure that budget priorities
reflect the MDGs and influence actual spending, gender-sensitive
budgeting, and aligning aid with national and sub-national
priorities require strong national capacities. These are political
goals, but also expensive management needs. Donor assistance
can dramatically improve service delivery. Of course, it will
help those countries keen on helping themselves.
To put it another way, the frequent argument that
existing resources have to be used more efficiently before
more public money is to be invested creates a false dichotomy.
It misses the point that insufficiencies of resources create
inefficiencies of service delivery. Policy-makers seldom face
a choice between either improving efficiency or increasing
budget allocations. In most cases, they have to address both
aspects simultaneously. Indeed, inefficiencies and insufficiencies
are not independent, but interdependent.
UNDP supports MDG-scorekeeping at the country level.
The premise is that country reports can help accelerate progress;
they can help bring the MDGs from the global to the national
level, for global target setting and national priority setting
have been inadequately linked.
The purpose of Millennium Development Goal Reports
(MDGRs) is to raise public awareness; promote study, scholarship,
and debate around the great development challenges; forge
stronger alliances; renew political commitment; and help poor
countries and donors create the deep, better financed and
trusted partnerships that will be needed for success.
MDGRs show progress at a glance with a view to help
focus the national debate on specific development priorities,
which in turn will trigger action - in terms of policy reforms,
institutional change and resource allocation.
Their main audience is the media and the general
public. MDGRs are meant to be short and easy-to-read reviews
that convey messages quickly in a non-technical way. They
should also provoke deeper analysis at the country level.
MDGRs build upon existing reports - such as CCAs, PRSPs or
NHDRs - in order to minimize the country's reporting burden.
So far, 6 MDGRs have been issued - Cambodia, Cameroon,
Chad, Madagascar, Tanzania and Viet Nam. They confirm the
mixed picture on progress vis-à-vis the MDGs. A dozen
other are under preparation. The plan is to have at least
one MDGR per country by the end of 2004.
a global MDG campaign?
A global campaign is needed to bridge the gap between
the simple messages needed for advocacy (e.g. the number living
on less than a $1 a day) and poverty's more complex reality.
For 'goals on paper' to become a practical reality for millions
of people, we need to sharply focus public attention and public
action on poverty reduction and human development.
The purpose of the campaign is to keep the eyes and
actions of the world focused on the MDGs. In developed countries,
the campaign would focus on making the case for aid and for
urgent debt relief, based on clear evidence of results; ensuring
that aid is allocated to sectors and services relevant to
the MDGs; and opening markets more widely to developing countries,
especially the least developed countries.
In developing countries, the campaign would focus
on mobilizing domestic resources, prioritizing budget expenditure
on the MDGs, and strengthening human rights, democracy and
good governance as specified in the Millennium Declaration.
Each of these objectives must be pursued in ways sensitive
to country context and target groups. It will be is absolutely
critical for campaign activities to be tailored to country-specific
We are contemplating a 'continuous campaign' till
2015, to help transform the political and intellectual debate
at the national and global levels so as to put development
goals way ahead of its current priority; to create 'business
plans' deeply grounded in evidence, on how to achieve the
goals; build informed constituencies for more spending on
health and education, by demonstrating the enormous returns
from such spending; and focus on equity and human rights as
part and parcel of the MDGs.
Although our efforts may start with simple slogans
like a $1-a-day poverty, if the campaign is to be sustained
and change the political debate and hence public policy priorities,
it must, like Rowntree did in the early 20th Century UK, get
deep into the facts and findings, and generate academic, public
policy and political debate around the MDGs. If we are successful,
it will quickly grow out of its early simplicity, and demonstrate
to the world the amazing things that can now be accomplished,
if we put our minds and hearts into it.
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