As the old Japanese proverb goes: Vision without action is a daydream, while Action without vision is a nightmare. This could not be more prophetic as we turn our attention to what’s next for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Now, after more than ten long years since the launch of the eight United Nations MDGs, we have real targets that move toward ending hunger and, for example, improving maternal health.
MDGs and Beyond 2015
The Global Monitoring Report (GMR) is the World Bank’s and the International Monetary Fund’s vehicle to not only report on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but, equally importantly, to analyze a theme relevant for development in general and the MDGs in particular.
This year’s report card on where the world, the regions, and the developing countries are with regard to attaining the various Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), shows quite a diverse picture. As the Global Monitoring Report 2013 points out, progress toward the MDGs has not been universal and there are many poor countries that are still very far away from the targets where we want them to be by 2015.
If we take a look at progress towards attainment of the MDGs, we can conclude that four out of 21 targets have been met by 2010, well ahead of the 2015 deadline. Note that even though there are 8 Goals, there are 21 targets and about 56 indicators through which the world tries to monitor their progress.
There are about 1,000 days to go before the deadline to achieve the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expires in December 2015. The clock is ticking, both to maximize progress on the existing goals and targets, and to ensure that the next set of goals sustain and push forward the successes that the current MDGs have generated.
While there are wide variations within and between countries, it’s clear that remarkable overall progress has been made in the last 15 years on the MDGs. The gains in health have been especially significant, as a recent op-ed in the Lancet co-authored by the World Bank’s Keith Hansen and others points out. The decline in child deaths from almost 12 million a year in 1990 to fewer than 7 million in 2011 is just one example of how a clear, compelling, measurable goal can motivate shared action toward a specific outcome.
The following blog post is an excerpt of a speech delivered by Pascal Lamy at the ‘Conference on International Cooperation in 2020’, held in The Hague on 7 March 2013.
The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have roughly a thousand days to go before their end-2015 target date. The significance of the MDGs lies first and foremost in the fact that they gave the world a shared development agenda. They identified a set of shared goals around which we could collectively mobilize and they established time-bound goalposts for progress, many with quantifiable targets, against which we could measure our performance.
But beyond these targets and goals, the MDGs placed poverty reduction at the top of the global agenda. In doing so, they reshaped policy priorities, galvanizing the attention and interest of governments, international organizations, the private sector, and individuals.
I am heartened by the discussions at the recently-concluded Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The meeting, facilitated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and hosted by the Pan-African Parliament, brought together a wide range of stakeholders across regions and constituencies, including from government, grassroots to international civil society, national human rights institutions, youth groups, parliamentarians, and representatives of the media and the private sector, allowing them to share their views and concerns about the post-2015 agenda.
The exchanges at the two-day meeting have been thoughtful, articulate and yet passionate. And they have all pointed in the same direction: the need for a new and more effective framework that will improve the mixed outcomes achieved by the current MDGs. As Varun Gauri elegantly pointed out (MDGs that Nudge – Ask your mom or dad), we need a new MDG framework that “captures the attention and enthusiasm of non-experts (regular people)”. We also need a framework that can make a difference on the ground.
The story – rightly or wrongly – about the current MDGs is that they were cooked up in a back room somewhere in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in Paris, and finally agreed in another back room in New York. While this may not be quite fair, it’s certainly true that there wasn’t much in the way of consultation or public conversation around the MDGs development or eventual agreement.
How different this time. It might just be possible to participate in a different consultation on the post-2015 process every day between now and 2015 (a Google search on ‘post 2015 consultations’ produces 7 million results). How to make sense of all this? Essentially there are three types of consultations going on, feeding into the political process in different ways.
As the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, much thought is being devoted to what should succeed that framework for measuring global progress against hunger, disease, and poverty. Any successor framework must reflect global aspirations and arise from a rich consultative process. I believe that the new framework must embrace a broader understanding of development — one that is relevant for all countries, rich as well as poor.
