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.

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 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.