Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the journey so far

Dr Titi Banjoko

In 2000, all member states of the United Nations and a number of international organisations agreed to work on achieving eight international Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were officially established by the United Nations by the year 2015. The goals were aimed at ensuring that every person has the right to live with dignity and access to basic socio-economic standards.

The MDGs are defined as follows
1. eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
2. achieving universal primary education,
3. promoting gender equality and empowering women
4. reducing child mortality rates,
5. improving maternal health,
6. combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
7. ensuring environmental sustainability, and
8. developing a global partnership for development
Each of the goals has specific stated targets and dates for their achievement.

Progress
The MDGs have acted as a focus for governments, organisations (non-governmental and private) and individuals across the globe on minimum standards of living and interaction globally. It acted as a rallying call, and ensured that everyone irrespective of geographical location should expect these minimum standards. They enabled governments to target funding; private sectors to support various corporate social responsibility initiatives, NGOs to target areas of support and advocacy.

In 2005, the G8 finance ministers provided additional funding to speed up the progress, and multilateral organisations cancelled debts to enable Low Middle Income countries (LMIC) channel the repayments they would have been making to the fund to a number of MDG initiatives in their countries.

Lessons identified
Overall progress has been made http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/reports.shtml. However one of the lessons is that the high level MDG goals and the figures on progress skews the picture, it masks some of the realities e.g. many countries in Africa still have a significant number of their population living below the poverty line (MDG 1), children dying before 5 (MDG 4), and mothers dying in labour (MDG5). In some cases it can be said that the progress made is, in part, due to the easy to reach section of the population i.e. the growing middle class in Africa that emerged through economic progress rather than actually lifting sections of the population above the poverty line.

Efforts must be made to reach these sections of the population. All stakeholders need to double effort to work on lifting people who live in abject poverty and don’t experience the socioeconomic benefits expected from the Millennium Development Goals.

The score card also needs to capture the bottom of the pyramid and develop key performance indicators that demonstrate progress in this area.

Another lesson identified from the MDGs has been around funding (e.g. donor funding targeted at MDGs) has sometimes prioritise above local health priorities. Also donor funding for disease-specific programmes has worked for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and Tuberculosis but at the detriment of strengthening overall health systems and other diseases which do not attract as much international attention.

LMIC countries that had debt relief on the condition that the payment is directed on delivering MDGs need to make clear statements to the citizens of their countries and multilateral organisations on how the money has been spent and the actual outcomes to date. There is a perception that the funds have not been directed where they should and have encouraged mismanagement and corruption.

The world is now focused on coming up with Post 2015 MDG goals, a number of networks and stakeholders have started to lobby and advocate on what should be in the framework. Lessons from the 2000 MDG goals delivery and the consolidation of the fragile gains from the 2000 MDG goals should be factored into the Post 2015 framework.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All change in Georgia’s landmark election – but little change on foreign policy

Niall Ahern

Now the post-election euphoria has settled in Georgia, it is worth thinking about what, if anything, the election of a businessman with little or no desire to be in politics prior to the election means for Georgian foreign policy. It is worth remembering that Bidzina Ivanishvili only made the pledge to a handful of coalition partners a year ago to challenge President Mikheil Saakashvili at the ballot box. Yet on October 1st he kept his pledge by defeating Mr Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) by getting 55% of the popular vote. Although it has become clearer in recent days that Mr Saakashvili will probably not be stepping down as President before his term runs out towards the end of 2013, the questions remain as to which direction Georgia’s foreign policy will now take.

Most importantly, Mr Ivanishvili has already stated in a press conference that Mr Saakashviki’s attempts to make Georgia a world player were a mistake and in the future ‘we are going to become a regional player and improve relations with neighbours, including Russia’ Considering the two nations went to war in 2008, this should be seen as a positive sign. However this is not to say that relations with the US will now be cast aside. At the same press conference Mr Ivanishvili said that his first visit would be to the US, demonstrating that fears his election would tilt influence significantly in Russia’s direction may be far fetched. It is important not to forget that Georgia is an unusual country in a region full of contrasts. Unlike some western European nations, this is a country where the EU flag flies on nearly every government building. It is a country that holds institutions such as the EU and NATO in high regard as a guarantee of security and stability. Despite the fact Mr Ivanishvili disagrees with how Mr Saakashvili went about conducting Georgia’s foreign relations, he is unlikely to completely change course with the relations already built. It is more likely Mr Ivanishvili will continue on the same path Georgia has been on since the end of the 2008 war. This is because even if Mr Ivanishvili wanted to press ahead further with EU and NATO membership at the end of 2013 as the Constitutional changes which give him more power come into effect, he would find reluctant partners to reciprocate in Brussels. With Putin back in power and making louder noises already about NATO expansion, it is highly unlikely he would ever allow this expansion on Russia’s border. In addition there are several NATO members who are unlikely to allow Georgia to join purely for not wanting to stoke tensions with Russia. Similarly, should Mr Ivanishvili go to the EU he is likely to get a cold response as the continent is still likely to be scraping through one of the most challenging periods in its history. Few if any EU leaders will have the appetite to explain to voters why we should be enlarging the EU further still.

Ultimately foreign policy under Mr Ivanishvilli is likely to be a combination of trying to pleasing all. He will continue to have negotiations with the EU and particularly NATO about future membership. He will visit the US and maintain strong ties with the nation, yet it is Russian relations where Mr Ivanishvili’s election may have the largest impact. The two countries have had no diplomatic relations following the 2008 war and this can arguably be down to the fact Mr Saakashvili is still in power. Although Russia’s Foreign Minister has said encouraging words about working with Georgia’s new Prime Minister, there is still a lot to disagree about. These disagreements are most likely to be seen on the status of the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which Russia now recognises as independent states. The two countries both have a long way to go until relations are back to their pre-2008 levels.

Therefore despite the fact this election really was remarkable and will go down in regions history as one of the most significant, Georgia’s foreign policy will change little over the next few years. This isn’t to suggest Mr Ivanishvili will achieve little during his period in office. Georgia still faces huge problems domestically on several issues such as unemployment which has remained stubbornly high since the ‘rose revolution’. Yet on foreign issues, the international community shouldn’t expect too many differences under Mr Ivanishvili.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Single Market, Equal Rights Conference audio files

Here are a series of recordings uploaded to Youtube from the FPC, TUC and EU Commission Representation in the UK conference- Single Market, Equal Rights? UK perspectives on EU employment and social law that took place on Friday 10th February 2012.

This link contains the short opening speeches by TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and European Commission Head of Representation in the UK Jonathan Scheele.

This link contains the first panel discussion, moderated by the TUC’s Owen Tudor, comprising former ETUC and TUC General Secretary Lord (John) Monks, Oxford University law Professor Anne Davies and Karen Clements from the British Chambers of Commerce looking at the European level debate on employment and social rights.

This link contains the speech to the conference by European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor.

This link contains the panel discussion between Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds MP, CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes and Open Europe Director Mats Persson exploring the nature of the UK debate on EU employment and social rights, moderated by the FPC’s Adam Hug.

The event's last two sessions are also available as an MP3 file that contains the recording of Commissioner Andor and the panel discussion. (MP3 File Size 182 MB- session starts at 4.30 mins in)