The world today looks very different from a few years ago. Many countries have high levels of debt that could make it difficult to undertake spending initiatives for many years. Financial sector incentives and regulation may have to be rethought, existing growth models refined to deliver sufficient new employment opportunities, and the functioning of the international monetary system revisited.
I feel privileged to be appointed as the World Bank Group President’s Special Envoy for the MDGs. Nothing could be more important for achieving growth and shared prosperity than the MDGs, which are meant to provide people with the very basic capabilities they need to thrive – freedom from extreme poverty, education, health, clean water and sanitation. Nations can only succeed when people thrive.
In my new position, with regard to the MDGs I will focus on four objectives. The first is to ensure that we are doing all we can to get as close to achieving the MDGs as possible by the 2015 deadline. Progress on many targets is lagging, particularly in countries affected by weak governance, conflict, or large populations. Progress is significantly lagging on some indicators, such as maternal and child health. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim have recently committed to a process of in-depth country-level diagnostics to identify priority actions to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs. My hope is that these reviews will point not only to specific actions for governments and donors, but also serve as lessons for a broader range of countries.
What should replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015?
Ask your mom or dad.
In a recent working paper, I argue that we need MDGs that nudge – MDGs that frame development issues in ways that capture the attention and enthusiasm of non-experts (regular people).
Last year, we sought inputs from the CSO/NGO community to strengthen the Global Monitoring Report (GMR) with stories that had a qualitative character of how people at community level had coped with the higher food prices due to recent food price spikes. The focus of the upcoming GMR, to be issued in April 2013, is on Rural-Urban Dynamics and the Millennium Development Goals. Clearly, domestic or in-country migration is a major contributing factor to urbanization. However, migrants’ expectations of better job opportunities or better quality and easier access to service delivery do not always materialize. Even though basic living standards, as measured by the MDGs, are often better in urban areas than in rural areas, this cannot be generalized for all residents of urban areas. Rural-urban migrants are quite often the ones who face a more challenging environment, particularly when expectations of finding a job are not fulfilled. Ensuring access to basic services, such as those defined by the MDGs, for everyone living in urban areas is one of the major challenges governments and citizens alike face during the urbanization process. GMR 2013 has set itself the task of bringing together a body of knowledge on this subject, i.e. how to make urbanization work for all.
With 2015 fast approaching, many of us in the development community are paying close attention to how post-MDG plans are unfolding. At Bread for the World Institute, we are using the 2013 edition of our annual Hunger Report to share our thoughts about getting to 2015 and how we’d like to see the post-MDG agenda develop.
The 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach – Global Development Goals, calls for a strong push, starting right now, to meet the MDG targets by 2015.
As the world marks World Toilet Day today, with just three years to 2015, there is a need to consider why the MDG targets on access to sanitation have not been met.
In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) convened a consultation in Berlin, co-hosted by the German Government, to start a process of formulating proposals for the post-2015 goals, targets and corresponding indicators for water, sanitation and hygiene. The consultation reviewed the current global drinking-water and sanitation monitoring landscape, identified the strengths and weaknesses of the current MDG target and indicators, discussed the relevance of the principles underlying the human right to water and sanitation for consideration in future goals and targets, and reached agreement on a roadmap towards the formulation of a menu of options. Technical working groups were established to deal with drinking-water, sanitation, hygiene and a fourth area, cutting across these three, on equity and non-discrimination. All working groups were asked to:
As debates on the post-2015 framework gear up, a strong view is emerging that the next development framework must aim at finishing the job that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started at the beginning of the 2000s. There are many lessons that the development community has learnt about what worked and what should be improved this time around. A new report by Save the Children published today on the occasion of the second meeting of the United Nations High Level Panel on post-2015 in London, Born Equal: How reducing inequality could give our children a better future, argues that inequality is one of the MDGs’ blind spots that needs to be addressed in the next development framework to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to deliver the promise to eradicate extreme poverty.